Your Daily Exercise in Stimulus-Bashing

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 5 2011 12:24 PM

Your Daily Exercise in Stimulus-Bashing

Jake Tapper shreds an incredibly lazy Weekly Standard blog post about the stimulus bill. It's not that hard; the original item simply divided the dollar cost of the stimulus by the number of jobs White House economists say it created, and came up with $278,000 per job.

[W]e asked a similar question back in October 2009, when that computation resulted in the comparable bargain of $72,408 per stimulus job, as you can read at this blog post. Then, as now, White House officials note that the spending didn't just fund salaries, it also went to the actual costs of building things -- construction materials, new factories, and such. So the math is flawed, White House officials say, since reporters are not including the permanent infrastructure in the computation, thus producing an inflated figure.
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Not only that, but the stimulus wasn't all spending! Spending made up $525 billion of the package. And not only that -- as Tapper reminds us, this article was promoted by the Speaker of the House, who has previously claimed that the stimulus didn't create any jobs. Did it create a disappointing number of jobs for the money spent, or did it create no jobs at all? That's sort of an important distinction when you consider that the perception that the stimulus failed is the ballast for the current austerity push. If two-thirds of Americans believe that stimulus spending didn't create jobs, which is false, they'll believe that spending cuts will create jobs. That, in the short term, is also false.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.