For the past couple years, we’ve heard from the current administration about the oodles and oodles of jobs the more than $800 billion Stimulus Act “created or saved”. The exact number may be somewhere between 1.4 million and 3.6 million but is likely a lot lower, mostly because there is no way to measure if money from Washington has “saved” a job in Walla Walla, WA.
The real problem with that “saved or created” metric, at least for those of us responsible government types who think that paying more than $200,000 per job is a tad extravagant, is that the administration flung those hundreds of billions of dollars around the country like a Crewe King on a Mardi Gras float. It is nearly impossible to know how the money was spent, on which job “saving” efforts city and state governments “invested”, or even who was ultimately responsible for the money when it arrived at its destination.
Here is a great example. The city of Washington, DC got almost $900 million dollars of our money and now has no earthly idea where it all went. Really. It’s a stone-cold mystery.
Despite receiving more than $885 million in federal economic stimulus funds since 2009, the D.C. government — whose residents face one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation — cannot say how many jobs it actually created for those who live in the District.
Most of the money has been spent, and data suggest that overall regional job growth did occur as a result of the massive infusion of capital. But a review by The Washington Times of figures provided by D.C. officials shows that the city spent hundreds of millions of dollars without being able to demonstrate any significant improvement in the city’s jobs outlook.
This raises a whole host of questions, some that will make you shake your head ruefully and a couple that may well make you hit Google Maps for the nearest pitchfork and torch dealer. I checked the story carefully for any sign that the person responsible for this money had been fired or demoted or hauled out in the public square for a quick stay in the public stocks but, nope. Nothing.
We can assume from that two things. First, we can assume that both the Obama administration and the government of Washington, DC are completely fine with the fact that almost $900 million dollars of our money has evaporated without much of a trace. Second, we can surmise that the “saved or created” numbers the administration and Congressional Democrats have thrown at us for two years are, to put it politely, a giant truck full of hogwash.
Our fiscal situation is dire. According to the CBO, the deficit from just one year of the President’s last budget is so large that, if it was its own country it would be the 17th largest economy in the world. The average deficit for 2009 and 2010 was about the same size as the yearly GDP of Canada. The Stimulus Bill itself was more than the nation of Saudi Arabia produces in a whole year, by quite a bit, and we essentially threw that money down a number of bureaucratic rat holes. We created nothing lasting. We barely moved the unemployment number, if at all.
It is time for us to get serious about government spending. We can not expect that the world will always be ready to buy our debt — the equivalent of a first world economy — every year. At some point, and I suspect that will happen sooner far rather than later, the world will tell us to keep our junk debt to ourselves. And then we will be in a world of trouble.