Politics & Policy

The Stimulus: An $814 Billion Flop

The jobs “created or saved” have cost taxpayers dearly.

In an October 3 ABC News/Washington Post survey, 68 percent of Americans polled believe that “the money the federal government has spent on the economic stimulus has been mostly wasted.” Only 29 percent consider it “well spent.”

Seven out of ten Americans are correct: The Democratic stimulus is a massive, bank-busting flop. Those who foisted this twelve-figure folly on the American people should suffer at the polls.

Still basking in inaugural afterglow, President Obama signed the Recovery Act in February 2009. Budgeted at $787 billion, it rose to $814 billion — a 3.4 percent cost overrun. Absent the stimulus, the White House assured taxpayers, the then-7.6 percent unemployment rate affecting 11.6 million Americans would climb to 8 percent.

Joblessness surpassed 8 percent anyway, shooting to 10.1 percent in October 2009 before settling at 9.6 percent, where it seems stuck today, frustrating 14.8 million job seekers. Unemployment has equaled or exceeded 9.5 percent for 14 months, the longest such stretch since the Great Depression.

The stimulus has done less than nothing. In a new study, the Congressional Joint Economic Committee’s GOP staff discovered that total non-farm payroll employment fell in 17 of America’s 20 largest metropolitan areas between March 2009 and August 2010. Such jobs only grew in Baltimore, Boston, and — naturally — Washington, D.C. Even worse, in these 20 urban areas, “For every federal government payroll job created (+42,700), 13 private-sector payroll jobs (-556,900) have been lost.” Corresponding state and local governments also shed 522,800 jobs during this time.

“With a million fewer workers in our major cities today than when the stimulus began, I can’t imagine how the White House can proclaim it as anything but a terrible disappointment,” said U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the JEC’s top House Republican.“President Obama promised that 90 percent of the stimulus jobs would be created in the private sector. The reality is just the opposite.”

 Fox News Channel’s Brenda Buttner reports on the October 23

Bulls & Bears that New Hampshire and North Dakota were

the only states (plus Washington, D.C.) to enjoy job growth since

President Obama signed the Democrat stimulus in February 2009.

These positions, “created or saved” by the stimulus, have cost taxpayers dearly.

In late September, the White House released 100 Recovery Act Projects That Are Changing America. This 28-page paper details infrastructure, clean-energy, social-service, and other initiatives that “invest in a strong foundation for a 21st century economy.” As this document states:

“This report shines a spotlight on some of the most innovative and effective projects nationwide that are not only putting people back to work now, but helping transform the American economy for years to come.” It adds: “From wind turbine production in Muncie, Indiana, to expansion of a tunnel in Oakland, California, millions of Americans are on the job nationwide working on Recovery Act projects like the ones in this report.” These initiatives, the White House explains, mirror others across the country. “The projects in this report represent just a small fraction of the tens of thousands of projects the Recovery Act is supporting.”

While analyzing these 100 projects, I gave the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt and simply accepted the claims its narrative presented. When the White House said Project 4’s $24.8 million in stimulus money would help GE’s energy-efficient-appliance factory in Louisville, Ky., create 800 jobs through 2013, I counted all 800 posts. When Smith Electric got $32 million for 220 direct and indirect jobs in Kansas City, Mo. (Project 66), I tallied them as direct jobs. Likewise, NV Energy’s $137.9 million to create 400 to 500 temporary jobs in Las Vegas (Project 84) counted as 500 full-time slots.

Of the White House’s 100 showcased projects, 90 offer specific employment data. Among these, $7,602,006,850 in stimulus funds “created or saved” 29,957 jobs. Thus, each stimulus position cost taxpayers an average $253,764.

So, Democrats are fighting unemployment by launching jobs at more than a quarter-million dollars apiece. And if the White House’s upbeat assumptions that I accepted are wrong, per-job costs zoom.

Compare this lavishness to the Labor Department’s $27.64 hourly Employer Costs for Employee Compensation. Paying one new staffer for 52 forty-hour weeks would cost an employer $57,491. Hence, private industry could create at least 4.4 jobs for the price of just one stimulus position. By this measure, private companies could have spent the aforementioned $7.6 billion to start 132,230 jobs.

True, 18 of these 90 projects created jobs below this private-sector-cost threshold. Helping a Michigan boat manufacturer expand into wind energy (Project 75) generated 163 jobs at $11,656 each.

However, 72 of these 90 projects yielded jobs for more than private industry’s $57,491 cost. In fact, seven projects consumed at least $1 million per job created. “Broadband Expansion to Rural Communities” in Kansas (Project 38), for instance, stimulated 17 jobs at $2.9 million each.

This is just the peak of the pyramid. In May, 2009, Washington Democrats sent $250 stimulus checks to 17,000 prisoners (cost: $4.25 million) and to 72,000 dead people (cost: $18 million). Just last week, President Obama himself dumped ice water all over the stimulus with this startling announcement: “There is no such thing as shovel-ready projects.”

These Democratic gaffes — among innumerable others — recently led Fox Business analyst John Layfield to express an inescapable truth: “This government couldn’t run a one-car parade.”

Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.

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