Save America’s Treasures Update

Author: Katlyn Cotton
Feb 09, 2010

Yesterday I wrote about the White House announcement that the Preserve America and Save America’s Treasures programs were to be eliminated. The reason given was that: Both programs lack rigorous performance metrics and evaluation efforts so the benefits are unclear.

Benefits are unclear? If anyone had bothered to make the most basic of calculations they could not have said that with a straight face.

So today I requested from the National Park Service the data on the expenditures from Save Americas Treasures. I suppose it took me maybe two hours to do this analysis, using, by the way, the Department of Commerce’s econometric model for economic impact.

Here’s the story:

Between 1999 and 2009, the Save America’s Treasures program allocated around $220 million dollars for the restoration of nearly 900 historic structures, many of them National Historic Landmarks. This investment by the SAT program generated in excess of $330 million from other sources. This work meant 16,012 jobs (a job being one full time equivalent job for one year…the same way they are counting jobs for the Stimulus Program). The cost per job created? $13,780.

This compares with the White House announcement that the Stimulus Package is creating one job for every $248,000. Whose program is helping the economy?

I know they aren’t stupid at the White House. Are they just too damned lazy to make the most basic of analyses?

Or did they conclude that the preservation movement was just so impotent that they could kick it around with impunity?

If there was such a thing as shame left in Washington the White House should be ashamed to be throwing away a program that creates 18 times as many jobs per expenditure than does their own Stimulus Plan; ashamed to be so inattentive they the couldn’t be troubled to do a couple of hours of work before they dumped a program; but mostly ashamed of kicking around a constituency group because they were deemed to be too weak and small to defend themselves.

This isn’t the audacity of hope; this is the audacity of demagogic, self-serving, Richard Daley Chicago gutter politics.

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