Obama says No Earmarks Allowed in Stimulus Package.

In his brief press conference today, Barack Obama announced that there would be no earmarks allowed in his stimulus package. He stated that there would be no unreviewed projects. It was unclear whether he meant that the Administration would be picking the projects under a broad grant from Congress, or whether any projects inserted by individual members of Congress would have to be reviewed by the relevant Congressional committees, or whether he meant something else.

Whatever was intended, any restrictions on earmarking would be a good thing. While I oppose a big government spending program, favoring tax reductions instead, if we must have a big infrastructure program, we should also hope for structural restrictions to reduce waste and pork. Obama also promised transparency, with (as I understood him) individual projects identified online.

While Obama didn't go as far as McCain pledged to do in his campaign (eliminate earmarks altogether), he did pledge today to eliminate earmarks in the bill that might be the biggest pork-spending opportunity that Congress has ever considered — which is a major step. Just how much waste this move prevents will depend a lot on how the Obama administration chooses particular projects.