The Case Against the Case for Earmarks

Megan McArdle, riffing on a report about how the earmark ban took away a Republican tool for getting votes, makes it:

I intensely dislike what they represent. But they are not the source of our fiscal problems, and they clearly provided some vital lubricant for our nation’s creaky legislative machinery.

But earmarks wouldn’t have worked on this vote! We’ll get the noes soon, but they’re going to come from people who have promised up and down not to take projects for their district. One reason: Bad optics.

“I tell you this as somebody who believes in earmarks: They shouldn’t be used as negotiating chits to get you to vote for something you wouldn’t have otherwise,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said between votes today. “I don’t want to look like the Democrats did on health care, with the Louisiana kickbacks and what have you. I’m glad Speaker Boehner took that tool out of the toolbox.”