The Third Rail

I am starting a topic about the untouchable topic, it seems, in FIRST: Politics (DUN dun DUN).
This topic is being spun off of the replies to my post regarding government funding: Re: Sponsor Criticized by Newspaper

First I want to make it very clear that I never called anything “pork barrel projects” or anything similar in the thread I reference, because I will be doing so in this thread.

This started when a $100 000 contribution to a regional was listed in a newspaper article scrutinizing a handful of state funded programs in a June 9th 2008 article, “Port or not? Member items getting new scrutiny:”

Let New York’s governor warn that tax revenues have “fallen off a cliff” and steep budget deficits lie ahead. Long Island’s lawmakers say that’s all the more reason for them to use the $25 million in discretionary local grants they are awarding this year, commonly known as member items.

FRC is a wonderful program, anyone should have the option of wanting to be in it, there is no reason that it should not be an option for all students in the country. It is my opinion that it is impractical for FRC to have a 100% saturation of schools in a large area, e.g. a few million people. There is a certain limit to how many volunteer hours and money you can get, though I don’t think we are anywhere as close in most all areas, I have a feeling RI will be feeling the pressure of their goal not so far away from now.

This plays into politics: Where do we get money. Large contributions awarded to a very small percentage of people, and involved only one or two politicians, which is more or less the contribution to the regional, is a pork project.

Some people may want you to think otherwise, but the whole concept of America, the American dream, is that with hard work and dedication and you can strike it rich in capitalism helping people in a way that only government in other countries would do. For example, in Germany you can get a fixed rate electrical bill for installing solar panels on your house, funded by the government. In the United States, however, there is any number of companies that will install solar panels on your (flat) roof and do the maintenance and operation for you. Immigration and the infamous textile mills, similar concept (if with a lack of employee protection laws).

FIRST does a decent job of generating revenue, they own the whole building they operate in (according to their audited financial report from 2007 fiscal year, which ends June 30th for them) which they received from the city of Manchester, as long as they could establish and maintain the SEE science center/museum in a portion of it. FIRST makes about half a million a year from leasing the unused space to private owners. The building across from FIRST contains Vertical Dreams (the best indoor rock climbing facility ever by the way, if anyone wants to go), and have teamed up with them to provide a summer camp. My larger point is government can be good, in the same way corporate sponsors can, if you can establish a two way relationship with them that works for everyone’s benefit. Manchester’s help is obviously not pork, and the efforts by RI and how HI are not either. Shelling out money is however, and simply by the fact that the NY regional is Friday through Sunday and the only competition on the last week of competitions, it doesn’t look like they are doing much to help in other ways (this of course could be a great misunderstanding on my part, idk, but whoever is providing the venue, it appears that that there is real resistance to choosing a more flexible option, so someone is probably donating it on their terms).

Regarding my story, it is relevant because we were having a difficult time with our district, who are politicians too (they are elected, paid with tax money, make policies, no difference). This is directly relevant to the homework that year (by chance, I was planning on doing it regardless), for all the same reasons Dean keeps saying it is: If people truly know what FIRST is, they will (hopefully) support it in whatever way they can. It doesn’t have to be money or donations, knowing why we need the software installed and why we cannot use the district’s content management system (against the rules for website award), that is what is going to help us just as much.

Oh, and the Big Dig is hardly a pork project, it benefits an entire region of the US. You know it when you see the difference (even if it costs $4 billion per mile, eek!). The insane amount of money it costs is why you live in RI or south NH (preferably NH), and commute to Taxachusetts :wink:

Your point is? I am not sure I get it.

The #1 reason that you don’t go into politics around here is that it turns into a flame war. If you can keep it from becoming one, great. If not, I really don’t want to be in your shoes.

You’re right, you can’t get a 100% saturation of FIRST. Why do you bring that up? It doesn’t help you here (and you’re forgetting that you need to raise the bar, not lower it. Furthermore, FTC and VEX (which isn’t FIRST anymore) can do the same thing FRC does for cheaper and with a better chance of 100% saturation. So maybe you can get 100%…

Also, it helps to get your facts straight. NYC did NOT get the money from the government, Long Island did. They are separate events, with LI held (in this case) during the main 5 weeks and NYC held as it usually is, Friday-Sunday, in Week 6.

Big Dig is a pork project. It doesn’t benefit anyone other than the people who use it, which would be people in Boston/using the Boston Airport. And the work was not exactly the best, but that’s another story. You can’t be selective about what you call “pork”. It’s either pork or not pork. If one thing that is $100,000 and benefits a limited number of people is pork, then how is a $4,000,000,000 per-mile thing that also benefits a limited number of people not pork?

Shouldn’t we be considering the difference between the original cost estimates of the Big Dig, and the eventual cost to the public? The patronage and bid-rigging, and then the subsequent poor workmanship (relative to the cost) are what give it the appearance of unjustifiable spending. But if it had actually cost what they said it would cost, I think people would have welcomed it unequivocally, and not derided it as a pork project. Labelling it as pork sounds like an ex post facto judgement based on the city’s poor experiences with the project, rather than an analysis of its utility. It’s undeniable that the project has had significant economic and social benefits, the only question is whether or not these benefits, taken over time, justify the huge project cost.

The point is that it’s not a pork project because it only benefits a few, but rather, portions of it are porkish because it encompassed so many politically-motivated favours and shady deals among the contractors. But it’s still possible for the end result to be justifiable on its own merits.

