Tracking Our Economic Recovery

February 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Economics

track_recoveryLast week I wrote about my reactions to the President’s first press conference and particularly his comments about the stimulus plan.  You may recall that one of the reporters asked the President how we would know if and when the plan was working, i.e., what metrics should we be monitoring to make that determination?  The President kept repeating “create or save” 4 million jobs.

I’ve since learned that the White House has created a special website ( that is specifically directed at promoting and tracking the progress of the stimulus plan.  There is actually some useful information on this site about the plan (now law of course), including the full text itself, if you need something to read.  For one, there is this chart which in very broad strokes tells us how the funds are allocated:

Amount ($ Billions) 
Tax Relief
State and Local Fiscal Relief
Infrastructure and science
Protecting the Vulnerable
Health Care
Education and Training


One piece of information that is not available is how much of this new spending does the President intend to have recur after 2010, when the authorization for this spending expires.  That is an issue of concern to many fiscal conservatives and one that the President has scrupulously avoided talking about. has an interactive map of the U.S. that, as you scroll around, will display the number of jobs that the President’s Council of Economic Advisers estimate will be “created or saved” in each state.  That tells me that I am right that when the President’s pitch for the plan transformed from “creating” jobs to “create or save”, it was the work of his economic advisers.  California is the big “jobs” winner with 396,000 while Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware gets only 12,000.  I wonder if the estimated allocation of jobs was based on population alone?  If so, I’m not impressed with their homework.  It also would be nice to see how many of those “estimated” jobs saved/created are in the private sector.  Not surprisingly, that little bit of information is not included.  Governments at all levels are highly motivated to save their own first because those are the surest bets for future voters.

There is also a scrollable plan “timeline” which is labeled “tentative.”  Right now, the last data point on the timeline is to me also the most important:  July 15, 2009.   This date, we are told, is when recipients of Federal funding have to tell us how they are using our money. says we will be able to track spending “every step of the way.”  Thus, I will be quite interested in seeing how much detail the recipients of this new spending are required to share in what they are doing with it.  If all we get are press releases such as “Today the city of Los Angeles spent $2.5 billion in stimulus funds to protect the most vulnerable of its citizens”, I’m going to throw up.  Nothing against “vulnerable citizens” but this doesn’t tell us anything about how our tax dollars are being spent.  The President is all about “transparency and accountability” in the use of our money so we deserve a lot more detail than that.

Kudos to the White House for launching  I am pleased with the use of technology to deliver information to us.  Now we wait to see if this is more form than substance.  Moreover, I hope that the last entry on the timeline is not “sorry – it didn’t work.”

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2 Responses to “Tracking Our Economic Recovery”
  1. Rick Beagle says:

    I believe that the website is a terrific idea, and admittedly, the layout is well done if not particularly useful at the moment. Of course there are pundits already deriding the cost of maintaining this, but for my part, I enjoy the thought of seeing my tax dollars at work. Time will tell whether this is just another smoke screen, or whether this will be a useful tool for keeping people accountable.

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing some legislation requiring all government agencies (not dependent on secrecy) to show us how they spend their money. I love the US military, but them folks could use a little cleaning house with regards to fiscal accountability (some pundits put waste at 25-33%). As a veteran, yes sir, I believe those numbers are quite possible.

    Good post.
    Rick Beagle

  2. Rick: Thanks for the visit and wouldn’t be nice if all government agencies published their spending details. I recall a small business I worked for that sent a list of checks issued each day to every shareholder. That was refreshing.

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