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Is pork and waste an expression or an idiom? From the context where I picked it up, it seems to indicate that if something is "built with pork and waste" it means that some aspects of that built thing are badly and too expensively built. Is that correct?

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BTW, an idiom is a type of expression established by long usage. Pork and its variations are idiomatic (see below), but "pork and waste" taken together are not. – Robusto Jan 21 '12 at 15:27
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Pork is an American slang term derived from the term pork-barrel politics. It is associated with waste and possibly corruption as well. From NOAD:

pork barrel
noun informal
the use of government funds for projects designed to please voters or legislators and win votes: political pork barrel for the benefit of their respective sponsors
[ as modifier ] : wasteful, pork-barrel spending.

See the Wikipedia entry for more info on history, etc. Excerpt:

The term pork barrel politics usually refers to spending that is intended to benefit constituents of a politician in return for their political support, either in the form of campaign contributions or votes.

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I'm sure you're essentially correct, but synonymous with 'waste' and possibly 'corruption' is an odd thing to say in context. Obviously from a high enough perspective, government money lost through 'corruption' is 'waste' - but equally obviously, unless we assume pork and waste is stylistic tautology for emphasis, pork in this context really does mean 'corruption' (partly perhaps direct "lining of pockets", but probably mostly "non-optimal national economic decisions based purely on local electioneering considerations"). – FumbleFingers Jan 21 '12 at 14:04
@FumbleFingers: A fair point. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say "associated with waste and possibly corruption." I will edit to make that small change. – Robusto Jan 21 '12 at 14:26
I'd say "associated with corruption (which could be seen as wasting government funds)". – FumbleFingers Jan 21 '12 at 14:32
Except that waste doesn't necessarily imply corruption. A defense spending bill that earmarks funds for the development of a weapons system that is arguably not needed may be wasteful, but not proof of corruption. And I say that as someone who grows increasingly cynical of all politics and especially that which involves lobbyists (pretty close to 100%, I'm sure). I prefer to lead with "waste" and soft-pedal "corruption" in this case. – Robusto Jan 21 '12 at 14:45
Yes, but my point is that pork in this context always implies corruption. The waste connotation may or may not attach to pork/corruption. In this specific case I'd be inclined to distance it, so pork and waste can be read as two different (but related) "bad things", rather than just the same thing being said twice. In short, you're biasing the statement towards your own "political/sociological" leanings, contrary to the original writer's choice of phrase. – FumbleFingers Jan 21 '12 at 14:56

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