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Updated Dec 14, 2009

 As one of my former editors was fond of saying, “The stuck pig squeals the loudest.”

You can hear a little squealing from the headquarters of pork consumption, Washington, D.C., in this blog entry from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. He tries to discredit a recent Associated Press report saying that federal stimulus spending on transportation-related projects appears headed for counties of low unemployment, not high.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” says LaHood of the project lists AP studied. His rationale: “Until the states make a request and the experts at the Department of Transportation certify that a project meets the criteria for Recovery dollars, those lists are not the final word.”

Judge for yourself how far from the truth this is by reading the report. AP acknowledges right off that it was reviewing “planned transportation projects,” not final contracts. Perhaps the DOT “experts,” in their infinite wisdom, will make everything come out fair in the end, but I doubt it. Perhaps that’s why the blog didn’t bother to link to the analysis it so eagerly criticized. Here’s an excerpt:

“Altogether, the government is set to spend 50 percent more per person in areas with the lowest unemployment than it will in communities with the highest.

“The AP reviewed $18.9 billion in projects, the most complete picture available of where states plan to spend the first wave of highway money. The projects account for about half of the $38 billion set aside for states and local governments to spend on roads, bridges and infrastructure in the stimulus plan.

“The very promise that Obama made, to spend money quickly and create jobs, is locking out many struggling communities needing those jobs.

“The money goes to projects ready to start. But many struggling communities don’t have projects waiting on a shelf. They couldn’t afford the millions of dollars for preparation and plans that often is required.”

— Max Heine

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