It's not only banks and automakers benefiting from federal largesse. The House of Representatives today voted to approve a Defense appropriations bill that included $2.7 billion in earmarked no-bid contracts to private companies. Rep. Jeff Flake, a Republican congressman from Arizona, offered a series of unsuccessful amendments aimed at stripping out the spending. A press release from him said, "Members of Congress should not have the ability to award no-bid contracts to their campaign contributors." The votes on the amendments are here, here, here, here, and here. Defense spending is important, of course, and there may be some members of Congress who play constructive roles in bringing innovative businesses in their districts to the attention of the Pentagon. Under the Constitution Congress has the power to appropriate funds. But as a practical matter, the government would probably be better off buying weapons from the cheapest and best market competitor, not the businessman who is coziest with the local congressman or who has a lobbyist who is.