It would be nice if Washington could reduce the burden of debt it is imposing on future generations just by combating pork-barrel spending. But it can't. Any plausible deficit-reduction strategy will require Republicans to accept higher taxes and Democrats to accept limits on entitlements for the elderly, whose costs will consume an unsustainable share of federal spending over time.
Earmarks may be Washington at its worst, but earmark reform increasingly looks like the same thing. It allows politicians to suggest they are seriously confronting the deficit while supporting unaffordable tax cuts that deepen the deficit.