Editorializing On The Failed Stimulus

The Detroit News editorializes on the failure of the “stimulus bill” to create jobs and on the credibility gap created by the phony recovery.gov website reports on jobs “created or saved.”  The box to the right of the editorial shows the fake Michigan congressional districts which supposedly saw the creation of jobs as a result of stimulus spending.

I think it is pretty telling when one of the leading newspapers in one of the states that has been most hard-hit by the economic downturn concedes that the “stimulus bill” has been  poorly conceived failure. It is hard to argue with the logic of the editorial:  that the stimulus spending should have been specifically and exclusively used on meaningful public works projects, where the jobs that were created could be counted with more assurance and the result would be something of use to the surrounding community, like a rebuilt bridge or road (except in the case of the John Murtha airport, which no one really uses).  Instead, the stimulus money was frittered away on the pet projects of our congressional representatives and used to give raises to those already employed, the books have been cooked on the jobs “created or saved,” and we will be paying off the increased debt as a result of that spending for decades.

Other Than That, The Numbers Are Completely Accurate

The ongoing series of news articles exposing the phony claims about jobs “created or saved” continues.  The latest salvo is from ABC News, which determined that the government website that reports on jobs “created or saved” includes claims that jobs were created in congressional districts that don’t even exist.  What’s interesting about the story is not the existence of phony claims — those have been found in a number of recent stories, as I have noted in prior posts, see here and here — but rather that the government spokesperson quoted in the story blithely admits that the website just reprinted whatever was claimed in the reports it received.  Because “human beings make mistakes,” he says, it should come as no surprise that the numbers reported on the website are inaccurate.  Nevertheless, even Congressmen who supported the stimulus bill are complaining about the egregious misstatements on the recovery.gov website.

One of the things that President Obama promised to bring to our government was transparency.  What good is transparency, however, if the federal government is reporting fake numbers as if they are authoritative?  Why can’t federal employees take the time to “fact-check” the claims they have received before giving them a stamp of legitimacy by publishing them on a governmental website?  We deserve better than this.

Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus

Recently the federal ‘government issued the first “report card” on jobs creation by the $787 billion stimulus package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in February. The data that was released is limited to contracts, and more comprehensive information that includes grants and loans is supposed to be released at the end of this month. Other facets of the stimulus package include “safety net” spending, tax cuts, and fiscal aid to the states.

What does the data on federal contracts that was provided indicate? According to the Recovery.gov website, 30,383 jobs were “saved or created” by the federal contract actions that have been reported to date. I am pleased to report that, in Ohio, according to the government website, 699.08 jobs have been saved or created. I’m not sure what the fractional numbers indicate, other than that partial jobs — presumably ones in which the stimulus money has produced an increase in hours, or perhaps represents a portion of the work being performed — are being counted somehow. One possible explanation may be found elsewhere on the website, where it reports that, as of October 10, 112,219 stimulus-related reports had been filed with Federalreport.gov. It is a fair guess that at least some of the jobs that are reported as having been created or saved, in whole or in part, are either governmental or private sector jobs related to completing the government paperwork and forms related to receiving contract awards and stimulus payments.

I’m sure that the 699.08 people in Ohio whose jobs have been created or saved in whole or in part by the federal contracts are happy to have those jobs and partial jobs, but I still can’t escape the conclusion that the stimulus package has not delivered much bang for the buck. Indeed, the Recovery.gov website indicates that most of the contract stimulus spending has not even occurred yet. A pie chart in the middle of the home page indicates that, of the more than 5,000 contracts being addressed, less than 20 percent have been completed, and much more than half are less than 50 percent completed or have not even begun. Such statistics just indicate that the stimulus package really failed of its essential purpose, no matter what spin the politicos try to put on it. The stated purpose of the stimulus package was to provide an immediate infusion of cash and jobs to try to moderate the recession. We are now eight months after the enactment of the package, and a significant portion of the purportedly stimulative spending has not even occurred yet.

The Latin heading for this post, by the way, refers to “laboring mightily and delivering a ridiculous mouse.”