Economics

The Politics of Stimulus Spending

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USA Today reports:

Counties that supported Obama last year have reaped twice as much money per person from the administration's $787 billion economic stimulus package as those that voted for his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, a USA TODAY analysis of government disclosure and accounting records shows. That money includes aid to repair military bases, improve public housing and help students pay for college.

The reports show the 872 counties that supported Obama received about $69 per person, on average. The 2,234 that supported McCain received about $34.

More here.

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  1. You mean, when politicians get their claws into some money and start to hand it out, politics is involved?!? Say it ain’t so, joe!

  2. Well, damn! He shoulda just said that up front! “Get your district to vote for me, and you’ll get more money than the ones that don’t!” The election would have been a landslide!!

    Can I change my vote?

  3. I’m just curious, but what part of this is actually surprising to anyone? I mean, this is just how it goes in Washington after all.

  4. WAKE UP AMERICA!

  5. Its always easy when its someone elses money that is being spent!

    Jess
    http://www.real-anonymity.pro.tc

  6. “I’m just curious, but what part of this is actually surprising to anyone? I mean, this is just how it goes in Washington after all.”

    It may not be surprising, or at least surprising to most but it’s great to show to stubborn people.

  7. Uh… holy shit.

  8. The bot is really starting to creep me the fuck out…

    Kudos to the programmer on this one. That or Skynet is about to be in full effect.

  9. Whatever, guys. Obama is there to help the little guy, to spread the wealth around. Of course the counties staggering under economic oppression would get more money than those doing the oppressing. They can afford it.

  10. Whatever, guys. Obama is there to help the little guy, to spread the wealth around. Of course the counties staggering under economic oppression would get more money than those doing the oppressing. They can afford it.

    A+ trolling, would read again

  11. Sure, call anyone you can’t refute a troll. I guess that’s the “reasonable” response.

  12. Oh Q*bert, you blew it. It’s too early to drink.

  13. I don’t drink.

  14. You should try it sometime.

  15. It’s not political at all. You are reading into this far too much. Obviously the most concentrated population centers (cities) are overwhelmingly liberal and voted for Obama. Obviously, spending money would have a greater effect where there is a a greater population. I would be very surprised if it were any other way.

    Your bias is showing.

  16. I don’t drink.

    Great. Another aggrieved minority.

  17. I’ll play devil’s advocate for just a moment. Aren’t the counties that voted for Obama, in general, the most heavily populated counties in the country? You spend the money where the people are, right?

    From my own state, I would think Harris County (voted Obama, population 4 million) gets more money per capita than Jeff Davis County (voted McCain, population 2,200).

    Yes, while the stimulus is bullshit and shouldn’t be happening, I kind of expect the vote buying to be going on where there’s actual votes. I don’t think the voting pattern in the last election is as significant as the number of people involved. I’ll take a guess and say those 872 counties are a significant majority of the population in general.

  18. T, a bit late but you get it. Gillespie is just feeding scraps to the dogs.

  19. the stimulus is bullshit and shouldn’t be happening

    This is the meat of the matter. Compared to the central fact that is the steaming pile of stimulus, the details aren’t really worth getting upset over.

  20. Yet, if I’m still capable of doing simple division properly, the stimulus bill comes out to more than $2500 a person in the entire country. So where the heck is all the rest of the money going to?

  21. OT: I don’t know to suggest stories, but did you guys see the new logo discussion at GM?

    Go down about four posts to see the story: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/

    denialist-smacker,

    Obviously, spending money would have a greater effect where there is a a greater population.

    Does the story break the counties down by population like that? Also, I would bet that Iowa gets a per capita higher share of said stimulus money because it has the first caucus.

  22. So where the heck is all the rest of the money going to?

    Deadweight loss.

    Or they just haven’t gotten around to frittering the money away yet.

  23. I can see where heavily-populated counties would get more money, but not why they would get more money per capita. Is there some sort of anti-economy of scale effect here? If that is your assertion, you’ll need to justify it a bit more.

  24. I’ll play devil’s advocate for just a moment. Aren’t the counties that voted for Obama, in general, the most heavily populated counties in the country? You spend the money where the people are, right?

    That all sounds well and good, until you get to the bit about per capita spending being double in the counties that voted for Obama.

  25. Dammit, Spartacus!

  26. T,

    I’ll take a guess and say those 872 counties are a significant majority of the population in general.

    It significantly depends on their placement in the primary system, as well who is their Senator or Rep. For example, during the 1930s far more money was spent on public works projects out West than in the South; and that was in significant part driven not by how many people lived in the West (it was fewer than in the South), but on the need to keep the West’s electoral votes in the Democratic column.

