- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2009

Stimulus contracts

A private-sector company that tracks government contracts says President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus bill has created 407,000 private-sector jobs this year, much less than the 1.6 million jobs the Obama administration has claimed.

At the same time, the company’s analysts are finding that many businesses are changing their strategies to take advantage of the government funds being dispersed.

Analysts at Onvia, a Seattle-based company, who monitor the government’s contracting activity using specialized software say $37.5 billion of stimulus money has flowed to the private sector to date.

“This is quite different than the government’s numbers, which claim as many as 1.6 million jobs already created,” Onvia said. “The difference is due to the fact that the feds can track only two layers of stimulus money flow, far short of the full paper trail required. Therefore, a lot of guesswork and extrapolations go into the government’s math, and the jobs numbers are forecasts more than anything else.”

Onvia Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Eric Gillespie explained to The Washington Times, “What the federal government is recording is largely dollars that have left the Beltway. They aren’t tracking the projects and contracts on the ground.”

“They don’t know if those dollars landed on the ground because their reporting requirements say they only have to track two layers beyond the federal level,” he said. “So if it goes from the state to a county, they will know that. But if it goes from a county to a city or from a county to a contractor there is no legal requirement for them to track that, which is why the federal views are latent and they get it three, six, or 12 months late.”

But, aside from that, Mr. Gillespie said the more interesting thing that Onvia analysts were finding were the different ways that business was changing because of stimulus dollars being made available.

“We’ve seen businesses go from viewing the government as the last client standing, and now we are hearing government spending is a key part of their business strategies. There is almost a philosophical shift in the industry where more and more businesses, large, medium and small as a result of the stimulus and their realizing there is a large, untapped revenue stream where they haven’t been focused before.”

‘Enemy camp’

After President Obama’s announcement Tuesday at West Point that he will send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews made a rather unfortunate comparison.

The “Hardball” host lamented the fact Mr. Obama wasn’t effusively received by the military crowd and then likened the U.S. Military Academy in New York state to an “enemy camp.”

“It seems like in this case, there isn’t a lot of excitement,” Mr. Matthews said in his post-speech analysis. “I watched the cadets, they were young kids, men and women who were committed to serving their country professionally it must be said, as officers. And, I didn’t see much excitement. But among the older people there, I saw, if not resentment, skepticism. I didn’t see a lot of warmth in that crowd out there. The president chose to address [Tuesday night] and I thought it was interesting. He went to maybe the enemy camp [Tuesday night] to make his case.

Later Tuesday evening, Mr. Matthews said he might have misspoke.

“He went up there to West Point, OK, and maybe earlier tonight I used the wrong phrase, ‘enemy camp.’ ” he said. “But the fact of the matter is that he went up there to a place that’s obviously military. People in the voluntary Army that, and you have officers up there, people who have been tough. [Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan], [Gen. David Petraeus] identified with the Bush strategy, much tougher, more hawkish. He went up there, it was almost like he telegraphed the fact that he was going to, what, change sides on the issue of dove versus hawk. Was that telegraphing? Was that the enemy camp? How do you phrase it?”

On the record

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus on Tuesday conceded that the Democrats’ health care bill would exceed the trillion-dollar mark on the Senate floor, although many of his colleagues worked hard to say the bill would save money over time.

“Just for a second - health care reform, whether you use a 10-year number or when you start in 2010 or start in 2014, wherever you start at, so it is still either $1 trillion or it’s $2.5 trillion, depending on where you start,” the Democratic senator from Montana said.

His quote was happily clipped by Senate Republicans and passed on to reporters.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@washington times.com.

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