By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
There were few economists who really believed, despite the promises that the money would go to shovel ready projects that could begin immediately once the funding came through, that the stimulus would really create any net jobs. But something needed to be done, they said, especially in light of the Obama administration forecast that, without it, unemployment would rise about 9 percent for the first time in several decades.
Well, in what must have come as a surprise to the White House, they got both: the stimulus and unemployment up over 9 percent for the first time since the Reagan recession of the early 1980s.
It was a neat trick, managing to achieve both—but an even neater trick was the White House's invention of the idea that the impact of the stimulus be measured but the number of jobs "created or saved" by the federal largess pouring out of the treasury in its wake.
It comes as little surprise that the recipients of the stimulus money have been, to put it indelicately, cooking the books. Both ABC News and the Washington, DC Examiner have been monitoring the spending as posted on the government's recovery.gov website and have found egregious errors, including money being spent in non-existent congressional districts and public entities claiming the stimulus money saved their entire workforce.
Vice President Joe Biden, when told of the problems, reportedly told those responsible for the website to "fix it."
Whether this is the original site designed to track the stimulus spending or its multi-million dollar replacement is not clear, at least to me. What is clear is that the whole idea the stimulus has been creating jobs is a sham, a fig-leaf, designed to give the administration something to talk about each time the bad jobs number comes in, as has been the case each month thus far since Obama was inaugurated.
Biden, you may recall, was put in charge of tracking the stimulus by Obama during his speech to a joint session of Congress because "Nobody messes with Joe." That's about to be put to the test, since it looks like the people who got the stimulus money have been messing with him thus far.
Having dealt with the "jobs issue" early on in his administration, President Obama thought he could move on to healthcare, a national energy tax, the abolition of "Don't ask, Don't tell," and other issues that were important to his political base. The continued increase in the unemployment numbers, coupled with the bogus claims made on the recovery.gov website, may yet force him back to square one.