A term for what is frequently considered wasteful spending
by the federal government
on projects near and dear
to members of the US Congress
. Pork is not by virtue of its nature a bad thing, but by how it is frequently used
First, a short lesson in civics. Most pork originates in the Senate, not the House of Representatives. This is because the house has a 'germainess' rule, that allows any member to call a vote on the propriety of an ammendment to a spending bill. The Senate has no such rule, so anything can get tacked onto any bill. This leads to Senators 'earmarking' a certain project for their constituents. It could be a bridge in New York or a subsidy for sweet pea farmers in Ohio, some project, good or bad, that is to the benefit of the Senator's home state.
Abuse of this has been seen regularly. A good example is how about 3 years ago Senate Majority Leader (well, not anymore) Trent Lott and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt ordered up a healthy slab of pork in the form of a submarine the navy didn't want and some F-16's the airforce said they would dismantle for spare parts as soon as they were deliverd. Both projects made it into the budget because of something called 'patronage' Patronage is when a member of government looks out for interests back home, usually in the form of tasty government contracts, subsidies, grants, or concessions.
A number of candidates have run for office vowing to fight pork. John McCain hates pork, but can't really do anything to stop it. This is because in some sense, pork makes sure that we, the people, don't get overlooked. Pork brings federal money back to the taxpayers, giving us a little bit of the government we built in our own backyard. Of course, if your Congressman is a total screwup you'll get nothing. But go figure.