The earmarks in the omnibus bill account for $8 billion in spending. It is possible that all of this spending is unnecessary and horrible, but it constitutes just six-tenths of one percent of the entire bill. All of this could be stripped out, and there would still be 1.192 trillion dollars left in the bill. Naturally, it is this minuscule, irrelevant portion of the bill that has received all of the attention:
“The American people said just 42 days ago, ‘Enough!’ . . . Are we tone deaf? Are we stricken with amnesia?” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a leading earmark critic, said on the Senate floor, flipping through the 1,924-page bill as he pounded his desk.
If the public isn’t opposed to the gargantuan $860 billion tax deal that McCain’s party leaders just agreed to add to the debt, and apparently they aren’t, why would anyone suppose that the public would be outraged over spending that is less than one percent of the value of the tax deal? The only thing more tiresome than the charade of pretending that opposing earmarks is proof of fiscal rectitude is the mindless repetition of the claim that earmarks represent some sort of betrayal of the public trust. The omnibus bill includes earmarks added by Senate Republicans, and because of the silly earmark moratorium Senate Republicans wanted to adopt the presence of their earmarks has become news. However, possibly the only thing more ridiculous than having politicians complain about the evils of earmarks is complaining about members’ earmark hypocrisy. Instead of harping on members’ inconsistency on this point, we should welcome it as proof that the fixation on earmarks is a ridiculous distraction from the real causes of our current fiscal mess.