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WH Defends Stimulus Number ‘Errors’

From the White House’s official website:

Looking at the Big Picture on the Recovery Act

Posted by G. Edward DeSeve on November 17, 2009

Last month, in a first-ever effort by the federal government recipients that received Recovery Act funds had to file a report saying how much they had received, what they had done with it, and how many jobs these funds had saved or created. The reports were due just 10 days after the end of the federal fiscal year on September 30th, and were posted on Recovery.gov just 20 days later.

More than 130,000 such reports were filed. You can go to Recovery.gov and look them up by zip code, or search for them on a map. It’s a “real-time” update on your tax dollars at work that is unmatched by any federal initiative, ever, of this scale.

As part of President Obama’s commitment to transparency and disclosure, it’s been a huge success. When you consider the sheer number of reports that had to be filed, processed, and posted; the fact that this had never been done before; and the very short time to check reports and make sure they were right – the data collected and posted is very impressive.

Unfortunately, it would be hard to know that by reading some of what’s been written and said about recipient reporting. The Administration has been criticized for pointing out to the independent Recovery Board some erroneous reports that should not have been posted – and for failing to find all the erroneous reports. Skeptics have raised doubts about reports that show jobs created with no funds spent (although that is possible, as workers are hired in anticipation of projects starting), or funds spent with no jobs created (when materials are purchased for projects that are not yet underway).

Some filers, working with the new system, punched in the wrong Congressional district, and some just got the data wrong. And about 10% of those folks who were supposed to file a report haven’t filed it yet.

We fully agree with those who find the mistakes in the data frustrating – and we’ve been working with the Recovery Board to find the mistakes, and fix them. Just because mistakes are inevitable in any new system – especially one this large, and this new — doesn’t mean they are acceptable. We are going through the reports with a fine tooth comb, identifying mistakes, and working with filers to correct them. That said, three big picture points should not be lost.

First, the mistakes are RELATIVELY few, and don’t change the fundamental conclusions one can draw from the data. Even if as many as 5-10% of the reports or 5-10% of the totals are wrong (and we don’t think it is that high), that still means the Recovery Act saved or created between 600,000 and 700,000 direct jobs in its first seven months – more than most experts predicted when it passed. And most leading experts agree that – whatever the recipient reported total should be – the actual number of jobs saved or created is about double that, because the recipient reports don’t include direct payments to individuals, the jobs created by Recovery Act tax cuts, and the jobs created when workers on Recovery Act projects spend their paychecks.

Second, some of the mistakes are frustrating typos and coding errors that don’t undermine information at the heart of the data. Yes, it is “silly” that Recovery.gov shows that a project went to the 15th Congressional District in Arizona – when there is no such district. But a “click” on the project details gives you the address, and a check on the address shows it is in Arizona’s 3rd district. All this shows is that when people send in 130,000 reports, some will have silly mistakes. But it doesn’t really undermine the ability of the public to track and follow the data – or the fact that real jobs have been created.

Third, transparency is going to be messy – but it is better than the alternative. It would be great if every report filed was correct the first time, on time, and contained no errors. But that’s not realistic when 130,000 reports are being filed in a 10 day period. It would be great if the reviewers at the federal agencies, could have found all the mistakes in the 20 days they had to do the job, gotten the reports back to the recipients to be fixed, and reposted – but again, that isn’t realistic. And so, it’s all out there now for the public to see – because the Recovery Act chose speed and transparency as its watchwords – and the result is some data errors for the critics to pick over. But think about it this way: What government program has ever even attempted to provide this sort of information, on this scale, this quickly? In my over thirty years of government service, I can tell you without hesitation: something like this has never happened before. In previous administrations, hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent without anyone being asked what happened to the money, being asked how it was spent, or being asked how many jobs were created – and some of the loudest critics of Recovery Act data today were shockingly silent. And if these questions were asked, answers would usually take months or years to produce.

Last month, something happened that has never happened before. Critics – some well intentioned, some who just wanting to discredit the Recovery Act — have had over two weeks to try to make hay with the data. But no criticism has come close to discrediting the larger and most important point: that the Recovery Act has helped save or create more than 1 million jobs across America and across various sectors of the economy. The data will get better and better – but in the noise over counting jobs, we shouldn’t lose sight of the Recovery Act’s progress in creating them.

G. Edward DeSeve is Special Advisor to the President, Assistant to the Vice President and Special Advisor to the OMB Director for Implementation of the Recovery Act

Again, is Mr. DeSeve’s name pronounced ‘deceive’ or ‘de-sieve’?

Critics – some well intentioned, some who just wanting to discredit the Recovery Act — have had over two weeks to try to make hay with the data. But no criticism has come close to discrediting the larger and most important point: that the Recovery Act has helped save or create more than 1 million jobs across America and across various sectors of the economy.

