Our Apple-Polishing Congress And President

On Friday the Washington Post carried a good editorial about the latest “stimulus” bill to wend its way through Congress.  This one allocates $10 billion to avoid teacher layoffs.  The “stimulus” argument, of course, is that the teachers who would otherwise be laid off will now have money to spend, and their spending will stimulate the economy.  That bogus argument has already been disproved by the utter failure of the earlier, larger stimulus to deliver the job creation that was promised.  What’s more, that argument could be used to justify subsidizing every industry facing layoffs and using federal dollars to prop up every job.  Has our country’s economic policy really reached that point?

The Post clearly is correct in characterizing this latest stimulus bill as a sop to teachers unions.  The President and congressional Democrats want to leave a big polished apple on the teacher’s desk — and they hope to get campaign cash and votes in return.

The eye-popping statistic in the editorial is that, in the last school year, more than five percent of the funding for primary and secondary education jobs came from the federal government.  The threshold question that people should be asking is:  why is the federal government involved in funding local education in the first place?  Education historically has been, and should remain, a local issue decided by the voters in municipalities and states.  We should not be using federal dollars to prop up school districts that are overstaffed or underfunded due to the choices of the local voters in those districts.

No one wants to see anyone laid off, but it happens in every industry.  Education should not be immune.  Indeed, given the stories about teachers twiddling their thumbs in “rubber rooms” while drawing full paychecks, it seems likely that school districts have room to make cuts.  If school administrators have to make tough choices because that is what local voters have decided, then they should make those tough decisions — without a toadying Congress throwing money their way.

A Verdict (Of Sorts) On The “Stimulus” Bill

The National Association of Business Economics yesterday published the results of its quarterly survey of its 68 members who work in private sector firms.  The survey asked them to evaluate the impact of the $787 billion stimulus legislation passed at the beginning of last year, and 73% said employment at their companies was no higher (or, for that matter, lower) than it would have been without the stimulus legislation.  Sixty-eight people is a pretty small sample size, but the idea that 73% of any group of economists agrees on something has its own special impact.  It is probably fair to assume, too, that the NABE members who were polled work in large-type companies.  Not many Mom and Pop start-ups have economists on the payroll, and it could well be that the survey therefore cannot account for any job growth that happened at the small business level.

Still, it seems clear that the “stimulus” bill will eventually be viewed as an incredibly expensive bust.  The unemployment rate is much higher than was promised when the bill was enacted, and most of the spending under the bill seems to have been geared toward protecting government jobs, not creating or preserving jobs in the private sector.  The results of the NABE survey undoubtedly would have been different if economists employed by federal, state, and local government entities were asked about the effect of the stimulus bill on employment with those entities.

An Ill Wind Blows No Good

The Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University has tracked “stimulus bill” spending on wind power — nearly $2 billion in all — and the results are not pretty.  It turns out that nearly 80 percent of the money spent has gone to foreign manufacturers of wind turbines, creating thousands of jobs overseas rather than in America.  Americans apparently are getting temporary jobs erecting the machinery at the wind farm locations here in the United States, whereas employees of factories in places like China and Vietnam are getting the bread-and-butter blue collar manufacturing jobs that so many Americans crave.  Even Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senator from New York, thinks that the stimulus wind power spending has been a jobs creation bust.  And in the meantime, the $2 billion spent on the wind projects was all borrowed money on which American taxpayers will be paying interest to holders of American debt, in places like China, for years to come.  And, it may well be that wind power projects will have to be subsidized by the government well into the foreseeable future, too.

This story is not that much of a surprise, given the dismal track record of the pork-laden, poorly considered stimulus bill.  But it also should be a lesson to wary taxpayers as Congress discusses new “jobs” bills.  (No one on Capital Hill wants to use the word “stimulus” ever again.)  Simply appropriating money for “feel-good” government projects, like the wind power projects in the stimulus bill, doesn’t necessarily create jobs in America.  The only sure way to meet that goal is to identify and fund projects that necessarily will involve work, from beginning to end, that must occur in America.  Infrastructure improvements would be good examples.  An even better approach would be to encourage appropriate development of America’s oil and natural gas resources, which would have the effect of creating jobs in America while easing our dependence on foreign energy sources.

After the “health care reform” disaster, Congress is now talking up a “jobs agenda,” hoping that they will have some accomplishment to point to when the reelection campaigns gear up in a few months and unemployment continues to linger at or above 10 percent.  Let’s hope any such legislation is done in a more thoughtful way that actually meets the desired goal of putting Americans back to work.

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.

Stimu-Less

It seems like every day there is another news story on the utter phoniness of the federal government’s shameless reporting of jobs “saved or created” by the $787 billion “stimulus” bill passed by Congress earlier this year.  The latest article exposing the bogus jobs claims comes from the Boston Globe, which reports that the claims that 12,374 jobs were “saved or created” in Massachusetts were “wildly exaggerated.”  Through interviews of stimulus fund recipients, the Globe determined that people miscounted jobs, submitted flatly erroneous figures, and claimed jobs were created by projects that have not even begun.  The article states:  “The federal stimulus report for Massachusetts has so many errors, missing data, or estimates instead of actual job counts that it may be impossible to accurately tally how many people have been employed by the massive infusion of federal money.”

Does anyone really believe that we will ever get an accurate report on the actual, honest-to-God results produced by the $787 billion “stimulus” bill?  And, if the federal government told us that some future, revised set of statistics on jobs “created or saved” were final and fully audited, would anyone truly believe the numbers?

This kind of painfully obvious confusion, ineptitude, and falsification is, I think, one reason why people are so concerned about the massive health care reforms being considered by Congress.  We have seen that our government cannot even accurately count jobs attributable to federal expenditures; why in the world would anyone believe the federal government can capably  reshape and manage  our nation’s sprawling health care system, which employs millions of Americans and treats tens of millions of Americans every year?

 

Creative Accounting

Here’s another article finding significant errors in the counting of “jobs created or saved” by the stimulus bill.  In this case, one agency reported saving almost twice as many jobs as actually existed.  Even more galling, another government spokesman tried to defend the practice of counting the raises given to government employees as somehow equivalent to “saved” jobs.  The article quotes an HHS spokesman as saying that “If I give you a raise, it is going to save a portion of your job.”

The definition of what constitutes a job “created or saved” is inherently slippery.  What is really appalling is that even the slippery definitions have been pressed beyond the breaking point, so that non-existent jobs get counted and raises for government employees are defended as “saved” jobs.  In view of the kind of information reported in the linked article, does anyone actually think the federal government’s statistical evidence for the “success” of the stimulus spending bill has any credibility whatsoever?

It’s bad enough that the figures have been jiggered to make it look like the stimulus spending has had any material positive impact.  What is really infuriating, however, is that a government employee thinks that American taxpayers are so gullible and dim-witted that they will swallow the explanation that a raise given to government workers is equivalent to a job “saved.”   How gratifying to think that our tax dollars are helping to pay the salary of someone who clearly has only contempt for our intellect.

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.”