House Republicans Ask White House to Stop Touting Inaccurate 'Created or Saved' Job Numbers
November 24, 2009 - 8:32 PMHouse Republicans are asking the Obama administration to stop touting the number of jobs "saved or created" by the $787 billion economic stimulus law, citing widespread reports that the data are inaccurate.
“The inaccuracy of the job creation and retention claims posted on the Administration’s website, www.recovery.gov, has not prevented administration officials from touting this misleading and inaccurate number as evidence that the president’s stimulus spending package is succeeding even as the unemployment rate continues to rise,” House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote in a letter to Vice President Joe Biden, who is charged with overseeing the stimulus plan.
The economic stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, was signed into law on Feb. 17, 2009.
Obama administration officials have said that 640,000 jobs were either created or saved as of Sept. 30, and have predicted that they will reach their projected goal of 3.5 million jobs saved or created.
Criticism of the oversight and reporting of recovery act funds and their effectiveness has intensified in the last week. News reports starting on Nov. 16 showed that the Recovery.gov Web site listed federal funds purportedly spent and jobs purportedly created in congressional districts that do not exist, such as the 86th district of Rhode Island.
That same week, the Government Accountability Office released a report showing that only 22 percent of the recovery money had been spent in the first fiscal year, while highlighting several reporting errors, such as 9,247 reports listing a total of $1 billion spent and no jobs created or saved.
That contrasted with 3,978 reports that showed more than 50,000 jobs were created or saved, despite zero funding.
“The reality is that the metric of jobs ‘created or saved’ was invented by politicians, not economists – it cannot be verified as accurate,” the Boehner and Issa letter said. The nationwide unemployment average has reached 10.2 percent despite the Obama administration’s claims that if the stimulus bill passed it would keep unemployment below 8 percent.
Since the stimulus bill was enacted in February, the United States has lost 2.8 million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those job losses increased in 29 states last month, according to the BLS.
“Over 4 million Americans have thus lost their jobs since the beginning of January, the month President Obama was inaugurated, when unemployment stood at 7.6 percent,” the letter said. “It is time to recognize that the stimulus is stimulating very little except government.”
The White House claimed last Wednesday that there were actually more jobs than reported on Recovery.gov, in a blog posting that tried to dismiss the site’s errors as insignificant.
“More than 130,000 reports were collected from recipients who were required to fill out 99 different data fields – that's over 12 million pieces of information collected directly from those putting the funds to work,” Wrote Recovery Act Communications Director Liz Oxhorn. “Much has been made of incorrectly coded Congressional Districts, but that issue – which the Recovery Board has already fixed – affected about 1 percent of reports. And other potential over- or under-counts of jobs you may have seen highlighted in the media amount to less than 5 percent of all reports.”
The blog posting continued: “In fact, economists say that, because the reports cover less than half of the money put to work so far and only direct jobs, they point to a job impact of at least double what was reported.”
Issa wrote a letter on Nov. 13 to Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board, asking if Devaney could certify as “accurate and auditable” the number of jobs created or saved that the administration was touting. Devaney responded in writing and in testimony before the House that he could not certify the numbers.
During a hearing last Thursday of the House Oversight Committee, Devaney essentially agreed with Issa’s statement about counting the jobs.
“Mr. Devaney, you’re the most honest man I know,” said Issa. “Without a whole lot of in between, shouldn’t we be more conservative and say, ‘Look, this is what the reports are. We’re scrubbing it. This is a new system. It has its problems. We hope at least they’re reporting the dollars right and we have no idea whether those people have the ability to calculate the full-time jobs equivalent but we’re going to get to the bottom of it. Wouldn’t that be a fairer way to put it?”
Devaney said, “I like that statement.”