The idea underneath this ongoing discussion is the need for budgetary reform, which is inarguably necessary. But, the serial bloviating that accompanies the earmark debate is hardly an honest attempt at reform. As Time’s Michael Grunwald put it:

Earmarks were made for hypocrisy; they’re always reprehensible when they’re in someone else’s district. But despite all the Beltway hyperventilation, earmarks are not really a problem. Their exponential growth is a symptom of the larger problem of wasteful spending, but blaming the earmark process for wasteful spending is like blaming the Internet for porn. It is just a convenient delivery device, and it can have good uses as well as frivolous ones.

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.

Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.