“A boar from the forest eats it away

And whatever moves in the field feeds on it.”

- Psalm 80:13

To bring home the bacon, someone has to slaughter a few pigs. And Richard Shelby isn’t yet done being a good butcher for the people of Alabama.

The long-time moderate and top GOP appropriator in the U.S. Senate would like to hammer out one last bipartisan spending bill with his soon-to-be fellow retiree and Democratic colleague on the appropriations committee, Patrick Leahy. 

As the 88-year-old Shelby said at a recent Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce event held to honor his legacy, “We need to work toward the goal of bipartisanship and put issues first, if we do that, we’ll accomplish something.”

What’s another $1.5 trillion amongst old friends? Why not lead by example before leaving? Why not earmark millions of dollars more on the way out the door? Why not sharpen the knife and carve up some more pork for old-time's sake?

Whether or not a final omnibus spending deal will be reached by year’s end is anyone’s guess. As of this writing, Washington insiders are still haggling over a top-line number. If there is no final deal, then Washington is entertaining either a stop-gap measure to kick a budget battle into early 2023 or a year-long continuing resolution that would tie the hands of the incoming Congress. Then there’s the issue of the National Defense Authorization Act, which after the usual fake public fights is always passed on time. No one in Washington wants to look like they’re for defunding the troops.

No matter the outcome of these year-end budget negotiations, this is the sausage-making process that makes or breaks political careers, especially that of senators. Many old blood legacies have been built on bringing home the bacon for several generations now. Alabama’s senatorial legacies in particular — from New Dealers John Sparkman and Lister Hill to the last of the former Southern Democrats, Richard Shelby — have been built on carving out and serving up Washington’s pork to Alabamians. Indeed, Alabama’s reliance on federal largesse is no secret. Some are even proud of it.

But with new blood rising and a new generation ascendant in Alabama politics at the federal level, will this pork belly game remain the same? Will a new generation of U.S. Senators from the great state of Alabama (and all across the nation) continue to be able to build legacies by simply bringing home the bacon? Or will this new blood be called to a more austere adventure, namely to save and replenish the farm after decades of eating away at it?

I hate to break it to the people of Alabama, but Washington, D.C. is running out of pigs to slaughter. Sooner rather than later, the only thing left to butcher will be sacred cows. Business as usual cannot continue as it has for the last century. If it does, we will only have ourselves to blame for our sudden and calamitous impoverishment. “How did you go bankrupt?” Ernest Hemingway’s character asks another, “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

Our ancestors blessed us with immense stores of wealth saved for rainy days. They built this nation from the ground up. They fostered the American forest. That was their legacy. 

Subsequent generations have unfortunately inherited that wealth only to spend it on rainy and sunny days alike. Washington is now to the point of leveraging the wealth of future generations for its insatiable appetite to spend more and more in a never-ending present crisis. We have eaten away the forest. Soon we must contend with the beasts of the field.

What is needed is a new business model. What is needed is a massive restructuring of the American farm. What is needed is bold leadership that tells the American people and the people of Alabama what they do not want to hear — the gravy train is running dry. 

We cannot vote and redistribute our way to enduring prosperity. No amount of money printing or Washington pork can save us from this problem. 

Always good to remember, kids, the government is in the wealth-stealing business, not the wealth-creating business.

That said, what a historic opportunity for the rising new blood in Washington! 

Instead of building legacies off of spending other people’s money and packaging it as bacon for the folks back home, a new generation’s legacy can be built off of saving the farm and getting America’s house back in order.

Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 9 am-12 noon. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email newsandviews931@gmail.com.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com

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