Self-Interest Economics

Ariel Hart has a nice cover story in this morning’s AJC about the different metrics being used by political talkers to demonstrate how Atlanta is either getting fat or screwed in the distribution of Federal Stimulus funding.

As Hart points out, those in Atlanta  – who want more money – use the “For every thousand dollars metro Atlanta contributes to the economy, so far it’s getting back $1.37 from the stimulus road fund. The rest of the state is getting $2.02.” argument.

“How outrageous!!” cry the cultured urbanites.

The smaller cities and rural areas – who also want more money – roll their collective eyes and counter with this argument – summarized by Hart – “metro Atlanta is getting $66.81 per person in the area, while the rest of the state is getting $56.06.”

Not knowing which money-grubbers to trust, Hart turns to the economists, which surprisingly, are also of two minds.

So with few options remaining, the tired and intrepid reporter turns to the great-decider himself, Sonny Perdue, who’s spokesman rolls his eyes in his excellency’s absence and utters “If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that you can find an economist to say anything,”

And like a Turgenev short story, Hart’s article concludes without the closure we all seek.  We don’t discover who the real purveyor of truth is, or what it is about economists that makes them “say anything.”  It just is.

7 thoughts on “Self-Interest Economics”

  1. I’m having trouble with the math…the entire spendulus package is $787 billion, right? And Georgia is getting $1 billion. So if we extend that to the other 49 states and assume, on average, they each get $1 billion, that makes $50 billion that is being doled out to the states.

    So where is the other $737 billion dollars going?

  2. i’m curious to know how ariel hart defines “metro atlanta” in the story. knowing that would help us gauge how much of the transit $$$ is going to urban projects and how much is going to suburban projects. widening a road in canton that leads to a new subdivision is very different than fixing the rotten mitchell street bridge in downtown atlanta — yet both might be tallied as “metro atlanta” projects in the story.

    1. Good point, Andisheh. If stimulus dollar distribution is calculated using the standards of the OMB (Office of Management and Budget – Federal statistical agency that collects, tabulates, and publishes Federal budget statistics) or the Census definition of the Atlanta MSA, what is “Atlanta” and what is “the rest of the state” seems pretty meaningless (e.g. the MSA borders Alabama – phu-leez).

      The MSA map can be found at many places including:

  3. Take you pick for the “Atlanta” definition to support what ever agenda it best fits. Some of the myriad choices include:

    28-county MSA (defined by the Feds)
    20-county MSA (defined by the Feds)
    XX-county MSA (defined by the Feds on XX – seems to change every couple years)
    10-county area (defined by the ARC)
    Atlanta City Limits (probably defined by General Sherman)
    I.T.P (defined by city snobs)
    North of I-20 and ITP (defined by people with money and/or political office)
    “The ATL” (defined by Jermain Dupri)
    “Not Decatur” (defined by people who live in Decatur)
    Buckhead/Lenox (defined by people driving from afar to Xmas shop)
    I-75/85 (defined by non-residents stopped in traffic)
    Hartsfield-Jackson (defined by people forced to make a connecting flight)
    any others?

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