Stimulus Bungle

Government as a real-world institution makes very poor decisions overall. Many people buy into the myth that individuals in government who are driven by a greed for power make better decisions than do people outside of government who act from other motives. A Fox News analysis [h/t Instapundit] provides profound evidence this is not the case.

Comparisons between foundering California and prospering Texas are all the rage now because the differences are quite stark. Now matter what area you examine, California is hurting badly. The state was Ground Zero for the housing bust. Unemployment is exploding and people are leaving the state in droves. Texas, by contrast, escaped the housing bust, has a balanced budget, a growing manufacturing sector and low unemployment compared to most places.

Clearly, California needs more help than Texas. (What form that help should take is another discussion.)

Look at this Wall Street Journal table (scroll down) that breaks down the per capita stimulus spending for each state. Compare California and Texas. Texas get more money per capita from the stimulus in virtually every single category, sometimes by quite a lot. When California does get more per capita it’s not by much. When you factor in Texas’s significantly lower cost of living, the comparison looks even worse.

How did the political system crank out such a perverse result? It can’t be political pull. The Texas federal delegation is overwhelmingly Republican and therefore locked out of the stimulus distribution. Texas has even less pull with the Obama White House. As previously noted, Obama routed money preferentially to areas that supported him, which in the main Texas did not.

In a time of perceived national emergency and one-party rule, fans of government decisionmaking would predict that government would make even better decisions than usual, but, unsurprisingly to the rest of us, in the bizarre sausage-making nightmare of the federal political system, Texas came out with more money per capita than California. If the political system worked as well as it does in the fantasies of leftists, all of the money that went to Texas would have gone to California instead. Even those of us who believe the stimulus foolish nevertheless believe that we should at least spend the money on the people hurting.

The guy with the surfboard needs the help not the guy with the Waverider. Why couldn’t the real-world federal political process figure that out?


9 thoughts on “Stimulus Bungle”

  1. Deep in the bowels of the Federal government are the nameless workers. Sometimes also heartless workers. Sometimes those workers make mistakes…but sometimes they do things on purpose.

    But since no one ever ventures down into the pits, we will never know what exactly happened.

    Even if we did, we most likely wouldn’t understand.

    Papa Ray
    West Texas

  2. Not exactly, Shannon. You spend the money where it will do the most good, true, but California as it is set up now is a losing bet. With enough pain, California will get with the program. However, their jobs won’t come back. Capital flight and all that. At some point, Jobs and Capital find a new home, i.e. Texas, and so we prosper, while California sinks under welfare entitlements.

  3. As a homeschooling parent, my philosophy toward the government has always been: keep your money, just leave me alone. In my experience, government money always comes with tentacles attached. If the goal of the program is to send runners into new territory, Texas makes sense. California is already conquered.

  4. Plumpplumber(Balding),

    You spend the money where it will do the most good…

    That’s the way private actors spend money and give charity. The government has different incentives. Besides I have a hard time believing that the Democrats, who love the welfare state, view California’s predicament through the same lens as us out in the real world do.

  5. If California got more money, it would just pour it down the rat-hole of raising teachers’ and other government employees’ salaries, adding to the socialism and mediocrity.

  6. “Well, duh. It’s the untamed horse that gets all the attention.”–Robert Mitchell Jr. (#1)

    Exactamente. No amount of Porkulus spending sent to California will flip it to pink because it is already firmly in the Democrat column.

    Texas, on the other hand… well, watch out Lone Star State because Obama wants to buy you all a red star to sew onto your flag.

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