Opinion, By Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – “Orçamento impositivo” is the sesquipedalian rendering in Portuguese of “pork barrel” — American English for adding provisions to legislation that force the government to spend money on something it doesn’t want to. In Brazil, the barrel has gone ballistic and the pork has gone postal.
No prize from the Curmudgeon for guessing which place all the members of Congress think deserves the most money — that selfsame district where people voted for them because they promised them more PORK in their BARREL!
Last week, the Senate (or was it the Chamber of Deputies—no matter, they’re equally complicit) approved a PEC (Proposta de Emenda Constitucional or draft constitutional amendment) that would double the amount of the pork in the collective feeding trough.
The 1988 Constitution provides that legislators can “log roll” (“you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours” or, in colloquial Portuguese, “É dando que se recebe”) to their hearts’ (usually their pocketbooks’) content, and divert taxpayer funds to their own locale, up to one percent of the annual federal budget. Sadly for the wannabe spendthrifts, the President can veto the logs (barrels) she doesn’t like rolling.
This PEC would require the Executive Branch to spend 1.2 percent of the annual federal budget on boondoggles proposed by legislators as being beneficial to the particular place from which they get most of their votes. No vetos permitted.
Decades ago, the late Everett Dirksen, then Senator from Illinois, famously decreed: “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to REAL money.”
As the Brazilian economy grows, so grow the barrels to be porked, so grow the logs to be rolled, so grows the unconscionable greed of legislators desirous of bribing their way into re-election, and thus being able to wallow even more in their mendacious “milk and honey” mud.
Does any reader know of any legislators, from the U.S., Brazil or wherever, who are really, truly, interested in their constituents? Please name one! One only, for whom into the fire you, a voter and an ethical human being, would thrust your hand and … would really, truly, expect it to come out unscorched.
Those of us who have lived in Brazil for forty years know that, however sincere some of those pleas for funds may seem, they are being made by politicos who realize that, in order to get them approved, they must prostitute themselves and vote in favor of some scurrilous, scandalous, scoundrilous scheme (proposed by their congressional colleagues) which has as its principal purpose the enrichment of the few to the detriment of the many.
Under the PEC, no veto is possible, which is why the three hundred picaretas (“banditos”) have voted in favor of an increase in the price of pork barrels. That’s billions and billions of dollars of taxpayer money, down the proverbial drain, with nary a voice heard to the contrary.
After a while, the “Imposed Budget” adds up to real money — yours and mine.
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, fetched up on these shores exactly 36 years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)