Politics are worse now that earmarks are banned

“The problem with Washington today is that there just isn’t enough bribery. In the old days, when parties lacked a few crucial votes to pass important legislation, they could win over opponents with the help of so-called earmarks. These were sentences included in spending bills that directed some of the money to specific projects – a new day centre, a new motorway junction – at the request of a member of Congress. This pork barrel politics wasn’t pretty but it did grease the wheels of Congress. In 2011, however, Congress bowed to campaigners and banned earmarks.

“The then-Republican Speaker John Boehner said he hoped the move would stop members of Congress viewing politics in “transactional” terms, and encourage them to “think on a higher plane”. The effect has not been so benign. Having reduced Washington politics to “a pure battle of ideologies”, there are fewer opportunities for compromise and fewer downsides for members of Congress when bills fail. “After all, it’s not going to contain any goodies for your district, so who cares?” Earmarks may have been “unseemly”, but they were a price worth paying “to keep the government humming along”. (Kevin Drum, Mother Jones)

One could argue that the deep, tribal divisions in the country embrace a host of issues and for a host of reasons. But the incompetence and incapacity of Congress is truly scary. Kevin Drum has a very good point – if Congressmen had an incentive to cooperate with the opposite party we would see some progress. But they are hammered back home if they are seen to be too moderate (which means crossing party lines). Clearly, those who pushed through the change on earmarks were incapable of imagining the worst possible outcome – an ineffective government.

All that now matters is raising money, money, money, and keeping the financial backers happy. Exhibit One is the so-called Tax Reform bill, which is one of the most gross bribes in history (bribes to donors, thst is), and will result in horrendous deficits and no more growth than there would have been anyway.

Why is this posting is on an Epicurean blog? Because I am very fearful for the country, as are so many people who try to look ahead and know their history. Did the Civil War dver really end? Why does it seem to keep popping back up in various guises, albeit peacefully at present? The bullying corruption and lies are, at the very least, very bad both for morale and ataraxia.

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