One of the things the defunct Community Services Administration used to produce was a set of reports showing, program by program and state by state, how much of the federal government's cash flowed to counties and cities. Everything you wanted to know about whether the Sun Belt was gaining on the Frost Belt was right there, in one place. But it cost about $300,000 just to assemble the reports after data were generated by federal departments and agencies and the data were less than accurate, "especially at the substate level," according to the Office of Management and Budget.

OMB scrubbed the report along with the CSA and, at the same time, started developing new systems to produce the same information but eliminate the inaccuracies. That will take a few years during which, there is some concern, the Sun Belt will have posted inequitable gains and some Frost Belt cities will have suffered inequitable losses and no one will be able to prove it. So there is an effort in Congress to require that the reports be compiled while OMB works the bugs out of its systems. Sen. Donald W. Riegle (D-Mich.) asked the General Accounting Office to snoop around the issue and it determined that "maintaining this system would insure the ability of the Congress, as well as others, to assess the economic effect of federal budget decisions at the local level." GAO also thought it would be swell if it developed data collection standards and monitored adherence to same while the executive branch departments and agencies did the hard work. Life goes on.