Call them what you will - earmarks, pork barrel projects, public-private partnerships -they are the opiate of American politics and government.
They are the things that "fiscal conservatives" rebuke during campaigns and speeches to friendly audiences, whether they be Democratic or Republican. But, they are ultimately the Siren's songs that lure them while in office, promising favor among those most likely to vote in the next election.
Show us a prominent state or federal representative who has never delivered one of those huge phony checks to a group of smiling local officials, and we'll show you an aberration and likely a single-term representative.
The City of Warren, Warren County, and the various other municipalities within the county, have virtually all received state or federal grants or loans over the years for this or that project. Then, there are the growing collection of non-profits which receive not only tax-free status, but infusions of cash from government.
This is not to say that the majority of them aren't worthwhile.
However, as the quadrennial debate over fiscal philosophy rolls on, the usual finger-pointing has reached fever pitch, and earmarks and bringing home the bacon are among the weapons used to defeat the armor of opposing candidates. Where once legislators bragged about how much state and federal money they obtained for their constituents, the current economic misfortunes and government deficits have turned political asset into liability.
One prominent state representative, speaking to a morning breakfast meeting of the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry a few years ago, excused himself right after his vocal condemnation of the practice in order to make it on time for a photo op where he was the star of one of those fake check presentations.
Let's be honest about this. Pork barrel is what Politician A calls Politician B's pet project, when A finds B on the other side of the aisle.