The odds are pretty obvious and challenging, if you think about it: Government at all levels employs millions of people; many of them have access to information the public does not; many of them make decisions that affect their own compensation and that of their peers; and (at least for now) their continued wealth and opportunity depends on getting people to allow government to take their money away.
Since the years of Obama stimulus spending — let’s say Rhode Island’s fiscal years 2009 through 2011 — I’ve been convinced that the administration’s goal was to ensure that government agencies were insulated from the recession. (Another goal was to launder money to left-wing activists, but that’s not my subject with this post.) As time moves along and data becomes more available, it’ll just take some work to trace the dollars.
But it is a lot of work. The general public, occupied during working hours in their own private-sector occupations, can’t hope to keep up. This fund blends into that fund from the other source through technical accounting categories, with repositories here and there that must remain shielded from public view for privacy or other reasons. The opportunity to mislead is structural.
In a small way, though, I think I’ve got a handle on how the Tiverton School Department transformed temporary stimulus money into a permanent increase in local funding and have written about it on Tiverton Fact Check:
In summary, when the state money shifted from regular aid to “restricted,” the school department built the excess into its budget. But when the funds shifted back, the increase was buried in this “restatement,” so local taxpayers would remain forever responsible for the supposedly temporary increase. As a matter of fact, the “restricted” aid didn’t actually decrease much; the accounts just changed.
Thus, the Tiverton schools maintained healthy budget growth even as the Great Recession wore on and housing values plummeted.
I’d be surprised if something similar wasn’t accomplished by school districts throughout Rhode Island and across the United States. Actual stimulus would have been a government reduction in taxes, but that wasn’t Obama’s goal.