…according to political scientists James G. Gimpel and Frances E. Lee of the University of Maryland, College Park, and Rebecca U. Thorpe, of the University of Washington, the areas of the country hit hardest by the downturn actually got a smaller share of the discretionary portion of the federal goodies than more fortunate regions.
How could this be the case? Was this due to politicians securing funds for their districts?
The broader reason why spending went haywire, the authors believe, is because Democrats used it to fund their pet policy initiatives. Ordinarily, progress on fronts such as infrastructure repair and scientific and medical research is painfully slow. ARRA offered an all-too-tempting “policy window” to change that.
Democrats showered the National Institutes of Health with $10 billion of new funding and the National Science Foundation with $3 billion. They created more than 30 new federal programs, leapfrogging the normal congressional authorization process. President Obama homed in on highways. “Because of this investment, nearly 400,000 men and women will go to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, repairing our faulty dams and levees,” he declared when he signed the stimulus into law.
Not surprisingly, Gimpel, Lee, and Thorpe found that counties that already had lots of roads and other public installations profited handsomely, harvesting an average of $50 more per capita than less endowed counties. “Prioritizing infrastructure favored areas with access to interstate highways, bodies of water, and national parks, regardless of local economic circumstances.”
HT: Wilson Quarterly.