Another Reason to Dislike the Stimulus Plan, As If You Needed It
When you send politicians blank checks of money that they are just supposed to spend for the sake of spending it, you inevitably bring out one of the least attractive parts of democracy — legislators fighting to ensure that their constituents get theirs, too!
Today’s Kansas City Star details how Kansas City officials are angry that St. Louis got a lot of pork — aka, stimulus money — and Kansas City received none. This is a perfect real-world example of what public choice economists have long discussed: the logrolling and vote-swapping in a legislature divided by districts leads to ever-increasing spending, as every (or almost every) legislator tries to make certain that their constituents get as large a share of the pie as possible. When the pie gets divided up, if not everyone is satisfied, you just make a bigger pie. Now, Missouri has rules such as the balanced budget amendment and the Hancock amendment that make doing this less common than an assembly such as the U.S. Congress, but it is still unseemly.
This post should be taken simply as a comment on how our democracy works: good, bad, and ugly. It is not a criticism of Kansas City legislators, who are just being open about their displeasure with how the stimulus spending worked out. If it were the other way around, I am quite certain that St. Louis officials would be saying the same thing.