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Stimulus Isn't Creating Jobs

By Detroit News, Detroit News - November 20, 2009

The Obama administration and Congress are coming under increasing fire over blunders, duplicate counts and exaggerations in the reporting of jobs created or saved by its $787-billion economic stimulus program. Newspapers in several states have discovered overstated job totals, modest real employment gains from the program and cases in which the spending protected or created no jobs at all.

While it still is early in the process, this trend suggests there's political spin at work designed to improve on results that likely will fall well short of President Barack Obama's declared intent to create 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010. This only adds to skepticism about the benefits of the massive stimulus spending program. And it confirms the ineffectiveness of the government as a job creator.

Michigan residents have seen a similar story line in the overblown employment estimates from Gov. Jennifer Granholm's green-jobs initiative and the tax abatements awarded to companies by the state economic development corporation.

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It would have been wiser and more effective for Congress to leave out of the stimulus package the billions of dollars it approved for soft social programs with a fuzzy impact on jobs, while focusing a lot more of it on projects with readily quantifiable results. Michigan, for one, could have used more than the $800 million it received for roadwork. It's easy to count the construction jobs funded by that kind of expenditure and the bonus -- improved highways -- which are hard evidence of the benefits.

In addition, the nation needs a $100 billion investment in its electric grid if it hopes to fully develop a green economy. Putting the money there would have not only created a new economic infrastructure, but also created real jobs.

And certainly targeting much more of the stimulus package to long-term tax relief would excite consumer spending, and more spending typically results in more private-sector jobs.

Half the 650,000 jobs reported to have been affected by the federal money are in education. In an example of the problematic methodology in use, however, the Chronical of Higher Education reported earlier this month that Ohio's Board of Regents divided the $56 million awarded to state campuses there by the average pay for their employees, to come up with a total jobs-saved estimate of 626.

Here in Michigan, General Motors initially said a government purchase of 5,000 vehicles created or saved 105 jobs, but later revealed no jobs were saved or created. The Boston Globe reported that Massachusetts' stimulus report is so riddled with missing data, errors and estimates -- rather than actual jobs -- that it may be impossible to get an accurate count. A watchdog group churned through government data and found claims of 30,000 jobs saved or created in 440 nonexisting congressional districts.

Obviously, there are errors and widespread confusion among stimulus dollars recipients about how to come up with their numbers. What, exactly, is the definition of a job saved, anyway?

Jobs are what matter most to taxpayers buffeted by unemployment rates exceeding 15 percent here and 10 percent nationally. If the stimulus spending is not having an impact on job creation -- and it appears not to be -- that fact should not be hidden by bad numbers that only serve to perpetuate bad policy.

Tom Long: In honor of "New Moon," and in case you didn't catch it elsewhere on the site, my list of bloodsucking faves:Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) from … Continued

Chris McCosky: I would be surprised if the Wings weren't given an explanation and perhaps an apology (worthless as it would be) for the officiating debacle Wednesday night.Even if … Continued

Isabelle Beaulieu: Parents often call our office feeling confused and frustrated with their child's learning skills, ability to regulate their behaviors and emotions or socialize with … Continued

While it still is early in the process, this trend suggests there's political spin at work designed to improve on results that likely will fall well short of President Barack Obama's declared intent to create 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010. This only adds to skepticism about the benefits of the massive stimulus spending program. And it confirms the ineffectiveness of the government as a job creator.

Michigan residents have seen a similar story line in the overblown employment estimates from Gov. Jennifer Granholm's green-jobs initiative and the tax abatements awarded to companies by the state economic development corporation.

Advertisement

It would have been wiser and more effective for Congress to leave out of the stimulus package the billions of dollars it approved for soft social programs with a fuzzy impact on jobs, while focusing a lot more of it on projects with readily quantifiable results. Michigan, for one, could have used more than the $800 million it received for roadwork. It's easy to count the construction jobs funded by that kind of expenditure and the bonus -- improved highways -- which are hard evidence of the benefits.

In addition, the nation needs a $100 billion investment in its electric grid if it hopes to fully develop a green economy. Putting the money there would have not only created a new economic infrastructure, but also created real jobs.

And certainly targeting much more of the stimulus package to long-term tax relief would excite consumer spending, and more spending typically results in more private-sector jobs.

Half the 650,000 jobs reported to have been affected by the federal money are in education. In an example of the problematic methodology in use, however, the Chronical of Higher Education reported earlier this month that Ohio's Board of Regents divided the $56 million awarded to state campuses there by the average pay for their employees, to come up with a total jobs-saved estimate of 626.

Here in Michigan, General Motors initially said a government purchase of 5,000 vehicles created or saved 105 jobs, but later revealed no jobs were saved or created. The Boston Globe reported that Massachusetts' stimulus report is so riddled with missing data, errors and estimates -- rather than actual jobs -- that it may be impossible to get an accurate count. A watchdog group churned through government data and found claims of 30,000 jobs saved or created in 440 nonexisting congressional districts.

Obviously, there are errors and widespread confusion among stimulus dollars recipients about how to come up with their numbers. What, exactly, is the definition of a job saved, anyway?

Jobs are what matter most to taxpayers buffeted by unemployment rates exceeding 15 percent here and 10 percent nationally. If the stimulus spending is not having an impact on job creation -- and it appears not to be -- that fact should not be hidden by bad numbers that only serve to perpetuate bad policy.

Tom Long: In honor of "New Moon," and in case you didn't catch it elsewhere on the site, my list of bloodsucking faves:Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) from … Continued

Chris McCosky: I would be surprised if the Wings weren't given an explanation and perhaps an apology (worthless as it would be) for the officiating debacle Wednesday night.Even if … Continued

Isabelle Beaulieu: Parents often call our office feeling confused and frustrated with their child's learning skills, ability to regulate their behaviors and emotions or socialize with … Continued

While it still is early in the process, this trend suggests there's political spin at work designed to improve on results that likely will fall well short of President Barack Obama's declared intent to create 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010. This only adds to skepticism about the benefits of the massive stimulus spending program. And it confirms the ineffectiveness of the government as a job creator.

Michigan residents have seen a similar story line in the overblown employment estimates from Gov. Jennifer Granholm's green-jobs initiative and the tax abatements awarded to companies by the state economic development corporation.

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