Media Matters: These $2 Million Jobs Would Look Like A Bargain If They Could Just Spend the Money Faster


Wendy Greuel

Yesterday Los Angeles Controller Wendy Greuel released audit results of two city agencies that have received more than $111 million in ARRA stimulus money. As Peter Suderman noted today, the total number of jobs the departments eventually plan to retain or create (264) means taxpayers would be paying more than $400,000 per job. As I noted yesterday, the total number of jobs the Departments of Transportation and Public Works have actually retained or created (fewer than 55) would make the price $2 million per job.

Media Matters doesn't like the wave of $2-million-job stories that followed the report the way a cold beer follows a hot workday. So after a laundry list of stories from the "right-wing media"—a list Reason (sniff!) didn't make—it states: "In fact, Los Angeles did not 'spend' $2 million per job."

Since I didn't make that claim (and most of the people Media Matters calls out didn't either), I'm not sure what this correction amounts to. In my view the national news media should be even more incensed that American taxpayers—rather than just L.A. taxpayers—have spent $111 million in the City of the Angels and essentially have made no dent in unemployment, at a time when the Obama brain trust wants us to think the recession is over or winding down. That the two departments were given $111 million is not in doubt. That they retained or created fewer than 55 jobs with that money is not in doubt. They may claim that 200 more jobs are on the way, but the facts are so far not there. (And if past ARRA performance is any guide, they never will be.) Moreover, as Greuel notes repeatedly in her reports, the two agencies' accounting of how they're spending these taxpayer-funded windfalls is so poor that any such claims should be treated with skepticism.

So is the case supposed to be less objectionable because the DOT and DPW have not been spending money fast enough?

Sometimes things look bad because they are bad. That can be true even when the right-wing media believe it.