  27. It’s money to stimulate the economy. You know, that thing you market fundamentalists destroyed a few years ago through deregulation. But 10% unemployment does bother you people, does it? Just more poor people for you to hate.

  28. It’s money to stimulate the economy. You know, that thing you market fundamentalists destroyed a few years ago through deregulation. But 10% unemployment does bother you people, does it? Just more poor people for you to hate.

    This is awesome. Keep it up.

  29. The bot is really starting to creep me the fuck out…

    It’s not a bot, it’s some kid with 50 tabs open in his browser, going from thread to thread and typing something that sometimes makes sense, sometimes doesn’t. Anyway that’s how I read they do it.

  30. I’ll play devil’s advocate for just a moment. Aren’t the counties that voted for Obama, in general, the most heavily populated counties in the country? You spend the money where the people are, right?

    i guess all those population centers have the opposite of economies of scale while smaller counties have smaller buildings and smaller clown cars that consume less fuel and such.

  31. Investigators who track the stimulus are skeptical that political considerations could be at work. The imbalance is so pronounced – and the aid so far from complete – that it would be almost inconceivable for it to be the result of political tinkering, says Adam Hughes, the director of federal fiscal policy for the non-profit OMB Watch.

    It’s obviously not a plot, because the government ISN’T THAT GOOD AT PLOTTING See?

  32. Just a guess, but I suspect that overall, Obama’s counties provide more services to “stimulate” than McCain’s counties. But without any real detail and with only a small fraction given out so far, it’s too early to tell.

  33. This is…not a surprise. Most of the money will be spent in urban counties where there are more poor people, etc.

  34. “It’s not a bot, it’s some kid with 50 tabs open in his browser, going from thread to thread and typing something that sometimes makes sense, sometimes doesn’t. Anyway that’s how I read they do it.”

    Hopefully that’s it. Otherwise, I live in fear of being experimented upon by the machines, Second Renaissance style.

  35. Q*bert,

    It’s money to stimulate the economy.

    Ahh, but there is the rub; there are plenty of Nobel winning economists who would argue that it doesn’t actually do that or there is no way to tell if it does that. Counter-cyclical spending is as much faith based as it is anything, IMHO.

    You know, that thing you market fundamentalists destroyed a few years ago through deregulation.

    What deregulation? You know, I hear this claim made a lot, but I always wonder what the specifics are behind it.

  36. SMACK!

    Yes, per capita spending is higher in concentrated populations, why is this?

    Well, when you spend money on public works you tend to put it where people will actually use it. I’m not going to build stuff in bible-toting, gun-quoting bumblefuck in the interest of “fairness” because it won’t help anyone. The comparison is dirty and biased when you look only at counties. Show it to me at the state level and I’m sure it’s not as bad.

    I’d offer and example that shows what morons you are but my left thumb is firmly inserted in a warm dark place and I don’t want to remove it.

  37. It’s money to stimulate the economy. You know, that thing you market fundamentalists destroyed a few years ago through deregulation.

    That one just never gets old.

  38. I would note that reward your allies and those you are courting and reward less or punish those who voted against you (or who you have in your pocket) is pretty much standard operating procedure for Presidents going back probably to Washington.

  39. I’m shocked. Shocked! to hear that there is such a thing as political cronyism. Where were you people when Newt Gingrich made his state the number one welfare state in America? No where, that’s where.

  40. denialist-smacker,

    Well, when you spend money on public works you tend to put it where people will actually use it.

    Not really. Indeed, that is one of the main problems with government spending; it is not driven by economic considerations or even something like overall utility, it is driven by political considerations, which tend to reward, small, concentrated interests at the expense of the overall population (since the cost to the latter is generally small there is less will to fight it).

    Yes, per capita spending is higher in concentrated populations, why is this?

    Are the the counties which are favored are on average the most populous counties?

  41. Under Bush the short sale uptick rule was “de-regulated.” Of course, the “Mark to market” rule was “regulated.” Each played a role in the economic turmoil. Interestingly, the Obama administration has yet to overturn either rule, so I guess they agree with what the Bushies did.

  42. anti-economy of scale effect here?

    ummm…yeah if you want to think if it that way. But you really are deluded if you think the spending was in any way influenced by the presidential election. I think you think that I think you think great things of the thinking done in the country.

  43. Seward, the counties that voted for Obama are on average the most populous counties.

  44. Where were you people when Newt Gingrich made his state the number one welfare state in America?

    Middle school, dude.

  45. i guess all those population centers have the opposite of economies of scale

    That’s diseconomies of scale, and it sure looks like we’ve hit that point for many governmental agencies.

