Doocy Revives "Bogus" Cost-Per-Job Math To Attack Stimulus


Recently, Fox News' Steve Doocy has repeatedly recycled the right-wing attack that the stimulus cost taxpayers between $200,000 and $278,000 per job. In fact, PolitiFact Texas rated this claim "False," and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman called the math upon which this calculation is based "bogus."

Doocy Claims Jobs Created By The Stimulus Cost Between $200,000 And $278,000

Doocy: The Stimulus "Became A Pork Project And A Whole Bunch Of Jobs Wound Up Costing $200,000." On the August 5 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy said that the stimulus "became a pork project and a whole bunch of jobs wound up costing $200,000 a copy, and now fast forward to today and we are in a pickle." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/5/11 via Media Matters]

Doocy: "What Did Those Jobs Cost Us? A Quarter Of A Million Dollars Apiece?" On the August 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Doocy suggested that jobs created by the stimulus cost "a quarter of a million dollars apiece." From the broadcast:

DAVE BRIGGS (guest co-host): The president wants to extend unemployment. How is that going to create jobs? He wants to extend this payroll tax, which has already been continued. So there's very limited things he can do right now -- clearly no stimulus spending will happen. So --

DOOCY: What'd he really like --

BRIGGS: -- what can he do?

DOOCY: But what he'd really like is another gigantic spending bill --

BRIGGS: Right, which there's no appetite for.

DOOCY: -- which they're calling a jobs bill, which would rebuild the infrastructure. Let's build a bunch of bridges and stuff like that, and we know last time we had a great big stimulus, it was supposed to be for that shovel ready stuff that wasn't so shovel ready. What did those jobs cost us? A quarter of a million dollars apiece? How many of those people still have those jobs? [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/11]

Doocy: Each Of The Jobs Created By Stimulus "Cost An Average Of $278,000 Per Job." On the July 5 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Doocy claimed that "each [of the stimulus] jobs cost an average of $278,000 per job" in an exchange with guest co-host Dana Perino. From the broadcast:

DOOCY: According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers -- they've come out with their seventh quarterly report. And what it says is that the stimulus -- remember, it was going to save us from big unemployment --

PERINO: Save or create 3 million jobs.

DOOCY: Yeah. It was going to do that. It didn't do that. And of the jobs it did save or create, each of those jobs cost an average of $278,000 per job. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/5/11, via Media Matters]

Claim That Stimulus Jobs Cost At Least $200,000 Each is "Bogus," "False"

PolitiFact Texas: Claim That "Stimulus Cost $278K Per Job" Is "False" And Based On "Highly Misleading" Math. In a July 20 post, PolitiFact rated the claim made by David Dewhurst, Lt. Governor of Texas -- which originated from The Weekly Standard and was echoed by Doocy -- that "Obama's own economists say the stimulus cost $278K per job 'created'" as "False." From PolitiFact Texas:

The Weekly Standard item cites a July 1 report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers stating that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act "saved or created between 2.4 and 3.6 million jobs as of the first quarter of 2011." That report also tallies the sum of the stimulus bill's outlays and tax cuts at $666 billion.

The $278,000 per job figure doesn't appear in the report. To come up with that number, the publication divided the $666 billion stimulus total by the report's low-end 2.4 million job estimate to come up with a dollars-per-job statistic that it rounded off to $278,000.


We checked the White House report, and of the $666 billion stimulus total, 43 percent was spent on tax cuts for individuals and businesses; 19 percent went to state governments, primarily for education and Medicaid; and 13 percent paid for government benefits to individuals such as unemployment and food stamps.

The remainder, about 24 percent, was spent on projects such as infrastructure improvement, health information technology and research on renewable energy.

The White House points out that Recovery Act dollars didn't just fund salaries -- as the blog item implies. Lumping all stimulus costs together and classifying the total as salaries produces an inflated figure.

Furthermore, the publication created its statistic with the report's low-end jobs estimate. Had it gone with the 3.6 million job figure at the top end of the range, it would have come up with a smaller $185,000 per job figure.

