Earmarks and Ezra to the Rescue

Posted: Oct 13, 2013 12:01 AM

Depressed? Nearly suicidal after struggling for 72 hours straight to follow the federal decree commanding you to purchase an Obamacare policy online? Scared? Unable to sleep, needing desperately to reconcile a nearly $17 trillion (and growing) national debt with the massive increases in the number of your fellow citizens on food stamps and federal disability programs amid the economy beginning to tailspin recently at even the hint that the Federal Reserve might stop pumping easy money into the system each month?

Relax. Don’t worry. Help is on the way.

(Pssst. It starts with earmarks.)

Even with the federal government shutdown tight — well, at least the outdoor monuments — there is one member in good standing of the capital’s chattering class, still hard at work and ready with a solution for our nation’s problems.

Meet Ezra Klein.

Klein, a Washington Post columnist and editor of the paper’s “Wonkblog,” also offers his progressive opinions on MSNBC and as a contributor to Bloomberg. “His work focuses on domestic and economic policymaking, as well as the political system that’s constantly screwing it up,” reads his Wonkblog billing.

First, oops. Don’t get too relaxed, after all. It likely gets worse before it gets better.

“The American political system is being torn apart by deep structural changes that don't look likely to reverse themselves anytime soon,” he wrote last week. You see, our political system is so dysfunctional that even a super-duper “deal to reopen the government won't fix what ails American politics.”

“And so we need to look deeper” into Ezra’s crystal ball and consider “The 13 reasons Washington is failing.”

First on Klein’s list one finds earmarks. Yes, the little pork-barrel items stuffed into bills without any debate or serious consideration to boost an incumbent politician by a billion dollars here or there. He laments they are gone, rightfully blaming the GOP House. Our political system desperately needs them back, he says.

“It used to be that Boehner could ask a member to take a tough vote and, in return, help him or her get a bridge built back home,” explains Ezra. “That bargaining chip is gone.”

Klein then quotes an anonymous lobbyist, who told him: “You can’t sit down with members and say, ‘We need your vote, tell me what I can do to make this an easier vote for you, are there things that are unrelated to this that are helpful in your district?’”

It’s confirmed: this form of bribery is gone. We need it back, so we can put the genie back in the Klein bottle. Congressional leaders must be able to keep your representative on the take.

Bringing back earmarks isn’t enough, however. Government is also too transparent, or, as Ezra puts it, “Too much sunshine can burn.”

Case closed. More political bridge-trading needs to be done behind closed doors. Away from the prying eyes of pesky voters. Now, given the history of Democratic Party attacks on tobacco, Klein and other progressives may or may not demand that today’s politicians also fill those capitol back rooms with cigarette or cigar smoke. Maybe e-cig vapors will be enough.

The reasons for all that ails Washington keep progressively coming. After slashing Republicans about 417 million times for being the heartless, uncaring tools of big business (too often accurately), Klein lambasts the GOP because . . . drum roll, please . . . you want to sit down for this . . . “Big business has lost a lot of its power over the Republican Party.”

Big business cannot yank the Republicans’ chain. That’s a problem. Really. Progressives are nonplussed.

Klein also offers lofty observations: “The Republican Party has become particularly extreme” and “Ted Cruz (and others like him) has gained a lot of power over the Republican Party.”

Then, Klein informs readers: “There is no “Republican Party.’”

All of which — obviously and unquestionably — explains why Big Government cannot give us nice things.

Last, and certainly not least, the wonk’s diagnosis goes to the heart of matters. “Our system of government is cracking under the stress.”

“Look around,” Klein counsels. “Almost no other countries have our system of government. That’s because our system of government is pretty unstable.”

Funny, the word “unstable” comes to my mind as well. It’s no wonder it’s at the tip of Klein’s prefrontal cortex: he, the perfect echo of the current unease.     [references]

Paul Jacob is President of the Liberty Initiative Fund which works with citizens nationwide to put freedom-enhancing initiatives on the ballot. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.

©2013 Paul Jacob

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