Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Accountability Farce

I just drew some logical connections about what the fallout is going to be when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act doesn't work and it turns out the money was spent wastefully... And it's not good.

Here's the problem.

The Federal government is leaving up to the states and local governments how most of the money is to be spent.

The claim is that there will be transparency into how the money is spent. Which is good.

The claim is also that this transparency will lead to accountability.

But here's why it won't. Those to whom the state and local governments are accountable to will not have a problem with it (speaking marjority-wise).

What everyone will be upset about is the wastefulness "of those other guys". The recipients of largesse at the local level will be happy about it. Those in NYC will be flabbergasted at the waste in LA - but their own? Probably not so much.

In fact, that's what I believe too many people have come to think of their local representatives as - their lobbyists to the Federal government to make sure they get "their share" of any spending (or more than their share if they can get it). Those are the representatives that get re-elected.

Congress will of course gasp at what happened, just like any other time they abrogate their responsibilities and rush into something. Voting that Bush could invade Iraq and then he does it? *Gasp* Who could have guessed that? Voting that Treasury Secretary could spend TARP how he sees fit, and then he does just that? *Gasp* Who could have known?

Throwing money at state and local governments, more than they know what to do with? *Gasp* And they spend it wastefully? Well, who could have seen that coming?

So here's the way it seems destined to me to shake out:

* Congress ends up shocked (shocked we say!) at what the states have done (but they, Congress, are not to blame of course)

* Citizens will be shocked at what *other* places have done, but the local spending won't be seen as very wasteful.

Not to mention (ok, actually I'm mentioning it) we'll be further in debt, have weakened the dollar, and added high inflation to the recipe of high unemployment and low (or negative) growth.

What then? A *bigger* "stimulus" I suppose?


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