A new report from the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors found that the Democratic stimulus package created or saved (ha ha) 2.4 million jobs. A simple calculation then arrives at a figure of $278 thousand dollars spent per job. (And that’s if we take the whole “created or saved” nonsense seriously; otherwise the figure would be must less rosy.)
The White House says it disputes the report, but it doesn’t really. That is, they acknowledge the estimate, but say that dividing the money spent by the jobs created or saved (ha ha) isn’t the right calculation to make. Just looking at the number of jobs underestimates the true value of the stimulus.
This is a telling argument. The Obama administration knows that it cannot justify its signature program on the basis on employment — despite that being the sole basis on which the program was sold to us — so it is moving the goalposts.
Still, is there merit to the argument? We spent $666 billion; surely we have something to show for it? No doubt we do, but it’s hard to know how much, and the White House did not offer a figure. Moreover, we should remember that a lot of the money really was wasted (e.g., on expensive signs), or was not just wasted but actually counterproductive (e.g., cash for clunkers).