Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

January 13, 2010

Reporting On Stimulus Jobs Becomes Even Less Useful

by Brad Warbiany

I suspect we’ll see a corresponding shift in the rhetoric. Instead of Obama saying the stimulus “created or saved X million jobs”, he’ll say the stimulus “put X million Americans to work.”

Either way, it’s still a joke:

When the White House unveiled its nearly $800 billion stimulus package last year, it promised not only to create and save 3.5 million jobs but also to open the books and prove it. But counting jobs turned out to be a lot harder than lining up a work crew and tapping hardhats.

Now, the White House says it will no longer keep a cumulative tally of jobs created and saved by the stimulus. Instead, it will post only a count of jobs for each quarter.

And instead of counting only created and saved jobs, it will count any person who works on a project funded with stimulus money—even if that person was never in danger of losing his or her job.

The new rules came out last month in a little-noticed memo (PDF) sent to federal agencies by Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget. OMB said it changed the guidelines to prevent the kinds of errors and confusion that occurred when the first job counts came out in October.

I’m sure the administration knew all along that they’d get skewered for whatever number they put out, especially when recovery.gov started showing money going to non-existent Congressional districts*. But I think this change shows that they just don’t care about justifying the funding any more.

Hat Tip: Ezra Klein

* PS – I actually accept the official explanation that the money was probably spent where it was intended, but that the people sending back their reports didn’t actually report their districts properly. I don’t accept any version of the “created or saved” metric, though, as that is naturally nearly impossible to measure.

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