- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Counting jobs

Peter R. Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, has made a big change in the way the Obama administration counts the jobs created or saved 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 are viewing it as a calculated move toward 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. “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 in a cumulative manner and will instead report them 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 Web site that shows the public where the money is going.

The site currently lists 640,329 jobs that have been “created/saved as reported by recipients.” Mr. Issa is requesting that label be changed to reflect to list the number of jobs funded by the stimulus bill.

Detroit tea

A gathering of “tea party” protesters weathered some bitter Michigan cold Monday to protest government bailouts at the annual Detroit auto show.

Activists were rallied by the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), the American Liberty Alliance and Taxpayers United of Michigan Foundation to demonstrate against what they called “government motors,” otherwise known as General Motors.

“The main message we’re trying to put forward is an appropriate vision for the auto industry that doesn’t involve billions of bailouts and meddling in the industry,” said NTU spokesman Andrew Moylan, criticizing the bailouts GM has received over the past year from the government.

Conservative columnist Deroy Murdock was on hand to talk at the event, where the temperature hovered around 20 degrees. “Everyone wants to see Detroit do well but we think they need to get by on their own money and private investment like every other American company,” he told The Washington Times.

But they weren’t only angry about the bailouts. Bill McMaster, chairman of the Taxpayer United Michigan Foundation, said in a phone conversation with The Times he was also upset about the government’s push toward smaller, more energy-efficient cars that he said, “won’t operate in this kind of weather.”

He didn’t like the smaller cars the auto show was promoting, calling it a “sad day to see this auto show commandeered by the propagandists from Washington who are trying to say these are the kinds of cars Americans want.”

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@washingtontimes.com.

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