We have now heard the left, the right, and even libertarians belittle the impact of earmarks.
- The left, albeit inconsistent and sometimes hypocritical, have minimized the significance of earmarks.
- The right has also stated that earmarks are not an issue of concern. Mark Levin - someone that this site references quite often due to his accurate criticisms of an over-reaching federal government and his expertise in constitutional law - has stated on his radio show that earmarks are not a pressing matter.
- The libertarian Ron Paul has written that earmarks are a "distraction" and "phony issue".
With all due respect to the aforementioned individuals and groups (Mark Levin / conservatives and Ron Paul / libertarians): They are wrong. Earmarks incentivize legislators to vote for a bill that they would otherwise not vote for. Therefore, if one is to address the big picture of (out-of-control) federal spending, then one must address the incentives for legislators to approve and vote for such bills. After all, people respond to incentives.
In order to gain votes, the sponsors of a particular bill will include earmarks that designate funds to be appropriated to particular districts of legislators that are either against or neutral on the legislation in question. This creates a moral hazard, as overall spending (in large omnibus spending bills or health care takeover bills) are passed due to the presence of earmarks.
Earmarks - essentially legalized bribery - manipulate and distort the way our lawmakers vote, and therefore should be identified and chastised at minimum; or preferably banned and ended altogether.