The War On Earmarks Is Dumb


The President and the rest of the Democrats will be proud to tell you that the stimulus is 100% earmark free, as if that’s somehow synonymous with 100% waste-free, which is shear nonsense. For some reason, though, earmarks have become public enemy #1 in the day’s political discourse. John McCain wagered his campaign on the idea that if you just got rid of earmarks, the financial crisis would be solved (it wouldn’t), and Obama picked up the mantle once he won.

But earmarks are a small part of the budget, and they do go towards things that people typically expect taxpayers will pay some money for. Matthew Yglessias also makes a good point, that earmarks are a good, inexpensive way of buying votes. Rather than whole-hog compromise with the Susan Collins of the world, just give her a spy museum in Portland, ME.

In other words, simply eliminating the most effective means of buying votes in the legislature doesn’t eliminate the practical necessity to do it. It just ensures that the vote-buying gets done in less efficient ways.

Nailed it. Spoken like a true economist (though he’s not). The issue is not earmarks, the issue is the need to buy votes. And eliminating one cheap way to do it, doesn’t take away the need — it just makes things less efficient.

Oh, and if you had any doubts, there’s still basically pork in the bill. Tim Carney (John’s brother) points out that one way they’ve gotten around the anti-pork ban is to make general outlays that only could possibly apply to one company in the whole country. Very sneaky.