Today's Whimperer carried a chart of figures, taken from www.recovery.gov (the federal government's website that tracks where the federal economic stimulus money is going), showing where the economic stimulus dollars have gone so far. About 1.13% of the money dispensed so far has gone to Oregon. This is $1.8 billion, of which $1.7 billion was grants, $122 million was contracts, and $27 million was loans. The table also showed how many jobs were created by the money in each category. In Oregon, each job created by grants cost $187,000; each job created by contracts cost $224,000; each job created by loans cost $3.8 million. It's reasonable enough that contracting jobs cost more, because contracts typically involve purchasing materials as well as labor. It's reasonable also that the loan jobs cost much more, because the borrower is supposed to pay the money back with interest.
I noted two oddities: as I said, Oregon jobs created by grants cost $187,000 per job; the national average was $230,000 per job, or about 20% more than Oregon's average. We may have lower labor costs than the average grant recipient (California, a high-cost state, got more than its proportionate share of the loot). Oddly, the national average for contract jobs is $582,000, more than 2-1/2 times the cost of Oregon's contract jobs.
How can this be?
I think I have the answer, which I gleaned from digging around the government's website. It lists the top ten contracts, the top ten grants, and the top ten loans. The largest contract to date -- $1.4 billion -- went to a coompany that's decommissioning two federally-owned nuclear reactors and cleaning up the contamination at the Savannah River nuclear facility, owned by the Department of Energy. The second-, third-, sixth-, and ninth-largest contracts, totaling $2.35 billion, are also to clean up the government's radioactive messes. (Nos. 2, 6, and 9 are for Hanford.) That's $3.75 billion out of the $18 billion contracted so far, or more than a fifth of the contract dollars. The labor for these dangerous projects is likely high-cost.
I'm delighted to see the government pick up after itself; however, I can't help thinking that a significant chunk of the funds being classified as stimulus funds are for projects such as these that the federal government would be doing anyway.