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Thursday, January 24, 2013

 
Rethinking the earmark

by digby

I don't know quite what to think about this.  I certainly have thought that calling earmarks corruption was a stretch, since it often resulted in benefits to actual people who live in communities around the nation.  It's true that it was unfair and that some places like Alaska and West Virginia got far more than their fair share due to the pull of their Senators and powerful committee chairmen, but the truth is that those earmarks benefited a whole lot of middle class and poor Alaskans and West Virginians (and yes, rich friends of the politicians too.) So maybe all the demagoguery wasn't really in the best interest of average people on balance. But then I read this:
People have all kinds of theories for why Washington DC has gotten so dysfunctional in recent years. 
There's the bad economy. There's the fact that Republicans are in safe, gerrymandered districts, and mostly have to worry about Tea Party challengers in primaries. 
But if you talk to DC insiders on both parties, one idea that regularly comes up is: Bring back earmarks. 
Earmarks are basically special provisions in laws that provide some gift or reward to a specific Representative, for their district. 
The infamous "Bridge To Nowhere" was well known example of earmark abuse, but the thing about earmarks is that it allows sides to "deal." A congressman's vote can be "bought" so to speak. Without earmarks, the only thing a Congressman has his ideology.
As one Representative from a liberal district recently told us, without earmarks, all he can do to make his district-members happy is stick to a hard line on progressive goals (like opposing any entitlement reforms). If he can deliver something to his district, then he has some latitude to deal elsewhere.
Ok, never mind. That's the last thing I want, seriously. Especially since my champions are Democrats who have a hard enough time not making "deals" as it is. I'm fairly sure the Republicans would not only get their goodies but they'd hold fast to the their ideological principles at the same time. Somehow, I don't think this will work out well for the home team.

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