Fuzzy math or flagrant fudgery?
Following a series of reports across the country of what look like over-the-top over-estimates of jobs created or saved as a result of President Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus package, a senior Republican lawmaker has challenged the administration's accounting.
Ahead of a congressional hearing on the stimulus spending issue slated for next week, House Oversight and Government Reform ranking member Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has drafted a letter to Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which monitors stimulus spending. In his letter, Issa expresses concern that "grossly inaccurate" information has been fed to the public. Issa's letter questions whether the board's claim that an estimated 640,329 jobs were created or saved as a result of the massive spending measure is accurate.
According to a draft version of the Issa letter obtained by ABCNews.com, and which is not expected to be sent until Monday, Issa drops a stiff challenge on Devaney's doorstep. First, he asks whether he can certify that the number of jobs reported on the stimulus oversight board's Web site as created or saved is accurate and auditable, and whether Devaney, if he can't certify the numbers, would be willing to add a disclaimer to the site saying the numbers are not reliable.
A series of media reports have surfaced in the past week or so, uncovering examples of significant overcounting of stimulus-tied jobs in California, Massachusetts, Texas, Wisconsin, as well several states. For example:
The Boston Globe reviewed the 12,000-plus jobs claimed to have been created or saved by $4 billion in direct stimulus spending in Massachusetts. In one case, a state college reported having added 160 new work-study jobs tied to just $77,181 in stimulus funds. A spokesman for the school, Bridgewater State College, told the Globe that the actual number of jobs was "almost nothing."
The Globe described the Bay State's stimulus job figures as "wildly exaggerated."
A Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel review found a sanitation department in Douglas County, Wis., that admitted to a typo that resulted in an estimate of 100 jobs saved or created, when the actual number was five.
According to USA Today, the Texas recipient of a $26,174 roofing contract reported erroneously that 450 jobs were created or saved when, in fact, six were.
Issa, in his sternly phrased missive, points to what he says are commonsense-defying figures in his home state.
The California State University System reported 26,156 jobs, or more than half its statewide work force, were saved by stimulus funds.
"Does anyone seriously believe the CSU system would have fired half its work force without the stimulus?" Issa implored.
Ed Pound, a spokesman for the Recovery Board, couldn't comment on Issa's pending letter to Devaney.
But Pound pointed out that the Recovery Board expected recipients to make errors in calculating jobs numbers. More than 130,000 recipients submitted award reports.
"Recipients made errors, both underreporting and overreporting their jobs numbers," Pound said.