Thursday, December 9, 2010

Too much Pork for just one Fork

A number of the Wikileaks embassy cables have shown that the U.S. is deeply worried about the high levels of corruption in other countries. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Kenya, Russia, and many, many more.

The main theme is that corruption at the top destabilizes a country, undermines democracy (or what passes for it) and makes it difficult to justify funding such regimes.

Imagine a country where a senior government minister could channel funds directly to the company his daughter worked at? Or skim enough money so a major roadway in his home town could be upgraded and named after him? Or use 17 million U.S. dollars of government money on an airport that has no planes or employees?

Unfortunately this isn't corruption ... it's Pork. The person in question is U.S. Senator, Hal Rodgers, a Republican from Kentucky, who is just the latest senator to have the tag of the "King of Pork"; 'pork' being the completely legal method of attaching earkmarks to bills to benefit your home state, and in Rodger's case particularly his home town, which some have dubbed 'Mr Rogers Neighborhood' due to his funneling of $246 million of pork in recent years.

Rodgers has just been named the new head of the uber-power House Appropriations Committee. That's the one that controls the purse strings of the U.S. Government. The King of Pork is in change of government spending. Unbelievable. But don't worry, folks ... he's promised to stamp out pork. We can believe him, right?

Why isn't this corruption? Because it's spelt differently (to use an old joke).

This is the same kind of practice that is complained about in a number of the leaked cables. Giving money to relatives. Using money for personal aggrandizement. Buildings projects that are unwanted and unnecessary. After all, these are the kinds of things that undermine a democracy and a government. Well, only if someone cares.

Maybe that's the problem. The citizens of the U.S. don't consider pork to be corruption. They just shrug their shoulders and move on. In other countries people might actually get angry enough to topple a government over such 'pork'. Maybe Americans have just eaten too much actual pork to worry about the political kind ... and sit by listlessly as their politicians line their own nests with taxpayer's money. What's on the other channel?

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