At the end of October, the White House released figures claiming that money from the $787 billion stimulus package pushed by President Obama had "created or saved" 640,000 jobs. A closer look suggests that the number was inflated dramatically by human error, confusing federal forms, double counting, and dubious assumptions.
In Wisconsin, for example, $7.3 million was allocated to the Parkland Sanitary District for work that will not begin until spring. That money is credited with 100 jobs. The correct figure was five jobs. District treasurer Eric Shaffer filled out the form incorrectly, writing down 50; that number was then counted twice, since the money was part grant and part loan. "We are volunteers, and we made a mistake," Shaffer told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Most of the jobs cited by the White House are public school teaching positions. Although states claim teachers would have been laid off if it weren't for the stimulus money, such jobs are usually among the last to go in a budget crisis.