I can add one other data point to this discussion—from New Orleans. The Katrina recovery funds, like the stimulus, were remarkably free of graft and waste. And that was because government authorities doled out the money carefully. But the distribution was necessarily slow and that had a devastating effect on the poorer neighborhoods, where residents couldn’t afford to wait a year or two to get their rebuilding money.

In the end, the Katrina rebuilding effort worked out a lot like the Recovery Act did: It minimized wasteful spending, to a remarkable degree. But, partly as a result, the spending’s impact was smaller than it might have been if the money had flowed more quickly and more freely.