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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Sanford: Are $320,000-Per-Job Stimulus Projects Worth It?



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If you’re wondering how Mark Sanford will attempt to shift the discussion in South Carolina’s first congressional district from you-know-what to actual policy issues, today his campaign offers its first example: whether the stimulus passed by the federal government back in 2009 represented a good use of taxpayer dollars.

You see, Elizabeth Colbert Busch has spent the last five years as director of business development at Clemson University’s Restoration Institute, which is heavily involved in wind-turbine research and development — and a big recipient of federal funds from the 2009 stimulus.

The release from the Sanford campaign:

Former Governor Mark Sanford today visited with a local small business owner to ask the “$320,000 question” of the Congressional campaign:

Could you create more than one job with $320,000?

For the past three years, Governor Sanford’s opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, has helped advance the Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility, which has largely been funded via the 2009 stimulus — something Governor Sanford vehemently opposed all the way to the state Supreme Court. Colbert Busch is also on record calling the facility a good example of the kind of project the stimulus should have supported.

The problem?

After a $43 million stimulus infusion, according the Obama Administration’s own statistics the facility has “created or saved” only 134.12 jobs.

That equates to more than $320,000 per job, in fact if you were to include other public monies the number gets closer to $500,000 per job!

Governor Sanford has long argued that the stimulus would not have the desired effect of growing the economy, and in fact would impede economic recovery. In fact, in 2009 he wrote that as a nation we cannot, “solve a problem of too much debt with yet more debt.” Instead, Governor Sanford has argued for lower taxes and limited spending as keys to growing the economy.

Governor Sanford today visited Lyerly’s Cleaners in Mount Pleasant — as he will with other small businesses across the 1st District — to talk one-on-one with business owners about whether they would prefer more in the way of economic “stimulus” or more in the way of tax cuts and regulatory relief.

“I have no doubt they’re doing some great research over at the Drivetrain Institute, but to me it comes back to the ideas of return on investment, and the proper role of government in the economy,” Sanford said. “Some believe that it’s government’s role to try and drive the economy, but as we all saw back in 2009 it just didn’t work, and some would argue it actually prolonged our recovery because it froze would-be investors who wondered when the next bailout would take place. I believe a key difference in this race is going to be whether one believes it is small business that drives the economy, or whether one believes it is government borrowing that does so, and I look forward to having that debate with my opponent over the coming weeks.”

I asked Sanford’s folks how they came up with the $320,000 per job figure; they pointed to Recovery.gov.

According to the data, the program began “creating or saving” jobs sometime in spring 2010, when it somehow managed to “create or save” one-tenth of one job. The following quarter it “created or saved” 8.09 jobs, then down to 2.82, bouncing up and down, peaking at 34.78 jobs in spring 2012, and creating or saving 3.64 jobs in the most recent quarter from October to December 2012.

If you take all of the federal funds awarded so far, and divide that figure by the sum total of jobs “created or saved” in all of the quarters so far, you get $320,608.41.

(Perhaps defenders of the stimulus, or Colbert Busch, will attempt to help them by insisting that this is just a matter of the project managers reporting nonsensical numbers to the federal government as part of the Recovery.gov accountability efforts. Nothing to worry about!)

His opponent’s messaging is . . . different. Today, Colbert Busch’s Facebook page linked to her economic policy, declaring that the sequester cuts are “mindless” and that “We need to provide our entrepreneurs and innovators opportunities to succeed.”  Also, her Twitter feed has spent two days letting people know where they can pick up yard signs.


Tags: Elizabeth Colbert Busch , Mark Sanford


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