How the White House Bungled Job Numbers

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The Obama administration created site tracking stimulus money--to ease taxpayers' minds, but it's only increasing anxiety. Its recent report on stimulus-fueled jobs creation as a direct result of stimulus money turns out to be full of holes. Most strikingly, the report documented job creation in non-existent congressional districts. Republicans have jumped on these errors, while the White House, as Christina Bellantoni reports in Talking Points Memo, "says it's a non-story, since the errors were about data entry, and the data entry only happened because they have tried to make the spending as transparent and real-time as possible." The consensus online says otherwise: whether or not the data errors were understandable, this is definitely a story. Transparency is a fine idea, they argue, but that doesn't pardon the shoddy figures. Here's how:

  • They Politicized the Data Soren Dayton at The Next Right points out that though "the numbers of jobs were bogus" and "the data about congressional districts were clearly garbage," the real problem was with the White House trying to "politicize the data and claim victory.", Dayton writes, "is a tremendous success for the transparency movement," an attempt to hold politicians accountable. But then the White House tried to misrepresent the data, "and the data has been used to hang them."
  • They Created a Screwy System At The Crossed Pond blog, contributor Adam wonders whether the entire reporting system wasn't a little shady to begin with. "I give you money because I want jobs created or saved," he explains, trying to summarize the process, "then I ask you how many jobs it created or saved, then I tell the world how awesome I am for helping create or save these many jobs." This doesn't seem like a recipe for probity."
  • Actually, It's the Locals' Fault The editors of The Boston Globe harshly rebuke institutions such as Bridgewater State College, which received federal money and then reported 160 full-time student jobs created, when in fact none had been created at all. This was just one example. "It's hard to say that all these people were flat-out lying," they write, "but the blatant errors, exaggerations, and distortions suggest a collective belief that jacking up the number of jobs saved would lead to more federal largesse. In fact, the opposite is likely to be true." Now that the "exaggerations" have been revealed, they will "fuel skepticism about whether federal spending can indeed stimulate the economy."
  • Regardless--General P.R. Nightmare MSNBC's First Read team points out that "while the final history on the stimulus hasn't been written, it's clear ... that the White House is losing the P.R. war over it." The White House continues, they note, to claim the fiasco is merely "critics" quibbling about "just how many jobs were made and where" now that they've been proven wrong about the efficacy of the Recovery Act.
  • We Should Be Using Unemployment Numbers The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes that while "the nonexistence of the jobs and places allegedly stimulated by the Recovery Act doesn't necessarily mean the money was misspent or stolen ... it does indicate that the claims made on its behalf are a political illusion." In fact, "the true jobs measure of an economic recovery," the editors argue, "is the unemployment rate, which rose to 10.2% last month."

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