Bring Back the Earmark

Research from Gian-Claudia Sciara, an expert on earmarks at the University of California-Davis, has shown that earmarking tends to shift funds away from local transportation priorities rather than adding new money to the infrastructure pot. Nor is it because earmarks ever comprised a major part of federal spending – Sciara’s work found that even at their peak in the mid-2000s, they comprised little more than 5 percent of total transportation appropriations. But while banning earmarks may not have eliminated a significant chunk of infrastructure funding, it did eliminate the main reason congressmen were interested in infrastructure in the first place. For all their problems, earmarks were a genius bit of legislative procedure, giving politicians a personal stake in passing broadly beneficial infrastructure authorization.

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