Government

Incentives Matter (Congressional Edition)

I've been trying to avoid the endless stream of process-y political news out of Washington this week. But I can't pass up a detail buried deep within a Politico story this morning.

It's totally process-y (it speaks to why John Boehner is having a hard time rallying House Republicans to pass a bill that almost certainly wouldn't pass in the Senate). But it gets at the power of incentives, a core idea in economics.

Republicans banned earmarks when they won a majority in the House. That means that Boehner can't offer wavering lawmakers a key incentive often used by House leaders in the past.

Politico writes:

There are no earmarks to hand out, nor any to take away... .

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), one of the last holdouts and a candidate for the Senate in Arizona, spoke of how "refreshing" it was to see a lobbying effort bereft of the legislative grease that used to secure last-minute votes in the House. He said the vote-building would have "cost $20 billion" in the past.

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