Here, again, I disagree. The number of politicians participating is a side issue. The key is whether or not the process constitutes a special favour, either to the constituents at large (e.g. people who may now be more inclined to vote for the politician), or to particular individuals (e.g. political contributors, friends or family of the politicians). For example, if one senator resolves to spend $100 000 on Macedonian refugees (of which there are few), and sticks a line item into the state budget authorizing this, it’s not necessarily pork. If the money is largely being siphoned off by his Macedonian extended family, then it’s probably pork. Or if this budget measure was inserted in recognition of a favour granted previously, it’s probably pork. But if he really wants to help the Macedonians, the fact that it ought to have been openly debated in the legislature, and the fact that the state has limited funds to disburse (to benefit society as a whole), taken together, do not cause it to become pork.

Similarly for SBPLI: I see no evidence that that contribution is being used to pander to constituents in an unreasonable way, or represents an improper favour. It offers (presumably large) intangible benefits to relatively few, and on that basis might not be as critical as other causes which could be funded instead, but that’s quite different from it being a pork project.

I’ve never seen the “American dream” characterized in that manner before. Typically it’s about how hard work, etc. can lead to (depending on your perspective) personal and/or societal enrichment. But the key is that it’s not about private citizens’ contributions vs. government grants, and there’s no implication that by doing something in some capitalistic “American way”, you’ll acheive better results than if the government had propped the endeavour up with some extra funds.

Pork…an expediture of money proposed by a senator or representative from a state other than your own.
When it’s your own representative involved, it’s called bacon, as in “bringing home the bacon”

This is a spin off of the thread, for organizational purposes. Also to point out a larger picture that people don’t usually see because it is a “Great Pumpkin”.

So my initial doubts were correct, and I shouldn’t have even implied I was talking about NYC. My second point about NYC still stands luckily: These nuisances, though minor, are the ones that need to be solved with the help of outside organizations, along with all the other support we get be it money, supplies, space, or personal time.

I didn’t link to it in this thread, so I do so here, see the Wikipedia consensus on the definition. Some people think pork means too expensive to justify the results, which would include the big dig, certainly considered pork by many people. I don’t entirely agree, it was entirely funded by MA, benefits almost almost all of the citizens and then some, and was not a random plan or request for money pulled from thin air. Now, if the federal government funded it, there is no doubt, it isn’t their job to fund that, especially considering that less then what, 5% of Americans are going to be using it? So I am looking at the taxpayer/recipient ratio I guess.

Traditionally it is work hard and prosper. I do try and take it one step farther however, there is no reason you cannot help people and profit doing it at the same time, take Muhammad Yunus as the perfect example (one of those rare Nobel peace prize winners who really deserved it I believe). More good for less money, or in our case, which source of money is going to be the most beneficial? $100 000 is $100 000, right? No, the source is entirely relevant with everything from financial effects on the suppliers side (budget deficit) or how you establish the two-way relationship I talk about, to phenomena like personal bias towards your sponsor (this is seen this in research all the time).

I still don’t get your point. Yeah, it’s a spinoff. That was crystal clear. You started like you were going to make a point… and didn’t.

There are more factors with NYC than you see. For example, when can they get the space, is it cheaper in time and money and other resources to have it on another week or build another field to have it on an earlier week,
when can the area teams come, what are the venue costs and considerations… ALL of those must be taken into consideration and they then make the best choice they can. Will people complain either way? Yes. So it’s which way gets fewest complaints. Outside organizations won’t help much. (For example, L.A. Sports Arena this year, while helpful, had a nice big tank right behind the pits. Pesky double-booking!)

Oh, yeah… As I understand it, the Big Dig did get federal money. Means that if you pay taxes in the U.S., you paid for it.

In terms of State Senator Johnson’s $100,000 donation being considered pork barrel spending, I do have a problem with this. Mainly because the phrase “pork barrel” has a negative connotation. When you mention that in the same context as FIRST, you make FIRST sound bad. Of course, we all know that FIRST is a wonderful organization with a righteous cause.

I find one comment here to be very interesting:

“Owen Johnson:$100,000 to the Long Island First Robotics Competition”

Are you saying this is bad, influencing thousands of kids into the world of engineering, technology, business, and much more. Is this a pork? Maybe one has to look beyond the numbers and into what matters.

It’s true; you do have to look beyond the numbers.

Yes, you can consider it pork based on how so much money goes to benefit a small group. However, it’s a worthwhile investment when you are using the money inspiring kids to produce world-changing technology.

Definition of pork:

Is the appropriation pork? From the outside, it may look like pork, and those of us that know how it’s benefiting our students should be educating the general masses as to the benefits. By not doing so we invite accusations of pork barrel politics.

The newspaper is doing what it (and all of us) should be doing. Questioning our government. In America, it’s our duty (as well as the press’s duty) to question the appropriations of our elected officials. To not do so leads to corruption and waste.

I see nothing wrong with the reporting that the newspaper did. What we should be doing is providing a proper answer as to why that appropriation is benefiting the citizens of that area and why it should be continued.

One more thing. Politics is generally taboo on boards because it leads to flaming. Please keep this topic flame free :wink:

The only reason why politics (and religion) often leads to flaming is because people put their emotions and knee jerk reactions above keeping a level head and arguing with facts and rational thinking/reasoning. If people always did the latter, there would never be any flame wars, even on “controversial” topics.

Take a look at who made the comment. It’s from a FIRSTer. It is, however, true. And I would say that every “pork” project has people who would be willing to say that.