Actually, it was $18,000 over just two months, a six-figure rate as an annual salary. But it’s money well spent: Monitoring negative buzz about how Obama stacks up to Bush’s performance during Katrina is an important federal task because, er, well…

Hey — it “created or saved” a job for eight weeks, all right?

The federal government hired a New Orleans man for $18,000 to appraise whether news stories about its actions in the Gulf oil spill were positive or negative for the Obama administration, which was keenly sensitive to comparisons between its response and former President George W. Bush’s much-maligned reaction to Hurricane Katrina…

Among all the contracts, perhaps none is more striking than the Coast Guard’s decision to pay $9,000 per month for two months to John Brooks Rice of New Orleans, an on-call worker for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, under a no-bid contract to monitor media coverage from late May through July.

Rice told the AP that he compiled print and video news stories and offered his subjective appraisal of the tone of the coverage. “From reading and watching the media I would create reports,” he said. “I reported either positive coverage, negative coverage, misinformation coverage.”…

The Coast Guard expects BP to reimburse the $18,000, Coast Guard spokesman Capt. Ron LaBrec said.

Why would BP reimburse the Coast Guard for a political favor it was doing for the White House? Especially since, according to a PR firm in Baton Rouge cited by the AP, much of this same work could have been done on retainer for somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000 to $4,000.

Follow the link for exciting details on other expenditures related to the clean-up, including $52,000 for, and I quote, a “marine charter for things.” Exit question: Is it really worth getting upset about 18 grand at this point? Sure, the outlay was wholly inappropriate, but our federal spending these days exists mainly in the realm of imaginary numbers. Is it worth quibbling over i2 here?