Sure they haven’t.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, November 17th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

16 Responses to “WH Defends Stimulus Number ‘Errors’”

  1. David says:

    wow, 130,000 reports on “saved or created” jobs filed! Seems like their must be a lot of people out there who know the secret formula for determining if a job was saved. So what exactly is that formula…? Crickets.

    • U NO HOO says:

      Filing 130,000 reports is a lot of jobs.

      Like building those highway signs.

    • caligirl9 says:

      I finally saw one of those stupid signs down the street from me.
      I am not sure what they are doing though. Looks like they are putting in plants in the median. The sign probably cost more than the plants.

    • pdsand says:

      They put those signs up on Academy Blvd and Woodmen Rd. in Colorado Springs like 3 months after the work had been going on. The city had its ‘businesses are open, thank you for your patronage’ sign up the whole time, now all of a sudden it’s funded by the american recovery and reinvestment act. I’m sure the city is more than glad to have the feds pay, but it’s really hard to call that stimulus on the part of the federal government. That was a project that was not just ‘shovel ready’ but in fact nearly ‘completely shoveled’.

  2. wardmama4 says:

    -‘Third, transparency is going to be messy – but it is better than the alternative’-& – ‘ the fact that this had never been done before’ –

    How ironically ironic – This Administration knows nothing about transparency and thus lives in the ‘alternative’ – which is subterfuge, lies and distortion. Such as their ‘saved’ jobs – as you would have to be a time traveler to know if a job was actually ‘saved’ or not in the future.

    And you can tell me with a straight face that in a horrible economy after a President instituted a policy change – there never, ever was an objective (gag, gag) review of the success or failure of such a policy on jobs/economy? What a crock of bs.

    But to a bunch of people who believe that this empty suit is anything New, Change, Different, – they obviously know nothing about truth or reality.

    And how about the new story breaking on this Stimulus Errors – (via Drudge) -‘Here’s a stimulus success story: In Arizona’s 15th congressional district, 30 jobs have been saved or created with just $761,420 in federal stimulus spending. At least that’s what the Web site set up by the Obama administration to track the $787 billion stimulus says.

    There’s one problem, though: There is no 15th congressional district in Arizona; the state has only eight districts.’ –

    Transparency my a** – Speaking Truth to Power – these losers wouldn’t know the truth if it bit them on their lying forked tongues.

  3. Petronius says:

    “transparency is going to be messy….”

    Hilarious. That line is going to be an instant classic.

    I am old enough to remember when language and numbers used to mean something. Words and numbers used to be tools of honor, always to be used as if one were under oath.

    Now, in the new Liberal rubber-reality, words and numbers are merely weapons for pretending, distorting, and deceiving –– weapons to be used like other Liberal weapons, such as fraud, force, plunder, and other Liberal favorites.

    Against them our weapons seem so old fashioned: truth, knowledge, reason, ethics, rights, and a sense of humor. Those weapons don’t seem to carry much of a punch anymore. Except here on S&L. On S&L those things still matter. Which is why I love this place.

  4. sheehanjihad says:

    Obama’s administration is about as transparent as a foot thick sheet of depleted uranium.

  5. MinnesotaRush says:

    This administration and its’ leader are grounded in a very tiny sliver of reality. Tiny. Very, very tiny! Hardly existant!

    A bunch of kids making sh_t up as they go. Whatta ya’ wanna hear???

  6. proreason says:

    “Even if as many as 5-10% of the reports or 5-10% of the totals are wrong (and we don’t think it is that high), that still means the Recovery Act saved or created between 600,000 and 700,000 direct jobs in its first seven months”

    BullSHIT.

    The whole premise of jobs “saved or created” is a) ludicrous and b) impossible to prove. But that’s the reason it was invented by these rodeo clowns, isn’t it?

    What these child-like errors and distortions actually mean is that these loop-de-loops have concocted an expensive data collection exercise that is fanciful and utterly useless. After which they have had the gonads to brag that their error rates are not only low, but that they PROVE the validity of the incorrect and bogus data.

    The only thing it really proves is that they read Mein Kampf, and as Hitler wrote, they fully understand that many people will simply be unable to believe that the perpetrators of this massive con and of this multi-million dollar web-site “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously”.

  7. ptat says:

    MR DECEIVE??! How blatant!

  8. Chuckk says:

    This is nothing. What about all the other numbers the government gets wrong, like how much Medicare was supposed to be costing today vs. how much it actually costs?

    How can the figures they bandy about the cost of health care “reform” be trusted?

  9. bill says:

    Our dear reader has a big problem with truth.

  10. Pheylan says:

    “Some filers, working with the new system, punched in the wrong Congressional district, and some just got the data wrong. And about 10% of those folks who were supposed to file a report haven’t filed it yet.”

