Land and Money
Last month, Marc noted that the Providence Journal editors’ article pointing out that some relatively conservative states lead the nation in per-capita stimulus funding conveniently sliced the data. As Marc showed, the top 10 states by dollar amount were not all that surprising. As he also showed, funding per square mile shifted the list to mainly blue (and small) states.
A recent letter to the editor by Ernie Rabideau, of Bristol, makes the same point from another direction:
Note that five of the top seven by low population match five of the top seven by stimulus funding per capita, including all of the top four. If you further consider states with the lowest population densities, six of the top seven are matches with the top funding recipients per capita. This is because an equivalent bridge, road or utility system in Alaska or Montana costs more per capita than one in say, California, because of its cost being divided by a much lower number of people.
As an extreme example, a construction expenditure in Wyoming actually costs over 68 times more per capita than the same one in California. Sure, fewer people may need fewer roads and bridges, but roads in big sparsely populated states must be longer to connect population centers, and basic construction costs in cold and/or mountainous locations are generally higher than in warm flat ones. I suppose if we want to balance per- capita spending by state, we don’t have to connect the cities and towns in the rural west, or Vermont, with safe roads and bridges; but there are many benefits to our entire country when we do.