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June 22, 2009

Math in the Age of Obama: WH Will Rely on Self-Counting by "Stimulus" Recipients to Determine How Many Jobs are "Created;" Claims He Won't Stand for Any Numbers Fudged Just to Justify the Expenditure

At the White House today, two top members of Obama's stimulus message team explained Obama's plan of "money momentum." Skip to 1:30 for the good parts of his plan.

But seriously.

Attention workers: If you're getting federal stimulus money, stand up and prepare to be counted. And no cheating.

The Obama administration issued its long-awaited rules for tallying jobs Monday and warned that local politicians trying to inflate their numbers would surely be caught.

As part of the $787 billion stimulus law, governors, mayors and contractors must begin reporting job numbers to the federal government in October. The data collected could provide the most accurate count of workers employed by stimulus money, a number that is expected to be far more precise than the murky and unverifiable promise that 3.5 million jobs will be created by the end of next year.

But for months, there has been confusion over what the rules would be. What's a created job? A saved job? Could a construction worker be counted twice if he worked two part-time contracts? On highway jobs, do you count just the laborers, or also the extra wait staff at the nearby lunch spot?

Under the rules released Monday, the White House told governors, mayors and contractors to keep it simple.

"Just count the people being paid out of Recovery Act dollars," said Rob Nabors, deputy director at the White House budget office.

To avoid double-counting, a job means a full-time, full-year job. So a student working a 9-to-5 job for his three-month summer vacation will be counted as one-fourth of a job. The part-time teacher who works all year is half a job. And the full-time highway contractor who works all year is one job.

Um, if a company employing 500 people takes enough stimulus money to pay 10 employees out of those sums, that doesn't mean any jobs have been "saved or created." That only means they now have "free money" and are paying a few employees with that free money. It doesn't mean a job was created -- the job already existed -- and doesn't mean it was "saved," either, because there's no evidence the company would have eliminated the position but for the money, either.

Further, much of this money is pure pork directed towards specific tasks. If a company takes "stimulus" money to build a dog park, that doesn't mean the money taken has "saved or created" any jobs at all. You can't assume, for example, the company simply wouldn't have been doing other jobs, real jobs paid for by private citizens and companies because they actually need those jobs done.

But Obama is going to simply claim, in effect, that every $40 or $50,000 of stimulus paid out "saves or creates" one job, because that's ballpark average salary. A pork project costs $40,000,000? Wonderful! That means that 1000 jobs were saved or created! Obviously, Obama's dollars must translate 1:1 into the salaries of "saved or created" jobs.

Now that's "Money Momentum!" Folks, we just saved or created 1000 jobs. Give yourselves all a hand.

These utterly fake numbers, with their ludicrously self-serving assumptions, can be "figured" out simply by dividing Obama's stimulus figure of $787 billion and dividing it by the average salary. But it would be too transparent if Obama just did that. So he goes by the slightly more circuitous route of "counting" the same number, relying on the beneficieries of his our largesse to report these same idiotic figures back to him. Took $400,000? Obviously then ten workers are being paid by the stimulus, and that's 10 more jobs "saved or created," and you'd better not say otherwise if you want federal money to keep flowing.

It's insultingly stupid and dishonest, and of course the press will claim -- as they already are claiming -- that this is "much more accurate" than Obama's previous guestimates, which the press, by the way, didn't really inform us were inaccurate to start with.

Let Me Explain... Again, it made perfect sense in my head, but I didn't express it well in writing.

Suppose Obama simply released his own "figures," which assumed a 1 for 1 translation of stimulus spending into salaries of jobs "saved or created." That is, he assumes each and every dollar he spends in stimulus is a dollar that pays a "saved or created" job's salary. Get to $40,000 or so, and you have "saved or created" an entire job.

Now: Everyone would laugh at the ludicrous assumptions in this "calculation."

So he avoids doing that... directly. Instead, he asks those who are receiving stimulus money to report back to him how many jobs are "saved or created" with the spending.

Except that's not what he asks-- that would still leave a lot of subjectivity and guesswork as to which jobs really were "saved or created." He doesn't want that.

So what he asks is for the people receiving the money to just tell him how many people's salaries are now being "paid" by the stimulus -- but instructs them to count these "saved or created" jobs precisely the same way he can't do himself, because it would be so obviously self-serving and based upon silly assumptions.

He can't himself make the absurd claim that "stimulus" money saves or creates jobs on a one dollar in, one dollar out basis. Or anything close to that. He'd be laughed out of DC.

But the "accounting rules" he's given to companies taking the money insist on precisely that -- that anyone taking money report back to him that each dollar they receive pays a "saved or created" job salary.

The advantage to Obama? He can pretend these numbers are "objective" and "vetted" by "independent" sources. So they must be accurate.

Not so: Garbage in, garbage out. He's instructed them to assume all the ludicrous nonsense he himself can't assume in "counting," so he's essentially demanding they parrot back his risible "numbers" to him. He's given them the exact mathematical "rules" they must follow in "counting," and they will wind up being 1:1, more or less, of stimulus dollar spent and dollar received in a "saved or created" job.

This is the accounting or statistical equivalent of money laundering -- concealing the source by laundering it through a front. Obama's "accounting rules" force a ridiculous result, but these results won't come from Obama himself, supposedly, but instead from the front-companies he demands "launder" his silly math back to him.

Obama can't claim 2+2 = 5. So instead he instructs those taking money to perform calculations by the ObamaMath of 2 + 2 = 5. Then these companies dutifully report back 2 + 2 = 5.

Obama then shows off his handiwork to the press and thereby to the public. See? 2 + 2 = 5. I'm not the one telling you so; I have all of these independent companies, who wouldn't lie about such things, telling you so! It's confirmed by outside authority!

And so, 2 + 2 does wind up being equal to 5, at least in ObamaLand.

Thanks to WilliamA.

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posted by Ace at 05:40 PM

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