"Stimulus" Fuzzy Math of the Day: How Many Congressional Districts "Saved or Created?

Posted: Nov 18, 2009 8:00 AM
Guest post from Mattie Duppler with the Center for Fiscal Accountability

A new page in the Obama playbook has appeared with regards to “stimulus” tracking – instead of making up jobs, the recovery.gov data is making up places for people to be employed.

The data on federal government’s “stimulus” tracking site is rife with locations where jobs were supposedly created but don’t actually exist. ABC reported yesterday that 30 jobs had been created in Arizona’s 15th Congressional District (CD) with only $761,420 in “stimulus” funds. Arizona, however, only has 8 CDs. Here at CFA, we hypothesized that the errors may be due to a misunderstanding of state workers, who reported using their state district numbers instead of their federal ones (even though, with the “stimulus” boondoggle being a brainchild of the federal magnitude, I would think this would be an obvious mistake). I took a look at the recovery.gov data to see if this was the case – the problem is, as we have seen so many times, recovery.gov is totally deficient when it comes to actually tracking your money.

For instance, data on “jobs created” in Wisconsin shows that 1.8 jobs were created in the state’s 14th CD. Wisconsin, like Arizona, only has 8 CDs. I figured I should be able to click on the data and see where in the state the reporting had taken place and locate the alleged 14th CD.  The data, however, is stuck in a static graph on the site, giving taxpayers no means of actually locating their money, which has, according to one report, gone to 440 imaginary CDs.

These errors are not going unnoticed. Rep. Dave Obey (Wis.) sent a letter to the President scolding him for the “ludicrous mistakes” and demanding that: "Whether the numbers are good news or bad news, I want the honest numbers and I want them now."

If this is a case of simple human error and state agencies are reporting using state district numbers instead of federal ones (again, ignoring the fact that many states have data listed for “00 Congressional District," which is another issue entirely) taxpayers can hardly be excited about their hard-earned money paying for these asinine mistakes. Perhaps we should turn our attention away from jobs “saved or created” in mystical CDs and instead focus on jobs replaced – as in those belonging to state workers who don’t know the difference between the federal and state districts in which they live.

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