But at What Cost?

According to the NY Times (emphasis mine):

Businesses that got stimulus contracts directly from the federal government reported creating or saving 30,383 jobs so far, according to data published Thursday by the Obama administration.

The jobs reported on Thursday represent the first time that the government has reported actual figures as opposed to estimates. But they come from a small slice of a sliver of the program: the roughly $16 billion worth of stimulus contracts awarded directly by federal agencies, of which about $2.2 billion has been spent so far.

[ . . . ]

By themselves, the new job figures are unlikely to shed much light on the question of how well the stimulus program is accomplishing the goal that President Obama set: saving or creating 3.5 million jobs over two years. The rising unemployment rate, which is now at 9.8 percent, has fueled criticism in recent weeks that the stimulus program is not creating enough jobs.

I don’t see that there’s much mystery here. How else are you supposed to judge whether an actual jobs number squares with a projected jobs number except by looking at those numbers “by themselves”? As if there’s some other magic formula to invoke which would explain away that vast discrepancy between what was expected to happen and what actually happened. If a person is unemployed, it’s not a job “created or saved” is it?

And how much are each of these jobs costing taxpayers? Again we are awash in suspense. The jobs “created or saved” were the result of $16billion worth of stimulus contracts. If that’s true, that works out to over $500,000 per job. Surely we could have just given each of those 30,000+ people a quarter of a million dollars apiece and saved $8billion? The article says though that only $2.2billion was actually spent. But spent by whom? If it was already spent by the government but not yet spent by the contractors, then it’s irrelevant, since for the purposes of what it has cost the taxpayer, it’s already out the door. If they mean instead that despite $16billion being authorized, only $2.2billion have been spent by the government, then why didn’t they say that since it lowers the cost per job to somewhere around $70,000 per if that’s actually the case.

I guess in the end, the takeaway from this is that this new jobs number is awfully small when juxtaposed with the 3.5 million projection, and awfully expensive when juxtaposed with the overall dollars authorized to be spent under the stimulus bill.

Which sounds just about like what we should have expected from a government promise to spend our way out of a financial downturn.

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