In the clip below The American Prospect’s Mark Schmitt claims that “earmarks have nothing to do with anything” and “you could eliminate all the earmarks and not save a dollar because all they are are streams of existing funding.”

If congressional earmarks occurred in a legislative vacuum, Schmitt would be technically correct. But nothing on Capitol Hill occurs in a vacuum. Earmarking invites corruption by changing how federal money is warded from a competitive grant-seeking application process, to a state and local government lobbyist free for all. Worse, there is strong evidence that they encourage overall federal spending. Check out this chart of OMB data on the correlation between the number of earmarks and total federal spending:

Earmarks Increase as Government Gets Bigger

Now correlation does not always equal causation, but anybody who knows how Congress actually works should find the link persuasive. Sen. Jim DeMint told Politico earlier this year: “I talked to colleagues who would say, ‘DeMint, I gotta vote for this bill because it has my project in it,’ even though the bill was way over budget.”