It’s an interesting dilemma.  When the Obama administration took its first dip into the deficit spending pool, they went right into the deep end with 3/4 of a trillion of red ink in his stimulus package.  The Weekly Standard reported the cost per job is $278 thousand.

The White House was quick to dispute the Weekly Standard’s number, however this isn’t the first time this number has come up.  The number, in fact, comes from the government itself.

The Weekly Standard calculated the “per job cost” by dividing the cost to date of the stimulus bill, $666 billion, by the low end of the estimate of how many jobs the Council of Economic Advisers reported had been created by the legislation, 2.4 million.  The job number was provided by the administration’s Council of Economic Advisers report, issued last Friday, which stated that by the first quarter of 2011, the stimulus bill “has raised employment relative to what it otherwise would have been by between 2.4 and 3.6 million.”

The White House has been disputing the cost per job by dividing the cost of the stimulus by the number of jobs created, but provides no verifiable data other than their own reports

Liz Ozhorn, the key White House spokesman for the stimulus bill, said that the Weekly Standard report “is based on partial information and false analysis. The Recovery Act was more than a measure to create and save jobs; it was also an investment in American infrastructure, education and industries that are critical to America’s long-term success and an investment in the economic future of America’s working families. Thanks to the Recovery Act, 110 million working families received a tax cut through the Making Work Pay tax credit, over 110,000 small businesses received critical access to capital through $27 billion in small business loans and more than 75,000 projects were started nationwide to improve our infrastructure, jump-start emerging industries and spur local economic development. The nonpartisan CBO has confirmed that the Recovery Act delivered as promised, lowering the unemployment rate by as much as 2 percent, boosting GDP by as much as 4 percent and creating and saving as many as 3.6 million jobs.”

Had the Weekly Standard used the best possible number of 3.6 million jobs, it would run in direct opposition to the government’s own reports of unemployment.  However if you wish to humor the Obama administration, even 3.6 million jobs would result in a per job cost of $186 thousand.  Ms. Ozhorn likes to emit a fog by indicating that not all the money went directly into jobs, but that was the intent.  Everything in our economy is about job creation and apparently the Obama administration doesn’t get it.  When the economy is growing at a healthy pace businesses expand and create jobs.  Tax cuts provided through the Making Work Pay program were intended to get Americans to spend, again, causing businesses to create jobs.  They just don’t get it.

What seems far less clear is the longevity of any of these so-called “created or saved jobs.”  Many of the President’s stimulus jobs were quite short in duration.  A job lasting 6 months, grossing a healthy $30 thousand, would produce, at most, $5,500 in tax revenue; realistically that number is closer to $3,000.

With a net cost per job averaging $272 thousand or $180 thousand if you chose to use the administration’s numbers, would the government have been wiser to simply write a check to each stimulus beneficiary?  Some would’ve done nothing with the windfall, but some would’ve used the money on education or to start a business, potentially creating many more jobs.

Many of those saved or created jobs are now gone, and the taxpayer is left holding a very expensive and quite empty bag.

There is no place for government in the creation of employment, with the sole exception of replacing government positions lost to death or retirement; neither of which were the intent of the stimulus.  Government programs and squandered tax dollars go hand-in-hand, but in this instance it likely not only wasted billions of dollars but extended the unemployment of millions of Americans.