- The Washington Times - Monday, November 23, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The shocking Government Accountability Office audit of President Obama’s stimulus plan raises new doubts about how many real jobs are being created by his $787 billion big-spending package.

There are not only troubling tales of wasteful spending giveaways, but also ethically questionable payments to powerful and politically connected Democratic special interests, and an incompetent accounting system that does not know where much of the federal money has really gone.

The GAO, Congress’ budget watchdog, found that preliminary reports coming into the government from states and localities show thousands of projects that received nearly $1 billion but had created relatively few if any jobs.

It found 58,386 out of the more than 640,000 jobs that were purportedly “saved or created” were from projects where apparently no funds had been spent.

And in what may be the biggest accounting blunder to date, or maybe a lot worse than that, GAO discovered that tens of millions of dollars were purportedly spent in congressional districts that do not exist.

In Louisiana, for example, the administration’s Recovery.org Web site shows that nearly $5 million went to the state’s 8th Congressional District, $2.8 million was spent in the 22nd District, $1.8 million in the 32nd District, and other monies spent in the 26th, 45th, 14th, 32nd and, inexplicably the 00 district. But Louisiana only has seven congressional districts.

In Ohio, more than $1.2 million was spent in the 21st Congressional District that supposedly created three jobs - an outrageously expensive jobs ratio, but it poses one more problem: There is no 21st district. The state’s 20th, 49th, 54th, 56th, 65th, 85th, 87th or 99th district purportedly got funding, too, but they do not exist, either.

About $2 million went to the 99th District in North Dakota, even though the state has only one congressional district. A nonexistent district in the state of Tennessee got nearly $41 million and said it produced zero jobs.

All told, at this point, 440 nonexistent congressional districts got over $6 billion in so-called stimulus money from the administration.

Earl Devaney, who chairs Mr. Obama’s Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, told ABC News “that he can’t certify jobs data posted at the Recovery.gov Web site - and doesn’t have access to a ‘master list’ of stimulus recipients that have neglected to report data.”

But the story of possible skullduggery gets even worse. Washington Times reporter Amanda Carpenter reported last week that the stimulus bill also rewarded some of Mr. Obama’s biggest political allies in many of the legislative battles he is waging on Capitol Hill.

Powerful Washington special interests who pocketed big checks from the stimulus bill included the AARP, which reaped $18.2 million, and then endorsed the president’s health care plan. The National Council of La Raza, an immigrant rights advocacy group, got $156,620; a fund for the Service Employees International Union, one of the president’s biggest union backers, got $265,136; the liberal Urban Institute received $1.443 million; and National Public Radio got $50,000.

These reports follow several earlier independent investigations that also uncovered numerous examples of wildly exaggerated jobs numbers. An Associated Press review of a sampling of the spent stimulus money found some job counts credited to Mr. Obama’s recovery spending plan were more than 10 times the real number. In other instances, jobs were counted two to four times their actual total, and others claimed jobs were created when none were produced.

The Federal Communications Commission said stimulus funds created 4,231 jobs when the number was about 1,000. A Georgia community college said it added 280 jobs but in fact “none was created from stimulus spending,” AP found.

Meantime, without much credible documentation, administration officials were throwing out wildly invented estimates to show the dubious program was working. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said the stimulus spending was “responsible for over one million jobs so far.” Senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett expanded that number, saying the spending has “saved millions of jobs around the country.”

But the evidence thus far suggests that any jobs numbers produced by this administration should be suspect at best and completely untrustworthy at worst. A CBS News poll last week of 1,167 Americans found that only 7 percent believed Mr. Obama’s stimulus has created any jobs so far.

Even in cases where jobs are credited to the stimulus money, many if not most were temporary or part-time. When the money is spent, the jobs will cease.

As the unemployment rate continues its upward climb into the double-digits, amid forecasts that the barren jobs landscape is only going to get worse next year, it is beginning to dawn on Democrats in Congress that Mr. Obama’s old-style, New Deal, big spending public works plan isn’t working and is never going to work.

That’s why Democratic congressional leaders last week were talking about passing yet another jobs program, a clear admission that many of them now believe the existing program has failure written all over it.

At the same time, the White House is now planning a hastily-arranged December conference in a desperate attempt to search for new ideas - yet another admission that Mr. Obama and his liberal, anti-tax-cut, anti-wealth-creating team haven’t a clue about what makes the once-great American jobs machine run at full throttle.

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.

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