    I could accept this statement as true if the Congressional districts were simply the wrong number, and not non existent CD’s. As any good database designer/administrator will tell you, information that is not going to change frequently, e.g. a Congressional district number, then you limit users’ ability to change the enterable information. What this means is that if someone is entering information for Congressional district 2 in New Mexico rather than having them put in a “2” for Congressional district, they are only allowed to select it from a drop down list.

    So either the Whitehouse is hiring incompetents to design their databases or they are actively falsifying data.

    • caligirl9 says:

      You can hire something called proofreaders and fact checkers to avoid problems in the future.
      However, it is necessary to hire someone who knows how to write and check facts.
      Not another affirmative action hire.

      (And no I am not applying for the job. I do have some morals. Outright lying is one of them.)

  11. Tater Salad says:

    Beyond Appeasement: The Concession Man.

    by Herbert I. London

    When Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich in 1936 he noted that based on his stance of appeasement with Hitler “peace was at hand.” Alas, Chamberlain was duped and, as might have been expected, history has not treated him kindly. But, however false the concessions made by Hitler, Chamberlain believed he had obtained a concession: Restraint on Nazi imperial ambitions.

    In 2009 America ’s own Chamberlain, President Obama, has adopted a stance beyond appeasement; he engages in preemptive conciliation without any expectation of a quid pro quo. President Obama does not wait to be double-crossed; he is concession man who gives before he is asked and remarkably puts American interests at risk in order to enhance his international standing.

    Without securing any benefit from the withdrawal of missile sites and radars in Poland and the Czech Republic , President Obama blithely gave up what had been negotiated and settled with our allies. This move was heralded by the Russians, as might be expected. But Russian leaders immediately noted that they will not use this gesture to put pressure on Iran ’s ambition to obtain nuclear weapons. After all, a Russian spokesman noted, “Why should we make a concession when you’ve decided to correct a mistake?”

    On September 23, President Obama addressed the United Nations, and in the midst of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, he embraced the Palestinian position for a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, a divided Jerusalem , a cessation of new settlements in the West Bank and a “contiguous” Palestinian state. This was said without the slightest concession from the Palestinian side. There wasn’t any demand that the state of Israel must be recognized. There was not the slightest recognition of defensible borders. There was not a hint that Palestinian violence would be arrested. And most significantly, there did not seem to be the slightest recognition of geographic realities: A contiguous Palestinian state of Gaza and the West Bank means Israel would have to be divided in half.

    Israel , America ’s only real ally in the Middle East , was being dismembered in front of the General Assembly amid thunderous applause from the ranks of tyrannical states. It was as if Ahmadinejad wrote Obama’s speech.

    President Obama also suggested that he stands for the oppressed people of the world – a truly noble sentiment. Yet in the next breath he alluded to the electoral victory of Ahmadinejad in Iran – this, as the oppressed there were on the streets, beaten by the Revolutionary Guard, harassed in the homes, murdered by government thugs and raped in prison. Yet those oppressed people were ignored by our president. Here again an emotional concession was made without the slightest reciprocal gesture from the Iranian leadership.

    And why should they or any of our enemies concede anything when President Obama does their bidding? General Khadafy thinks Obama should be president for life. The only problem with this idea from Khadafy’s perspective would be that the president might soon run out of things to concede.

    This plunge into the U.N. quagmire has made the president and, to an unprecedented degree, the nation look weak and ineffectual. It appears as if the United States is in decline and cannot marshal the fortitude to defend its own interests. When Chavez, Castro, Ahmadinejad, Khadafy applaud the action of an American president, something must be wrong.

    What is wrong, of course, is that concession man in his pursuit of a transnational agenda, no longer represents the will of the American people. He is, in his own eyes, president of the world, a world in which national sovereignty is subordinated to global concerns. From global warming to the zero option on nuclear weapons, President Obama is employing these policy instruments to foster his global goals.

    Where this will end is anyone’s guess. But on one point I am sure: Should Obama’s policies be pursued, the world of the future will see an America in decline and instability rampant on the world stage: Welcome to the Second Dark Ages.

    Herbert London is president of Hudson Institute and professor emeritus of New York University .

    Copyright – Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

    This President is right up there with Jimmy Carter as the worst one yet and we still have 3 more years!

  12. proreason says:

    “He is, in his own eyes, president of the world, a world in which national sovereignty is subordinated to global concerns. From global warming to the zero option on nuclear weapons, President Obama is employing these policy instruments to foster his global goals. ”

    Bingo

    He has never had a position where his primary focus was anything other than the next rung of the ladder.

    For a person with his colossal ego (based on zero accomplishments), POTUS is small potatoes.


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