We’ve heard this story before. As The Nation’s John Nichols pointed out in 2007, “it has become fashionable to gripe about earmarks of a few hundred thousand dollars to pay for small-town museums and urban parks.” Writing in the American Thinker, Rick Moran said that “earmarks were a problem going back in the 1980’s.” Yet with every budget, the earmark debate is new again, because it is allows politicians to make a half-hearted stand for reform. But annual earmark anger hasn’t led to change in the last thirty years, and the Washington press corps can’t be naive enough to believe it will this time around. And they shouldn’t expect their audience to believe it, either.

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.