I think it’s reasonable well-understood at this point among non-stupid, non-dishonest people that “earmarks” are a minor aspect of the budget and the bloviating about them is just hot air not serious budget policy. Less well-understood is Stan Collender’s point that earmark reform would literally save no money whatsoever:
Lost in all of the debate (and the reporting about the debate) on the earmarks in the omnibus 2009 appropriations bill the Senate is still working to adopt is the basic fact that cutting earmarks doesn’t save any money.
This is not open for discussion. An earmark simply is a congressional decision to allocate part of appropriation for a particular purpose. Eliminating the allocation doesn’t reduce the appropriation, it simply leaves the allocation decision to a federal department or agency rather than to Congress.
A lot of people don’t understand this because the mechanics of the federal budget process are fairly obscure. But guess who really ought to understand the federal budget process? Members of congress! And especially those members of congress who portray themselves as incredibly concerned with the need for federal budget reform. I’m looking at you John McCain!