The Corner

Earmarks for Politics

Ramesh: I have to disagree. It is not delusional, to think that earmarks will make a good election-year issue for Republicans. All you have to do is look at how Democrats react to it.

The Democrats definitely think that earmarks are a good issue. They were frightened enough that 62 of them jumped ship on this vote, defying their own leaders. It’s a good enough issue that Obey thought to call the Republicans’ bluff in the first place, and call it he did. The Republican leaders have completely ceded the high ground on the issue. It’s a shame, since Boehner at least seemed ready to fight this fight. That Republicans would not welcome an earmark-free bill is yet another sign that they are hopelessly in the grip of New Deal politics:

“Tax, tax! Spend, spend! Elect, elect!”

Why would earmarks have been a good issue? Because voters don’t respond to numbers — whether spending is at or below the President’s request, or $10 billion more or $20 billion less, that doesn’t get anyone’s attention. But everyone responds when they find out that their money is going to a hippie museum. That’s why the Senate could be shamed into stripping it out of a spending bill this fall.

Voters can see that earmarks are bad because they are wasteful, but they are bad for other reasons as well. They grease the skids for really bad bills, they increase spending, they encourage corruption and bribery, and they are completely unnecessary to doing the nation’s business. This capitulation on earmarks represents a major political victory for Democrats.

UPDATE: I’d just add — I’m not saying that this issue alone will return Congress to the GOP, but I don’t see many other issues that could run in their favor, the way this one could have.


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