Mitch McConnell has passed out lots of earmarks in his time, but yesterday he supported a ban on the practice, because Americans "view it as a symbol of the waste.” Translation? “Earmarks are a good idea, but most people don’t get it, so I’ll oppose them,” writes Christopher Beam of Slate. “McConnell’s switch may have been politically savvy, but it doesn’t make much policy sense.”
Earmarks make up just 1% of the federal budget, and cutting them wouldn’t really reduce spending, merely redirect it. Besides, earmarks are relatively transparent these days, and they’re necessary as bargaining chips in legislative compromises—“It’s ugly, but that’s how politics work.” Sure, there are downsides—they favor politicians with clout, can seem arbitrary, and the process “can be a recipe for corruption.” But Congress should be focusing on big, deficit-reducing cuts, not these small potatoes.