by Yuval Levin
Katrina, I hope the clarification Rep. Bachmann sent you means the substance of the Politico story was wrong, rather than that she’s trying to find some clever way to not call transportation earmarks earmarks.
The fact is (as Tyler Duvall lays out in depth in this essay), it is precisely in the realm of transportation that earmarks do the most harm. Elsewhere, the problem of earmarks is mostly symbolic—symbols matter, and earmarks should go, but outside of transportation they pretty much stand in for the wrong way to think about self-government. But in transportation, earmarks create horrendous distortions that lead to both a whole lot of wasted money and some very bad public policy.