**Update 9/6: Here are a couple charts as visual aids. Approach them cautiously if you’re prone to vertigo.**

Over the weekend at CEPR blog, Dean Baker addresses the question, “Are the American people better off than they were four years ago?”

The reason we know that the questioners are incompetent reporters is that this is a pointless question. Suppose your house is on fire and the firefighters race to the scene. They set up their hoses and start spraying water on the blaze as quickly as possible. After the fire is put out, the courageous news reporter on the scene asks the chief firefighter, “is the house in better shape than when you got here?”

A serious reporter asks the fire chief if he had brought a large enough crew, if they had enough hoses, if the water pressure was sufficient. That might require some minimal knowledge of how to put out fires.

Similarly, serious reporters would ask whether the stimulus was large enough, was it well-designed, and were there other measures that could have been taken like promoting shorter workweeks, as Germany has done. That would of course require some knowledge of economics, but it sure makes more sense than asking if a house is better off after it was nearly burnt to the ground.

Read the rest of this entry

[Updates 8/2: Handy ARRA map w/links to state summaries and Illinois’ ARRA site.]

We love Good Jobs First because it’s taught us about development subsidies and TIF. This week, GJF released a report rating the quality of each state’s disclosure of its use of funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The Good Jobs First study examines the quality and quantity of disclosure by official state websites on the many ways ARRA funding is flowing through state governments to communities, organizations and individuals. Looking at both spending programs and individual projects, it evaluates the general ARRA websites that all states have created as well as their website reporting specifically on ARRA highway projects. Based on ten different criteria, each state (and the District of Columbia) is graded twice on a scale of 0 to 100.

Six states score 50 or better for their main ARRA site: Maryland (80), Colorado (68), Washington (63), West Virginia (60), New York (53) and Pennsylvania (50). Thirteen states score 50 or better for their highway reporting, led by Maryland (75), Washington (73), Colorado (65) and Nebraska (60). The average score for the ARRA websites is 28, and for highway reporting 38.

Where do you suppose Illinois ranked? Read the rest of this entry