New Republic's Bradford Plumer, in an absolute moment of clarity, on why liberals should oppose any restrictions to pork-barrel spending:
...while it's easy to see why small-government conservatives and knee-jerk deficit hawks dislike earmarks, there's a liberal case for supporting pork. It's not because pork projects are defensible on the merits, although they sometimes can be. It's not because they create jobs, although they can do that, too. Rather, it's because, without pork, activist government would wither and die.
The point is this: Any big-government program on the progressive wish list will likely prove even more difficult to pass than the 1986 tax reform or 1993 budget. Single-payer health care? Card check for unions? Reductions in carbon emissions? It won't get done without an orgy of earmarks to entice the inevitable skeptics in Congress.
Get that? Plumer is okay ethically with keeping a cool billion around to grease the wheels.
Thanks to Captain's Quarters for pointing this column out. Ed offers much more by way of analysis, including why Plumer is exactly right.