Republicans made a similar assertion in November 2009, using similar calculations to contend that the stimulus cost taxpayers more than $246,000 per job. Back then, they divided $160 billion in stimulus spending by the 650,000 jobs that the White House estimated the measure had created or preserved. A "fact check" conducted at the time by the Associated Press called that math "satisfyingly simple but highly misleading."

"Any cost-per-job figure pays not just for the worker, but for the material, supplies and that workers' output -- a portion of a road paved, patients treated in a health clinic, goods shipped from a factory floor, railroad tracks laid," the 2009 Associated Press item noted.


Contrary to Dewhurst's statement, the cited cost-per-job figure was not aired by the Obama administration. At bottom, his statement leaves the misimpression that the money went solely for jobs rather than a range of projects and programs, including tax breaks. We rate his claim False. [, 7/20/11]

Krugman Called Right-Wing's Previous Claim That Stimulus Would Cost $275,000 Per Job "Bogus." Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, responded to similar claims in a January 2009 New York Times column:

First, there's the bogus talking point that the Obama plan will cost $275,000 per job created. Why is it bogus? Because it involves taking the cost of a plan that will extend over several years, creating millions of jobs each year, and dividing it by the jobs created in just one of those years.

It's as if an opponent of the school lunch program were to take an estimate of the cost of that program over the next five years, then divide it by the number of lunches provided in just one of those years, and assert that the program was hugely wasteful, because it cost $13 per lunch. (The actual cost of a free school lunch, by the way, is $2.57.)

The true cost per job of the Obama plan will probably be closer to $100,000 than $275,000 -- and the net cost will be as little as $60,000 once you take into account the fact that a stronger economy means higher tax receipts. [The New York Times, 1/25/09]

Right-Wing Media Have Repeatedly Made Similarly Misleading Attacks On Stimulus' Cost-Per-Jobs

The Weekly Standard: " 'Stimulus' Has Cost $278,000 Per Job." From a July 3 Weekly Standard blog post by Jeffrey H. Anderson, headlined "Obama's Economists: 'Stimulus' Has Cost $278,000 per Job":

When the Obama administration releases a report on the Friday before a long weekend, it's clearly not trying to draw attention to the report's contents. Sure enough, the "Seventh Quarterly Report" on the economic impact of the "stimulus," released on Friday, July 1, provides further evidence that President Obama's economic "stimulus" did very little, if anything, to stimulate the economy, and a whole lot to stimulate the debt.

The report was written by the White House's Council of Economic Advisors, a group of three economists who were all handpicked by Obama, and it chronicles the alleged success of the "stimulus" in adding or saving jobs. The council reports that, using "mainstream estimates of economic multipliers for the effects of fiscal stimulus" (which it describes as a "natural way to estimate the effects of" the legislation), the "stimulus" has added or saved just under 2.4 million jobs -- whether private or public -- at a cost (to date) of $666 billion. That's a cost to taxpayers of $278,000 per job. [The Weekly Standard, 7/3/11] Highlights The Weekly Standard's Claim. From a July 3 post by Doug Powers on

As Jeffrey Anderson at the Weekly Standard pointed out, the White House releasing a fiscal report on the Friday before a long holiday weekend can only mean one thing: There's not much good news in it for the White House, and, ergo, taxpayers.

Such is the case with the White House Council of Economic Advisors' seventh quarterly report on the impact of the "stimulus":

The council reports that, using "mainstream estimates of economic multipliers for the effects of fiscal stimulus" (which it describes as a "natural way to estimate the effects of" the legislation), the "stimulus" has added or saved just under 2.4 million jobs -- whether private or public -- at a cost (to date) of $666 billion. That's a cost to taxpayers of $278,000 per job. [, 7/3/11]

Hoft: "The Obama White House Admitted This Week That The Bogus Stimulus Cost $278,000 Per Job." In a July 3 post on his blog Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoft iterated the claim, writing, "The Obama White House admitted this week that the bogus stimulus cost $278,000 per job." [, 7/3/11]

In 2009, Right-Wing Figures Used The Same Math To Claim That Each Job Created By The Stimulus Would Cost At Least $217,000. Media Matters rebutted these claims HERE, HERE, and HERE.

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