Pork-barreling, the seemingly inalienable right of an elected representative to use everybody's tax money to keep the folks back home—his home—happy, has taken three healthy jabs to the midsection in the last few weeks.
First, the $10.1 billion public-works bill, which contained $1.8 billion worth of water projects, several of which were scandalously wasteful of public money and natural resources (SCORECARD, July 17), was vetoed by President Carter.
Second, the attempt of Congress to override the Carter veto failed, thanks to a well-organized lobbying campaign by the White House.
And finally, last week, a substitute bill, which eliminates 17 boondoggles and cuts the total cost of the water projects from $1.8, billion to $841 million, was passed by a voice vote of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Prominent among the 17 projects that will dry up for lack of funding is the Lukfata Dam in southeastern Oklahoma, which would have cost $34 million and would have blocked Glover Creek in McCurtain County, the last free-flowing river in the state. Supporters of the dam, which has been a controversial issue ever since the Army Corps of Engineers first proposed it in 1954, said it was necessary for flood control. Others anticipated the sort of recreational boom that has often accompanied the creation of large man-made lakes. But opponents, including a coalition of conservationists, ecologists and canoeists, protested that flooding could be controlled with small earth dams on tributaries to Glover Creek and that the scenic beauty of that mountainous, pine-forested corner of the state would be destroyed.
However, what caused the Lukfata Dam to be included on President Carter's hit list of wasteful projects was the decision that the benefits of the dam did not justify its cost. A prime beneficiary, said federal officials, would be a single catfish farmer.
Three jabs don't make a knockout, of course, but the public interest has won a round.
Now you see it, now you don't. The elusive $30 million that was supposed to be part and parcel of the Olympic sports bill (SCORECARD, Sept. 25) and which has been kicked around more than Richard Nixon, almost vanished again last weekend. A dwindling House of Representatives, rushing toward adjournment, voted 54 to 42 at 1 a.m. to delete the money from its version of the bill. (The Senate had passed an almost identical version with the $30 million intact.)