Peter Orzsag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, has made a big change in the way the Obama administration keeps track of jobs created by the stimulus bill.
Instead of trying to count all the jobs “created or saved” by the $787 billion legislation, the White House will now count all jobs funded by the bill, according to a Dec. 18 memo written by the OMB chief.
OMB says doing this will help improve data quality and improve the public’s understanding of the numbers, but some Republican critics view it as a calculated move towards boosting the overall jobs created by the bill.
“Instead of trying to define jobs created or saved this will look at jobs funded by the Recovery Act,” OMB spokesman Tom Gavin told The Washington Times.
“No one understood what created or saved meant,” he added. “So we are using a more easy to understand definition.” He also noted that the Government Accountability Office recommended these changes in a report issued last fall.
Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, sees it otherwise. He argues there is a political motive behind the changes and that counting jobs that existed before the stimulus was passed or may have existed without stimulus funding is misleading.
“The Administration appears to be revising its criteria to embrace and tout claims about jobs it knows it didn’t create or save,” he said in a statement. “Their new definition is, ‘if we spend taxpayer money, we’re successful.’”
Mr. Gavin responded to these complains by saying “a lot of people who are complaining about this change are the very same people who were complaining two or three months ago the system was too complicated.”
In addition to counting all jobs funded by the bill, the government will stop tracking the total number of jobs “created or saved” in a cumulative manner and will instead report the number of jobs funded on a quarterly basis. Mr. Issa argues this will make it difficult to identify which jobs have been newly created and those that have been “carried over” from the previous quarter.
The congressman drew attention to these policy changes on Friday by firing off a letter to Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, who is tasked with tracking all the spending on Recovery.gov, the government website that shows the public where the money is going.
The website currently lists 640,329 jobs that have been “created/saved as reported by recipients.” Mr. Issa is requesting that label be changed to reflect the number of jobs funded by the stimulus bill.
Ed Pound, communications director for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, could not say whether the changes would be made at this time.
“As always Mr. Devaney will give Mr. Issa’s letter considerable thought and we will get back to him within the time frame cited in the letter,” he said.