People have all kinds of theories for why Washington DC has gotten so dysfunctional in recent years.
There’s the bad economy. There’s the fact that Republicans are in safe, gerrymandered districts, and mostly have to worry about Tea Party challengers in primaries.
But if you talk to DC insiders in both parties, one idea that regularly comes up is: Bring back earmarks.
Earmarks are basically special provisions in laws that provide some gift or reward to a specific Representative, for their district.
The infamous “Bridge To Nowhere” was a well-known example of earmark abuse, but the thing about earmarks is that it allows sides to “deal.” A congressman’s vote can be “bought” so to speak. Without earmarks, the only thing a Congressman has is his ideology.
As one Representative from a liberal district recently told us, without earmarks, all he can do to make his district-members happy is stick to a hard line on progressive goals (like opposing any entitlement reforms). If he can deliver something to his district, then he has some latitude to deal elsewhere.
Earmarks have basically been banned since 2010, and since then we’ve had this era of gridlock.
In an interview with Politico, Democratic Congressman suggested that they be brought back in a “transparent” manner.