Identifying Pork -- Two Examples

Mon, 24 Aug 2009 02:02:33 +0000

At the Economix blog, Catherine Rampell asks, "What defines pork?" I'll give two of many possible examples. First, a Representative might write this on her website as the second line of her bio:

She is a public servant who prides herself on delivering the goods and services of the federal government to her constituents.

This is the first time I've seen pork written into a Congressional mission statement. Second, there are some places in the federal bureaucracy in which there are competitive processes for allocating money and non-competitive processes. One place that I encounter in my day job is at FIPSE, the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education.

If you go to the page that is open to every institution, the so-called comprehensive program, you find this statement:

A Comprehensive Program grant competition will not be held in FY 2009 due to budget constraints.

But if you go to the page for the Congressionally directed grants, you find this statement:

The Omnibus Appropriation Act of 2009 (PL 111-08) directed the Office of Postsecondary Education to award grants to 331 institutions and organizations. Only those institutions and organizations named in the Act may apply for these grants.

If there is a comprehensive process that has been defunded, but the Congressionally directed process is alive and well, you can presume that everything in the latter is pork. What defines pork? For discretionary spending, it is the absence of a competitive allocation process.