Thursday, August 26, 2010

A "touching" way to inflate employment numbers

Rusty Weiss at Newsbusters has uncovered this cute gimmick that the Obama administration is now using when they count up how many jobs have been created by their supposed stimulus. Not only are they counting jobs created "or saved" when every economist says that there is no legitimate way to count jobs "saved," but now they've added a new category - "lives touched" by the stimulus.
A spokesperson from the CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company explains:
"Lives Touched" is a figure that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) uses to track the amount of people who have been positively affected by the Recovery Act funds. This total would include people who have been provided full time employment (i.e. saved and created jobs) through the Recovery Act and people who at some point have supported a project funded by the Recovery Act.
So what does that mean and how is it being used by the administration?
Referring back to the CH2M company, we know that their reports include a directive to use numbers which estimate ‘lives touched' by the stimulus. We not only know this from the spokesperson's explanation of the metric above, but by the reporting instructions provided to subcontractors which defines the phrase as "(the) total number of workers who have directly charged 1 or more hours of work time to a ... contract."

One hour of work and your life has been touched.

Additionally, the instructions state that, "The lives touched headcount will remain the same or increase over time as new workers become involved with ARRA contracts. The total headcount will never decrease."

In other words, a temporary, part-time, or seasonal worker can come into a project, work no more than one hour on said project, and that person will continue to appear in the headcount with each report. They will not be removed upon their departure from the project.

The DOE themselves have also confirmed this metric. Spokesman Cameron Hardy explains:
"Lives touched" represents the cumulative number of full-time, part-time, and temporary workers that have been employed with EM Recovery Act funds at some point since the start of the program in April 2009. As of June 30, 2010, the lives touched number is more than 24,000 and we have 10,500 full-time Recovery Act workers, working across the DOE Complex.
The metric, according to the DOE, was developed by the Office of Environmental Management "to capture all workers that have been employed under the Recovery Act."

But why the need to capture all workers, when some may have only worked a mere hour on a project, or who have only supported a project in some manner? Simply put, to inflate the numbers.

The GAO report claims that calculations from the DOE "ranged from about 5,700 jobs to 20,200, depending on the methodology used."
And this is where it gets fun. They generate this phony metric of "lives touched" which may be as little as having worked one hour on a project and then they start fudging their reports by mixing in the "touched" numbers with their other numbers of how many jobs have been created by the great One. The bigger numbers appear in reports and then make their way to the statements from administration officials and then into the media. And it's all based on this phony metric that no one would really use if they wanted to truly measure how many jobs have been created by the stimulus.
An example of this can be seen in an April News Flash provided by the Office of Environmental Management. The chart on the right tallies up the total headcount or ‘lives touched' as 20,249. A statement on the left claims that "EM Recovery Act funding has employed over 20,000 workers on stimulus projects in 12 states."

Which is it, employed or touched?

A contract award summary for the National Opinion Research Center speaks volumes of the disparity. In their ‘description of jobs created' section, they explain how the numbers are derived:
"...the total headcount, (the number of 'lives touched' or, the number of people who have labor hours funded by stimulus funds, not distinguishing between part-time and full-time, or the length of the job, as of June 30th is a combined total of 480 staff members hired/retained as of the end of the quarter."
The summary then goes on to explain that only 2 of the 480 jobs being discussed were newly created positions. Two jobs, but a grand total of 480 are being reported.(links int he original)
And the administration then wonders why people don't have confidence in their rosy statements about having turned the corner on the recession and employment improving. They can count all the "lives touched" they want, but people know when their lives have been truly touched and when they're employed and when they aren't.