The book Cadillac Desert discusses the development of dams, aquaducts, and irrigation canals to slake the thirst of cities and farmers in the Western U.S.. While these projects did eventually deliver the water they promised, they did so at huge costs to taxpayers. In the words of former congressmen Robert W. Edgar:
“The old-boy network comes to you,” says Edgar, who was elected to the House of Representatives in 1974, at the age of thirty-one. “They say, ‘You’ve got a water project in your district? You want one? Let us take care of it for you.’ Then they come around a few months later and get their pound of flesh. You actually risk very little by going along. You get a lot of money thrown into your district for a project that few of your constituents oppose. In return, you vote for a lot of projects your constituents don’t know or care about. Not many of my constituents are going to base their vote for or against me on whether or not I supported Stonewall Jackson Dam in West Virginia. Then everyone wonders why we’re running such big federal deficits, and they cut the social programs, which must be the culprit.”
- Robert W. Edgar, U.S. Congressman from 1975 to 1987.