Washington Hundreds of new jobs in phantom congressional districts. Nearly 500 new teaching jobs in a Chicago school district that employs only 290.
As the White House tries to show that its massive stimulus package has created or saved 1 million jobs, media outlets and critics have found evidence that some of the administration’s numbers are faulty.
On Thursday, a congressional committee tried to sort out the question: Are the flawed data the result of Democratic spin meant to show that President Barack Obama’s economic policies are working? Or are they mere data entry errors?
“Propaganda,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. He accused the administration of misleading the public “to say we’re doing a great job when in fact we don’t know.”
“The economic recovery plan is working,” responded Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., during a hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The scrutiny of the administration’s jobs claims comes as Democrats are anxious to show, before next year’s mid-term elections, that they are working to bring down unemployment. Republicans are eager to portray the $787 billion stimulus, which passed Congress with only three GOP votes, as a costly failure, evidenced by the rising unemployment rate.
Government watchdogs said the stimulus is creating or saving jobs, even if the precise number is unclear because fund recipients make reporting errors or don’t provide the jobs information.
“I have no doubt that there’s a lot of jobs being created,” said Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which oversees stimulus spending.
The administration claimed last month that stimulus spending was directly responsible for creating or saving 640,329 jobs. The number rose to 1 million jobs, the administration said, when indirect effects were considered, such as when a newly hired worker spends money at a clothing store.
But the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, raised questions about the accuracy of the numbers. Citing information filed by designated recipients of stimulus money, it said there had been “3,978 reports that showed no dollar amount received or expended but included more than 50,000 jobs created or retained.”
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, was among those wondering how a nonexistent congressional district in his state could be reported as receiving stimulus funds.
“There was some $1.2 million that went to the 4th Congressional District of Utah,” he said. “We only have three congressional districts.”
In a White House blog item posted even as the committee met, Liz Oxhorn, communications director for the stimulus effort, noted that the jobs listed in nonexistent congressional districts were real — they were just coded incorrectly.
Overall, she wrote, potential over-counts or under-counts of jobs were found in less than 5 percent of the 130,000 reports filed by recipients of stimulus money.