For members of Congress, the thrill is gone.
They don’t make national policy anymore. They can’t earmark money for communities back home. The public hates them. And perks little and big, from private jet travel to a little free nosh now and then, have been locked down by ethics rules.
I wouldn’t have expected this, but I actually do feel a little sorry for them. Just a little, mind you, but still. I’ll bet it does kind of suck these days for a lot of people. If you’re a true believer, then you love being in the fight regardless of anything else. But if you’re someone who actually wants to get things done, there’s not much left. Just an endless grind of fundraising and nothing much to make it all worthwhile.
This is also why, within reason, I actually support earmarks. Members of Congress should be important people in their districts. They should be able to get things done for their constituents. They should have some say — based on their ideology and their local knowledge — over what kinds of projects get built and which ones don’t. That’s what they were elected for. If their constituents don’t like the way they handle this, they can vote ’em out.
Earmarks should be transparent, and they should be limited. But they shouldn’t have been banned. They’re part of the job, and they’re part of the culture of dealmaking that helps get things done. There’s really nothing wrong with them in limited quantities.