Back in January, the Republicans claimed that the economic stimulus package would cost $275,000 for every job created, which they calculated by taking the entire cost of the stimulus package and dividing it by the number of jobs created in just one year. At the time, Paul Krugman called the Republicans’ number a “bogus talking point.” With the White House’s announcement last week that the stimulus package has created 640,000 to 1 million jobs, the GOP is employing fuzzy math once again. Don Stewart, spokesman for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), told reporters on Friday to “get out your calculators” and divide the spending by the jobs, producing a figure of $230,769 per job. Media outlets Fox News, CNN, and CNBC have all repeated some variation of the number (using slightly different estimates) in the last few days. Watch a compilation:
First, the naysayers’ calculations ignore the value of the work produced. Any cost-per-job figure pays not just for the worker, but for material, supplies and that worker’s output — a portion of a road paved, patients treated in a health clinic, goods shipped from a factory floor, railroad tracks laid. Second, critics are counting the total cost of contracts that will fuel work for months or years and dividing that by the number of jobs produced only to date.
As Woodward wrote, “dividing apples by oranges won’t settle” whether or not the stimulus package has been a success.