Rush's "porkulus" promises come true

Feeding the hungry with, literally, a pork project. But is it kosher?


Gabriel Winant
July 20, 2009 9:05PM (UTC)

Inspired by Rush Limbaugh, many conservatives spent January and February kvetching that the president’s proposal to stimulate the economy should really be called the “porkulus” bill. The president’s real plan, accused critics, was a sneaky way to use the recession as an excuse to blow taxpayers’ dollars on pet Democratic projects.

But even Limbaugh didn’t know that the stimulus, once passed, would literally go to pay for pork. Ham, actually. Today, apparently looking to provoke some outrage over this highly un-kosher spending, the Drudge Report posted some figures from the stimulus website, www.recovery.gov. Here are the headlines:

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RECOVERY.GOV // AWARDED: $2,531,600 FOR 'HAM, WATER ADDED, COOKED, FROZEN, SLICED, 2-LB'...

RECOVERY.GOV // AWARDED: $1,191,200 FOR '2 POUND FROZEN HAM SLICED'...

RECOVERY.GOV // AWARDED: $351,807 FOR 'REPLACE AND UPGRADE THE DUMBWAITER'...

RECOVERY.GOV // AWARDED: $1,562,568 FOR 'MOZZARELLA CHEESE'...

RECOVERY.GOV // AWARDED: $5,708,260 FOR 'PROCESS CHEESE'...

RECOVERY.GOV // AWARDED: $16,784,272 FOR 'CANNED PORK'...

It’s like the Obama administration is trying to give a hand up to critics by enacting the cliché of pork spending. Or, if we decline to take Matt Drudge at his word, not so much. Shortly after the Drudge Report item went up, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack issued a statement clarifying that, of course, he had not spent millions of dollars on a few pounds of ham.

The references to "2 pound frozen ham sliced" are to the sizes of the packaging. Press reports suggesting that the Recovery Act spent $1.191 million to buy "2 pounds of ham" are wrong. In fact, the contract in question purchased 760,000 pounds of ham for $1.191m, at a cost of approximately $1.50 per pound. In terms of the dairy purchase referenced, USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) purchased 837,936 pounds of mozzarella cheese and 4,039,200 pounds of processed cheese.

Also, the food was for soup banks and food kitchens. Since Vilsack’s statement, Drudge has added this headline, without removing the others: “Agriculture Sec. Vilsack: 'Purchased 760,000 Lbs of ham at cost of approximately $1.50 per pound'... FOOD LION: $.79 Lb...”

But there's a problem with that, too -- the comparison is apples to oranges. Or, in this case, unsliced ham, the kind you might serve at Thanksgiving or Easter, to sliced deli ham, which always tends to be more expensive.


Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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