A few weeks ago the Obama administration came out with some claims about how many jobs the stimulus bill had created to date. I heard some news agencies, Rush Limbaugh, and others pick apart the numbers. I sort of ignored the story and thought that it was a little petty. Then yesterday, I caught wind of a few states that noticed there were jobs created in non-existing congressional districts.
So let’s start from the beginning and sort it out. On Feb. 17, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, at the request of President Obama. The act was created to help curb the effect of an ensuing economic crisis. Like any government program it is big and complex. It has three goals:
1. To create new jobs as well as save existing ones
2. Spur economic activity and invest in long-term economic growth
3. Start new unprecedented levels of accountability and transparency in government spending
These goals are to be accomplished through a variety of different ways to include: tax cuts, grants, loans, contracts, and extending unemployment. I’m not sure about the government’s role in creating and saving jobs but I was very happy to hear about the transparency part. This is especially important considering it is $787 Billion dollars of public money.
The accountability transpired in the form of a website recovery.org. The Act requires all of the recipients of stimulus funds to report quarterly amounts of money spent, status, jobs created/saved and other details to which are posted on the site. In October all those numbers came pouring in.
The administration then put the statistics out on the website and claimed it had created 30,000 jobs to date. Soon after, the AP took apart those numbers and said that the figure was overstated by at least 5,000 jobs.
A few example they found were:
– A company working with the Federal Communications Commission reported that stimulus money paid for 4,231 jobs, when about 1,000 were produced.
– A Florida child care center said its stimulus money saved 129 jobs but used the money on raises for existing employees.
CBS evening news also noted discrepancies where people affected by the money were being reported as saved jobs. Including a half million dollars for studying Facebook and $220,000 for studying the sex lives of female college freshmen.
To the administration’s credit they said they were aware of the problems and agencies have been working with businesses that received money to correct mistakes. Joe Biden is here saying that they know it is not 100 percent accurate and further updates and corrections will be needed to fulfill this unprecedented commitment to transparency.
Ok, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Even though they claimed to save 935 jobs at the Southwest Georgia Community Action Council when only 508 people work there.
Two weeks later New Mexico Watchdog reported that $26 million dollars in stimulus had been distributed to 13 congressional districts, which is ten more than the state has. Soon after Kansas, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, and West Virginia reported similar stories. Watchdog.org eventually found 440 congressional districts had been receiving money that don’t exist. Watchdog tracked down the director of communications for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board which oversees the site, Ed Pound.
People make errors, and we’ve found people are making errors in these reports and his organization is accurately reporting the information that recipients provide.
That is reasonable. This is as we’ve heard, unprecedented, and the accountability is something Americans crave. Although I don’t like that the Administration uses this data as a political tool, I don’t think they are trying to mislead anyone either since I have seen the numbers change on the website. But at some point enough is enough and the numbers have to be reported accurately, especially with a 84 million dollar budget on the website.