Recovery.con?

posted at 1:00 pm on November 29, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

A little over a week ago, the Putnam County Courier joined the list of regional newspapers that have begun asking serious questions about Porkulus job accounting.  The Courier goes as far as to call the “saved or created” claims of the Obama administration “Recovery.con,” in its headline.  Michael Brendan Dougherty finds many of the same kinds of fraud that newspapers around the nation have in the claims by the White House of stimulus success:

Recovery.gov, the Obama administration’s attempt at creating transparency in the $787-billion dollar stimulus program, is a transparent failure in Putnam County.

The Federal government claims that when Putnam County purchased five Paratransit vans with $319,000 of federal stimulus funds, 60 jobs were saved. A casual visitor to Recovery. gov might think that those 60 jobs were in Putnam County. But John Lynch, Putnam County’s Commissioner of Planning/Development and Public Transportation, said, “That number of 60 jobs is incorrect.”

In fact, the number of jobs that should appear on the report is not 60, but just 1.54, and those one and a half jobs are actually in New Paris, Indiana. Whether by bureaucratic error, or deliberate maneuvering, the administration has inflated claims of job creation based on Putnam County stimulus spending. Other stimulus-funded projects in Putnam County are riddled with reporting errors and inaccuracies.

Recovery.gov reports that Putnam County has received $1,092,595 of stimulus money for projects, $319,000 of which was dedicated to purchasing five new Paratransit vans, manufactured by Turtletop Busses in Indiana. Lynch told the Courier that the inaccurate number of 60 jobs created by the purchase of vans “counted both the second and third fiscal quarters, when it was only supposed to count the third quarter.” Putnam County officials tried to correct the number before the third quarter report was issued, but were “frozen out of the system” according to Lynch.

As in other jurisdictions, the Courier finds that most of the money went to education — where jobs really weren’t at risk at all:

Many of the other projects listed on Recovery. gov relate to local schools. Education related stimulus spending was first dispersed from the federal government to states, and then the states in turn awarded grants based on applications. In Putnam, the Carmel Central School district received over $2.2 million dollars. According to the government’s own reporting, this money has saved and created no jobs whatsoever. Superintendent Dr. James Ryan did not immediately respond to inquiries for this story. But according to other school officials, such numbers on the government’s transparent Web site are inaccurate.

The Brewster Central school district received $1,828,466. “Basically a lot of it went to saving jobs that were slated to be eliminated last spring,” said Assistant Superintendent Timothy Conway. “Then a fair amount of it has gone to help children who are from low socio-economic backgrounds or those who need extra help in school. All of it is going in those areas of direct instruction.”

“I think it is somewhere between ten and twelve [jobs that were saved],” said Conway, “I think they were almost all teachers and one administrative position.” Documentation for these claims was not immediately available, though the Courier has requested it. Asked how long these jobs were off the chopping block, Conway said, “My understanding is the stimulus money is a two year commitment” Asked whether any of the teachers knew that their jobs would have been cut absent the federal money, Conway responded, “No.”

That’s because those jobs weren’t at risk.  Porkulus funds allowed the states to shift money from education to other areas of the state bureaucracy by pasting over their budget gaps.  States would not have laid off teachers, police officers, and firefighters in the absence of that cash.  They would have been forced to cut other areas of the budget, trim bureaucracies and red tape, and position their states for better tax and spending policies in the future.

But even if we accept the notion that ten to twelve jobs got saved, the investment is rather eye-opening.  It amounts to $152,372.16 for every job saved in the Brewster School District.  That’s for a two-year commitment, by the way, which makes it over $76,000 for each job per year — which seems a little high for teachers, but not for some other bureaucrats in the state system.  And what happens when the money runs out?

Let’s add New York to the list of states whose media are discovering the fraud of Porkulus:


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