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The Boston Globe

Ideas

Bring back the United States of Pork

When we threw out earmarks, did we lose the key to breaking down Washington gridlock?

If there’s one thing most Democrats and Republicans can agree on, it’s that the US Congress has become an ineffectual disaster, frozen in partisan conflict and seemingly unable to pass any meaningful legislation. One of the few instances of efficient lawmaking they’ve managed this year happened only after flight delays caused by budget sequestration began to threaten their own vacation plans. Meanwhile, the bipartisan gun control bill is dead, and the fate of immigration reform remains uncertain.

American politics, it seems, has become so polarized that lawmakers simply can’t find common ground on the most important issues of the day. But partisanship has always been with us, and as Congress approaches yet another potential showdown over the federal budget, a chorus of thinkers from the world of political science is making a surprising argument about how to overcome the gridlock. In order to help Congress get moving again, they say, America needs to restore something that has long been considered a symbol of all that is wrong with government: pork-barrel politics.

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