Two GOP senators criticize stimulus for battery company

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Each job created with federal stimulus cash through the Obama administration’s advanced battery manufacturing program cost more than $158,000 and many of them likely were temporary, according to an analysis released Wednesday by two senior Republicans.

Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and John Thune of South Dakota, members of the Senate Finance Committee, cited figures they obtained after pressing for verification of administration claims of the economic benefits of the $2 billion program funded under the stimulus bill.

“The taxpayers paid $2 billion for a pretty lackluster return,” Mr. Grassley said. “The administration billed this program as an all-around success toward creating jobs, but the results are a lot more mixed. The program cost $158,556 per job, including jobs that were later cut.”

Mr. Grassley noted that the stimulus package included a quarter-billion-dollar grant to a now-bankrupt company, A123 Systems, adding that each job it created with that company cost taxpayers more than $317,000.

“The expense is significant, especially when many of the jobs were temporary. The administration should not overstate the value of this program as a boon to economic recovery. The facts show otherwise,” he said. “Adding insult to injury, A123 executives reportedly are seeking to retain $4.2 million in bonuses through the bankruptcy process.”

The $317,000 figure was first reported Tuesday by The Washington Times.

Mr. Thune said President Obama’s stimulus program contributed to America’s $16 trillion national debt and record federal deficits of more than $1 trillion year after year.

“The Obama administration took nearly $2 billion of taxpayers’ hard-earned money so the federal government could spend more,” he said. “Spending $158,556 per job, many of which were temporary, was a waste of taxpayer dollars and failed to create the economic growth the president promised when he jammed his stimulus through Congress.”

Last month, the Energy Department posted on its website an update on the advanced battery manufacturing program in response to the bankruptcy of A123 Systems.

The update said the program awarded $2 billion in grants to 29 companies to build or retool 45 manufacturing facilities in 20 states to build advanced batteries, engines, drive trains and other key components for electric vehicles.

The update said: “From Columbus, Georgia, to Batesville, Arkansas, to Brownstown, Michigan, our investments in manufacturing advanced batteries and other electric vehicle components are putting Americans to work and helping make our country more competitive.”

Mr. Grassley and Mr. Thune said that while the update claimed the initiative was responsible for “employing thousands of American workers” it offered no proof.

When the lawmakers pressed for documentation, they said they received data showing that 12,613.77 jobs were “created” by the advanced battery manufacturing initiative from the signing of the stimulus act on Feb. 13, 2009, to the present.

Given the $2 billion cost of the program, they said that represents $158,556.88 per job created. They also noted that the Energy Department does not track how long the jobs are retained, meaning many of those jobs are likely temporary. Also, they said, the data showed that the program did not achieve the overall goal of the stimulus program to create jobs as rapidly as possible.

Mr. Grassley and Mr. Thune said they remain concerned that the Energy Department’s claim that its Electric Drive Vehicle Battery and Manufacturing Initiative was a success is not supported by the statistical evidence and they will continue to press for more information on the value the program provided to taxpayers.

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