The 50-job lawnmower, and other Porkulus job fables

We’ve been aggregating tales of Porkulus fantasy jobs, but this one takes the cake.   Give the New York Times credit for catching this last week, adding Arkansas to the growing list of states with ridiculous levels of inflation in an already-ridiculous calculation of “saved or created” jobs.  In Fayetteville, the government website claimed that the sale of a single lawnmower saved 50 jobs:

In June, the federal government spent $1,047 in stimulus money to buy a rider mower from the Toro Company to cut the grass at the Fayetteville National Cemetery in Arkansas. Now, a report on the government’s stimulus Web site improbably claims that that single lawn mower sale helped save or create 50 jobs.

Earlier that same month, when Chrysler got a $52.9 million stimulus order for new cars for the government, the struggling automaker claimed that the money did not save a single job.

Those two extremes illustrate the difficulties in trying to figure out just how many jobs can be attributed to the $787 billion stimulus program. Last week the Obama administration released reports from more than 130,000 recipients of stimulus money in which they claimed to have saved or created more than 640,000 jobs, but a review of those reports shows that some are simply wrong, while others contain apparently subjective estimates.

They contain “subjective estimates”?  If subjective is a synonym for false, then that last statement is accurate.  Claiming 50 jobs saved from the sale of one $1000 lawnmower is not subjective.  It’s ridiculous and fraudulent, and the system that allows the government to make that claim is the source of the ridiculousness and fraud.

The same kind of thinking went into the claim that $890 for nine pairs of shoes saved nine jobs:

Moore’s slice of the stimulus came in an $889.60 order from the Army Corps of Engineers for nine pairs of work boots for a stimulus project.

Moore says he’s been supplying the Corps with boots for at least two decades. This year, because he provided safety shoes for work funded by the stimulus package, he said he got a call from the Corps telling him he had to fill out a report for detailing how he’d used the $889.60, and how many jobs it had helped him to create or save. He later got another call, asking him if he’d finished the report.

“The paperwork was unreal,” said Moore, who added that he tried to figure out how to file the forms online, then gave up and asked his daughter to help.

Paula Moore-Kirby, 42 years old, had less trouble with the Web site, but couldn’t work out how to answer the question about how many jobs her father had created or saved. She couldn’t leave it blank, either, she said. After several calls to a helpline for recipients she came away with the impression that she would hear back if there was a problem with her response, and have a chance to correct it. So with 15 minutes to go before the reporting deadline, she sent in her answer: nine jobs, because her father helped nine members of the Corps to work.

“You could fill out the form in 10 minutes, but we were trying to fill out the form correctly,” she said, guessing that she spent up to eight hours on it in total.

There has been some suggestions that the fraudulent job claims are the fault of the filers.  I would recommend that people read through this link to learn what the process is for these folks.  They have no choice but to declare a number of jobs saved and created when receiving stimulus funds, and usually have to either use White House formulas or just guess at numbers.  In this case, it took eight hours for the recipients of the contract to figure out how to account for $900, hardly a salute to efficiency.  (They only found out later that they weren’t required to report it at all.)

In Connecticut, the accounting for jobs saved and created apparently neglected to check the work, claiming that Porkulus funds saved 108 jobs in a police department of 22 officers — who weren’t at risk of being laid off anyway.  In Texas (same link), a contractor hired five roofers and an inspector to replace some fencing and roofs in a town of 900 people, and got credited with saving 450 jobs.

That may not be as silly as the 50-job lawnmower, but it’s every bit as phony.