Pat Toomey of the Club for Growth wrote an op-ed recently in which he described a nationwide poll that the Club recently commissioned. This poll showed that 54% of people would prefer a congressman who cuts overall federal spending, including spending in their district, while only 29% would prefer a candidate who increases federal spending but keep some of that spending coming home in pork barrel projects.
I’m no expert on polls and polling, nor have I seen the details of this poll, so I can’t comment on how they phrased the question or whether they skewed the data. Certainly the Club for Growth would want this poll to show exactly what they are saying it did, since the Club hates earmarks more than I hate flip-flops. But let’s assume that this was a well-executed poll. Are Americans really ready to let go of pork barrel spending in their district? I hope so.
This is an exceedingly rare occurrence, Halley’s Comet (also see) rare, when I want the same thing as the Club for Growth. In general, I think of the Club as representing greedy, mean-spirited, upper-middle-class older white men. But I really do hope this poll is right, because pork barrel politics are awful. Earmarks make for bad policy and they waste precious resources. In addition, they encourage irresponsible behavior in voters, who get trained to support any crappy project, as long as it brings federal dollars to their community.
But maybe, just maybe, that attitude is changing, and the Club for Growth poll is capturing this change. Press coverage of pork has been building over the past few years, and the Jack Abramoff scandal blew the whole lobbyist-earmark connection way into the mainstream. It’s possible that people, at least 54% of people, have realized that the overall cost of pork is greater than the benefit it brings to their district. It’s possible that they would rather their representatives focus on fixing problems than creating busy work in the district.
News of Ted Stevens’ indictment is coming out as I write this. He was an apologetic king of pork, with his reign culminating in the famous $320 million Bridge to Nowhere. Maybe that bridge served as pork’s crowning feast, so egregious that it finally made Americans realize how corrosive earmarks truly are.