As is well-known, in order to secure the votes of the handful of Republican Senators necessary to overcome the 60-vote hurdle, Obama had to make some non-trivial concessions. Those concessions have made the stimulus much less effective than it otherwise might have been and will lead to hundreds of thousands of people being unemployed who could have been engaged in productive labor. Suppose that instead of making this sort of large, substantive concession Obama had just been able to offer pointless pet projects for Pennsylvania and Maine. It seems to me that because those projects would have had locally concentrated benefits you could have made the deal worthwhile to Sens. Specter, Collins, and Snowe for a much lower bottom-line cost and ultimately better-served the public interest.
In other words, simply eliminating the most effective means of buying votes in the legislature doesn’t eliminate the practical necessity to do it. It just ensures that the vote-buying gets done in less efficient ways.
I always thought the anti-earmark fervor was a bit overblown, but they always seemed a bit unsavory, so I didn't mind that they were falling by the wayside. Matt's point, though, is solid, and one I hadn't thought of.