In different states, over the past year, I’ve seen the same roadside sign on many highways touting to motorists that government stimulus funds were at work right there in the present construction or improvement project. But I never saw anyone present there at work on anything. And I wondered how much money that sign cost just to brag about government programs.

Finally, media noticed. This Chicago Tribune editorial focuses on Illinois. Multiply that many times over…

Republicans in Congress, notably Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois, think there are better uses of the $787 billion than tributes to politicians who have done nothing more than appropriate money furnished by their long-suffering constituents.

He estimates the cost of such signs around the country at $20 million, though the Illinois Department of Transportation says it has spent about $665,000. The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board says it has no idea what the actual cost is.

There’s accountability and transparency for you…

But uncertainty about the total expense does not make outlays that are inherently indefensible any more worthy.

The rationale behind the stimulus spending is that it will pump up the economy by putting money into paychecks, which will then be spent on other goods and services, creating more jobs. There is plenty of doubt whether the alleged effect is offset by the harm done by soaring deficits. But even if you accept the theory, this is hardly a sensible item.

That’s putting it mildly. These are road signs the government paid all that money for, to hoodwink the people.

The best use of the money is for things that would be worth doing regardless—such as repairing and upgrading roads. That way, citizens get something valuable even if the stimulating effect never shows up.

Unnecessary road signs, by contrast, have no lasting or even temporary value.

Except as evidence, seen daily by countless Americans, that our government is wasting our money.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....