Fox Pushes Misleading Cost-Per-Jobs Math To Attack Jobs Bill

Fox & Friends pushed the claim that the jobs created by President Obama's jobs bill would cost $200,000 per job, with co-host Brian Kilmeade asking, “Is it worth it to get a job that's going to cost the government $200,000?” But former Council of Economic Advisers chair Christina Romer has called this calculation “misleading,” and similar claims about jobs created by the stimulus have been described as “bogus.”

Fox's Kilmeade: “Is It Worth It To Get A Job That's Going To Cost The Government $200,000?”

Kilmeade: “Is It Worth It To Get A Job That's Going To Cost The Government $200,000?” On the September 27 broadcast of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade stated that “the president's jobs plan estimated to cost nearly $200,000 per job” and later asked, “Is it worth it to get a job that's going to cost the government $200,000.” From the broadcast:

KILMEADE: The economy still in the tank, but are we in the middle of a double-dip recession or about to enter one? Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was asked that question. Let's watch:

[begin video clip]

DAVID MUIR (ABC News): Can you assure us that we're not in another recession already?

GEITHNER: Well, I think for most Americans, they feel like we've still -- we've been in a recession the entire time, and it still feels very, very hard. And this is still a really, really tough economy.

MUIR: But as you sit here today, can you assure me we're not in a double-dip recession already?

GEITHNER: The economy is still growing. It's just not growing fast enough.

[end video clip]

KILMEADE: Two different conversations. But with the president's jobs plan estimated to cost nearly $200,000 per job, are they right or even on the right track to fixing the economy? For more, we turn to Fox Business senior correspondent Charles Gasparino. Charles, Timothy Geithner did not even answer the question. Is it worth it to get a job that's going to cost the government $200,000?

GASPARINO: You do wonder why he's still Treasury secretary. I mean, this is a guy who has made one mistake after another, led the most anemic economic recovery. By the way, when markets go down, economies go down very steep, they're supposed to bounce up steeply. It's supposed to be a V shape. We've had nothing but a V shape. We've had kind of a U shape, I guess is the best way to put it and, you know, listen, it's jobs -- creating jobs is not supposed to cost the American taxpayer money. It's supposed to put money back into the -- back into the federal payroll. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/27/11]

Romer: Cost-Per-Jobs Calculation Is “Misleading”

Romer: Cost-Per-Job Calculation Is “Attention-Getting, But It's Misleading.” In a September 24 New York Times op-ed, Christina Romer, former chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers and economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, called the claim that the jobs bill would cost $200,000 per job “attention getting” but “misleading.” From the op-ed:

A BATTLE is brewing over President Obama's $447 billion jobs plan. It's a sound proposal, but you might not know that listening to some of the arguments against it. They may sound plausible, but they don't stand up to scrutiny. Here are four of them.


THE COST PER JOB IS TOO HIGH Martin Feldstein, the Harvard economist, recently combined private estimates that the president's plan would raise employment by about two million in 2012, with its cost of about $450 billion. His conclusion was startling: each job produced by the plan would cost about $200,000.

This calculation is attention-getting, but it's misleading. First, many of the jobs would be in 2012, but not all. Infrastructure spending, for example, would be spread out over several years, so the total number of years of employment created over the life of the program would most likely be substantially larger than two million.

More fundamentally, the program wouldn't just create jobs. Consider the proposed $140 billion for roads, bridges, school repair and teachers. Jobs are, in a sense, a side benefit. What we're really getting is better infrastructure and more education for our children.

Then there's the $245 billion in tax cuts. That money doesn't disappear. It goes to households that can spend it on goods and services, and to businesses that can spend it on research and development and new machines. That added consumption and investment is a benefit, along with the jobs created.

The bottom line here is that we should be discussing which policies are likely to generate the most jobs while being valuable in other ways. We need to try to quantify the benefits of different government investments, and compare them with the benefits of private consumption and investment. [The New York Times, 9/24/11, emphasis in original]

Similar Claims That Stimulus Jobs Cost At Least $200,000 Have Been Called “Bogus,” “False”

PolitiFact Texas: Claim That “Stimulus Cost $278K Per Job” Is “False.” In a July 20 post, PolitiFact Texas rated the claim that “Obama's own economists say the stimulus cost $278K per job 'created' ” as “False.” [, 7/20/11]

Krugman Called Claim That Stimulus Would Cost $275,000 Per Job “Bogus.” In a January 25, 2009, New York Times column, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman called the claim that the stimulus would cost $275,000 per job “bogus”:

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. [The New York Times, 1/25/09]