Partisanship and Policy Priorities in the Distribution of Economic Stimulus Funds
20 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2010
Date Written: September 1, 2010
Money from the recent economic stimulus package is disproportionately going to Democratic House districts, leading to a debate over the cause of this trend. Stimulus critics contend that President Obama and majority Democrats are maneuvering, post-passage, to steer stimulus funds to Democratic House districts; defenders claim that the money is being distributed fairly, according to the substantive criteria of the stimulus package. We contend that both sides of the debate miss an important component of the distribution of federal funds: congressional majority parties routinely shape legislation to distribute federal funds according to their own policy priorities, and to politically benefit their own members. The Democrats of the 111th Congress are no different. Thus while partisanship is influencing the distribution of stimulus funds, the key locus of this partisanship was in the writing of a bill which advances Democratic policy goals such as clean energy, health care, education, and research, not in any post-passage activity. We examine the amount of stimulus funding going to each district. Controlling for districts’ substantive claims to stimulus funds according to the criteria identified by President Obama and in the bill, party is no longer a significant predictor of a district’s level of funding.
Keywords: Congress, President, distributive spending, pork, Obama, stimulus
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