(Tangent to anyone who wants to fight a war in the future: don't assume it'll pay for itself. Assume that we'll have to foot the bill for the whole thing. And make the budgetary tweaks necessary to raise money for the war. And if you support a war, don't bitch about the higher taxes that are going to come along with it. War means sacrifice, kids.)
It doesn't matter who's in power - earmarks go up under Republicans and Democrats alike. Personally, I don't think we can do away with earmarks entirely, but we can have a system where the entire House votes on each earmark. That oughta trim some of the fat out of the process, since I'm sure no one wants to be on record as having voted for a "bridge to nowhere."
Anyway, Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who I have a lot of respect for as a legislator, hits it on the head:
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said the budget system almost demands that lawmakers use earmarks to win support from voters. He said his colleagues also award earmarks with the expectation that they will generate campaign contributions from happy recipients and their lobbyists, a dynamic that Taxpayers for Common Sense describes as the "pay-to-play system." Lawmakers often boast of the earmarks they have obtained.
Earmarks happen because voters and donors like them. End of frickin' story. You want earmarks eliminated? Don't ask the federal government for funding for your cat museum, and don't congratulate your rep if you get it. You think you have an appropriation that's important for defense or for the welfare of your district's population? You better be prepared to defend that appropration before the entirety of Congress and the court of public opinion.
I've said it (more than) once before, but it bears repeating now. (Ah ah ah ah ah ah...)
One more thing, for anyone who has been watching Euro 2008: how the heck is Tommy Smyth doing color for the early game and then doing studio commentary for ESPN afterwards? Does he have a teleporter that takes him from Austria/Switzerland to Bristol and back? And if he's commenting on the game from Bristol, does that mean Derek Rae is there with him? Because I'm not sure how they could function with the play-by-play guy in Salzburg and the color guy in Connecticut...