Monthly Archives: July 2011

Weekly Quiz: Test Yourself on this Events

The weekly quiz is now live in Mypoliscilab. Good luck!

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Weekly Poll: Your Opinion on the Budget Crisis

As negotiation continues between Republicans and Democrats in Congress and President Obama, many fear that the state of the U.S. economy is in grave danger. What do you think?

Colbert: Report: The Republican Ring of Power

The debt crisis and “The Lord of the Rings” both have elaborate plots, too many characters to keep track of, and talking about either of them repels girls.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Pork as Federal Spending; The Eternal Conundrum?

In the context of the federal budget the term “pork” generally refers to spending at the state and local levels that members of Congress are able to claim as evidence of their hard work on behalf of their constituents.  It goes without saying that members of Congress share the belief that “bringing home the bacon” increases the likelihood that  they will win reelection.  All one has to do is look for signs in their community that proclaim “YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT
WORK, funded in part by . . . .”  I dare say we usually appreciate the work being done. After all, don’t we all like road improvements, new libraries, and better policing?  Add national entitlement programs like social security and Medicare—and don’t forget military spending—to that list and voila, you have the federal budget.

That’s just on the spending side.  What about the revenue side?  Individual and corporate income taxes provide almost 51 percent of federal revenues (42 percent and 9 percent respectively).  In 2010, the federal  government collected $2.2 TRILLION in receipts from these and other sources.  That can buy a lot of “pork.”  Wait . . . it does buy a lot of pork.  The problem is that one person’s bacon (pork), lettuce, and tomato sandwich (in the form of some federally funded project or another) is another person’s social security check.  A federal dollar spent on one project is a federal dollar that can’t be spent on another. One person’s gain; one community’s gain, is another’s loss.  What one sees as our tax dollars at work another may see as our federal taxes being wasted.  After all, why should my taxes help build a bridge in Oregon (I live, work, and pay taxes in California)?  That’s the dilemma.  If there were enough money to go around we wouldn’t be having this and many other conversations.  But there isn’t.  Federal revenues are being strained by unemployment at the same time that the costs of government programs are rising in leaps and bounds.  And as long as members of Congress see spending federal money at home as their constitutionally granted prerogative there will be a strain that affects all of us (see Matthew Frank’s Blog posted on the Missoula Independent for an example of the thinking in Congress).  Is there an alternative to the system of pork barrel politics that drives much of federal spending?  Other than a threatened presidential veto, can you think of other checks that can be used to reduce the temptation on members of Congress to spend federal funds on projects that might be funded at the state or local level (or maybe even by private sources)?  We could use some help about now.

–DENNIS FALCON

Video Glossary: Impeachment

Weekly Quiz: Test Yourself on this Week’s Events

The weekly quiz is now live in Mypoliscilab. Good luck!

Weekly Poll: Your Opinion On The Debt Ceiling

President Obama and the Republican leaders in Congress have been going back and forth on the debt ceiling without a concrete solution to the problem. What would it take for both sides to fix the problem?