  46. Click on the link and you will find out that the reason the more urban Obama supporting areas get a disproportionate share of the stimilus funding is… (letting the suspense build)… government formulas that pre-date Obama taking office. Apparently, those areas have always received a disproportionate per capita share of infrastructure funding. Now, feel free to go ahead and rant about how that is wrong and unfair. But know the silly corruption stuff is pure unfounded paranoid speculation.

  47. “Just because you’re paranoid….”

    Well, you know…

  48. Spoonman,

    Seward, the counties that voted for Obama are on average the most populous counties.

    Ok, so say that is so, that still means that populous counties that voted for McCain are getting less per capita, correct? And of course less populous counties that voted for Obama were getting favored over those counties of similar size that voted for McCain.

    creech,

    Well, the myth that short sales are bad goes back to people screeching about them in the 1930s. Anyway, short selling was re-regulated in 2005 in an effort to end naked short selling (the first time the issue of short selling had been addressed since 1938 in fact).

  49. Does this take into account the fact that all the states that turned down stimulus money are states that voted for McCain and probably lacking in many Obama voting counties?

  50. It looks like this is something in the way stimulus money generally favors urban areas. From the article:

    The imbalance didn’t start with the stimulus. From 2005 through 2007, the counties that later voted for Obama collected about 50% more government aid than those that supported McCain, according to spending reports from the U.S. Census Bureau.

  51. Does this take into account the fact that all the states that turned down stimulus money are states that voted for McCain and probably lacking in many Obama voting counties?

    Not necessarily. Texas went for McCain 56/44, but the four most populous counties (Harris, Bexar, Tarrant, Travis) all went for Obama.

  52. To the victor go the spoils. Long live the Spoils System!

  53. Mo,

    Thanks, that is some useful background.

  54. The imbalance didn’t start with the stimulus. From 2005 through 2007, the counties that later voted for Obama collected about 50% more government aid than those that supported McCain, according to spending reports from the U.S. Census Bureau.

    My problem isn’t so much that the developed, urban areas get so much of the money. My problem is that the biggest reason why the undeveloped areas stay undeveloped is because the federal government owns so much of the land and won’t allow any development to take place there, especially out west.

    There’s no good reason why the feds should own all of that land out there, and I believe it’s just another way they try to keep as many people dependent on government as possible.

  55. From 2005 through 2007, the counties that later voted for Obama collected about 50% more government aid than those that supported McCain, according to spending reports from the U.S. Census Bureau.

    So, the Obama stimulus is going to Obama counties at a 2:1 ratio, where previously government aid went to those counties at a 1.5:1 ratio.

    Nope, nothing to see here.

  56. Nope, nothing to see here.

    you’re goddamned right there’s nothing to see here. now be a good peon and get me a sammich. THIS TIME, NO MAGGOTS!

  57. T,

    But the notable states that turned down stimulus money were Alaska (60-38), South Carolina (54-45), Mississippi (56-43), Idaho (61-36) and Louisiana (59-40). I’m sure the urban population centers (notably New Orleans) went for Obama, but they would still have significant numbers of McCain counties that could bring down the average. Not enough to account for the 2-1 discrepancies, for sure, but as the article noted, some of this is due to existing infrastructure formulas.

    My problem isn’t so much that the developed, urban areas get so much of the money. My problem is that the biggest reason why the undeveloped areas stay undeveloped is because the federal government owns so much of the land and won’t allow any development to take place there, especially out west.

    That’s only true in the west. I’m guessing, east of the Rockies, most of that land owned by the government is in the form of military bases. Also notice that California in #7 for % of federally owned land and is quite developed. Most of the land that is undeveloped is undeveloped because it’s either farmland or it sucks so much that people don’t want to live there. The Nevada desert isn’t sparsely populated because of the feds, it’s sparsely populated because it sucks to live in the middle of a desert.

  58. Mo,

    What I find bizarre about government spending is often disproportionately large that spending is for rural states; that’s especially true for road funding. It ends up screwing urban and suburban dwellers somewhat.

  59. Mo,

    I’d guess that most of the land east of the Rockies is actually in the form of national parks, monuments, etc., like Acadia and Smoky Mountain.

  60. Mo,

    And yeah, and you can only make so much of the Western deserts into race tracks. 🙂

  61. Mo, that’s not a per capita figure, at least not as you stated it.

    I guess I’m actually going to have to go and RTFA now.

    anti-economy of scale effect here?

    ummm…yeah if you want to think if it that way.

    As I said the first time, some justification for this assertion is needed.

  62. So, the Obama stimulus is going to Obama counties at a 2:1 ratio, where previously government aid went to those counties at a 1.5:1 ratio.

    Nope, nothing to see here.

    Would such numbers illicit this degree of denial from liberals if they were the basis of a disparate impact suit?

