A highly cited study released Thursday by the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity found no evidence that political influence played a role in the flow of stimulus dollars to congressional districts. That’s good, and a departure from what conservative commentators had set their hair on fire about.
The study, titled “The Political Economy of Discretionary Spending” looked at how the $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds were spent — and where.
The study found tremendous variation in much funding per-capita districts received from the package. Excluding state capitals (which bring in substantially higher spending), per-capita district stimulus influx ranged from $7 in Anthony Weiner’s NY district to $3,750 in Doc Hastings’ Washington district.
Brookings found that Democratic-held districts received nearly $100 more per capita than Republican ones, but that much of this could be accounted for by district demographics.
“When controlling for rates of employment and poverty the difference shrunk to a not-statistically significant $19,”writes Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post. “The authors also ran comparisons between swing and safe districts, long-serving and newer members, and members in leadership vs. non-leadership roles. In all of the above cases, there was no meaningful difference in the amount of stimulus funds disbursed.”
Across the states, the stimulus amounted to $469 per capita.
Only three Florida congressional districts brought in greater than this average: Allen Boyd, whose district included Florida’s capital and is therefore excluded from the analysis; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Miami at $1,082 per capita; and Kathy Castor in Tampa, at $643 per capita. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic chair, delivered just $54 per capita in ARRA bacon to her South Florida constituents.
Here’s a full look at Florida’s congressional district ARRA flow, from greatest to least:
While the Brookings study did not find evidence that pork was being doled out based on political boundaries… it also did not find that dollars were flowing more so to districts that needed it the most.
“Money didn’t flow to districts with high unemployment,” Ingraham commented. “The availability of “shovel-ready” projects didn’t play a significant role either.”