benefits vs. costs of govt activism (revisited)
Another unsatisfying effort from the C-J this morning (the link goes to a related article; I can't find today's update on their website) on the costs and benefits of government activism...
Let's look at the numbers presented in the article-- sadly, just the benefits-- and then try to match it to the relevant costs.
Congress completed work yesterday on a $555 billion federal spending package that includes hundreds of millions of dollars for projects in Kentucky and Indiana...
Louisville will receive more than $50 million for special projects requested by Rep. John Yarmuth, D-3rd District, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Today's article also mentions more than $10 billion in earmarks.
Local projects include $44.28 million for construction on McAlpine Locks and Dam on the Ohio River; $980,000 for planning and design of the Ohio River Bridges Project linking Indiana and Louisville; $1.25 million for runway work, lighting and signs at Louisville International Airport; $492,000 for mobile data computers for Louisville Metro Police; $500,000 for new sewers in Shively; and $150,000 for programs at the Louisville Science Center.
OK, now to the unanswered and unquestioned costs of this government spending-- and its impact on Louisville and Kentucky.
-$555 billion in spending (in this bill alone) works out to $1,850 per person in the U.S-- an average of $7,400 from a family of four.
-$10 billion in earmarks works out to $33 per person in the U.S.
-Jefferson County/Louisville has about 700K people; Kentucky has about 4.2M people.
-Louisville received about $50 million in "special projects" (earmarks?)-- about $71 per person. Most of that was for the McAlpine Locks and Dam-- what would seem to be standard infrastructure, not an earmark. (If we eliminate McAlpine from the calculation, Louisville received $9 per person.)
-Kentucky apparently received about $457 million in "area projects" (again, earmarks?)-- about $109 per person.
From the details presented, it's difficult to tell whether (or how) Louisville and Kentucky got a good return on their "investment". At the least, it should be explained how $1,850 in costs per person is beneficial to Louisvillians when they only receive $71 in benefits per person.
And of course, all of this misses the crucial constitutional, philosophical and practical issues of "federalism"-- why is the federal government involved in financing "economic development projects across Kentucky" or "new sewers in Shively"?
In any case, as I wrote yesterday, one would hope that the media would do a better job in objectively and comprehensively covering the costs and benefits of government. Although it's difficult to answer such a question, it's at least interesting to consider when such failures are a function of ignorance, laziness, or a statist bias that prefers not to talk about the costs of government.