  63. Would such numbers illicit this degree of denial

    Ah, phooey. Still got that arrest for mistaking an undercover cop for a prostitute last night on my mind.

  64. Spartacus: Didn’t I see you at the Inauguration parade, whispering “Sic transit gloria mundi.” into the new Emperor’s ear?

  65. I think there’s definitely something to the argument that more spending is going to go to large urban centers, which coincidentally support Obama, and that such a discrepancy will show up even when viewed per capita. Take Chicago, for example. Many of the rich, white Republican suburbanites living in DuPage County actually work in Chicago. Federal spending generally goes to businesses and infrastructure, not people’s homes, right? So it makes sense that more spending would be in the big cities.

    That being said, it’s still not dispositive. If USA Today had any brains, it would have found populations of similar populations/concentrations that supported Obama and McCain and compared THOSE per capita. It’s not that statistics is that hard; people are just lazy…

  66. not to rain on a perfectly good conspiracy theory or anything, but there may be a pretty non-political explanation for the same data.

    here’s a map showing ’08 presidential support by county:
    http://z.about.com/d/uspolitics/1/0/G/N/countymap_redblue_2008.png

    here’s a map showing ’08 population density according to the census bureau:
    http://blogs.healthfoundation.org/HealthLandscape/images//US%20Census%20Co%20Pop%20Est%202008.gif

    even without doing exhaustive quantitative analysis, it’s pretty easy to see matching trend lines. this in turn would suggest that there’s a higher per-capita spending in the more densely populated regions of the country, which makes logical sense as well.

  67. I will say this. I wish this story was done by the WSJ or the NYT instead of America’s high school newspaper. It would probably be more informative and better done. God damn, I hate USA Today.

  68. I’m sure it’s just an innocent coincidence.

  69. Most of the land that is undeveloped is undeveloped because it’s either farmland or it sucks so much that people don’t want to live there. The Nevada desert isn’t sparsely populated because of the feds, it’s sparsely populated because it sucks to live in the middle of a desert.

    I still have my same question: if it’s true that nobody wants to live in these places, then what does the federal government need to own and control the land for?

  70. That’s what I keep telling those conspiracy mongering yahoos every time they bring it up. It is just a coincidence.

  71. then what does the federal government need to own and control the land for?

    Area 51.

  72. Once a deadbeat county, always a deadbeat county.

  73. I still have my same question: if it’s true that nobody wants to live in these places, then what does the federal government need to own and control the land for?

    If no one wants it, who is going to buy it from them?

  74. there’s a higher per-capita spending in the more densely populated regions of the country, which makes logical sense as well.

    Why? I can see higher total spending, but why would higher per capita spending be cause by population density?

    I can think of reasons why it should be lower, not higher, because of population density. For example, I thought density was supposed to be more efficient in terms of, wait for it, the infrastructure that the stimulus was supposed to go for. Have we already forgotten all the joe harangues about how urban living is less resource-intensive?

  75. Stupid HTML.

    Why? I can see higher total spending, but why would higher per capita spending be cause by population density?

    I can think of reasons why it should be lower, not higher, because of population density. For example, I thought density was supposed to be more efficient in terms of, wait for it, the infrastructure that the stimulus was supposed to go for. Have we already forgotten all the joe harangues about how urban living is less resource-intensive?

  76. Mike M.,

    In the early 1980s the federal government did try to sell a lot of that land in the West to those who actually use the resource (e.g., ranchers, etc.), and they mostly balked.

  77. Not only has the money been directed to the people who supported Obama in the first place, but it is incorrectly believed to work. This article does a terrific job explaining why it the government spending is not the answer.

    http://www.thefreemanonline.org/featured/what-is-seen-and-what-is-unseen-government-job-creation/

  78. RC,

    One possibility is that there is more federal infrastructure, per capita, in densely populated areas than there are in less densely populated areas. There are tons of interstates in and around major cities, while rural areas are mostly served by state and county roads.

  79. it’s ok becuz the previous president did it … hope and change!!!!!!

  80. Especially ironic, given that Red States are generally (despite all the “don’t tread on me” and “sagebush rebel” rhetoric) the biggest welfare queens out there: military bases, subsidized extractive industries, etc., and a much higher share of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and working poor.

  81. Why is this so difficult?

    The “porkulus” bill was written by a majority Dem Congress. They steered lots of dollars to their own districts.

  82. Kevin Carson-

    Especially ironic, given that Red States are generally (despite all the “don’t tread on me” and “sagebush rebel” rhetoric) the biggest welfare queens out there: military bases, subsidized extractive industries, etc., and a much higher share of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and working poor.

    Of course, both the working poor and out-of-wedlock mothers overwhelmingly vote for Democrats- they’re simply outnumbered in the “Red States”

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