Grants, Earmarks, and the Stimulus

Yesterday President Obama unveiled more details about the stimulus.

It’s certainly big: 3,000 miles of electric transmission lines, 380 drinking water projects, 1,000 rural water and sewer system projects. A new website, recovery.gov, will enable people and experts to make sure money is spent where it is intended.

But accountability after money is committed does not stop a poor allocation of resources. The question isn’t, “Did the money hit the federal target?” It’s, “How does government choose the target?” I think this bill is going to set off a very large and much debate as we watch the money weaving its way through our states and communities: is there really much difference between an earmark, and a vetted, approved, and monitored government grant?