Flashback: White House Made Up Term “Lives Touched” To Inflate Stimulus Job Numbers

This week marks the 5-year anniversary of the $787 billion stimulus bill signed into law by President Obama.  The White House spent much of yesterday claiming the massive spending bill avoided another Great Depression, boosted the economy, and saved or created over 6 million jobs during the President’s first term.

And while trying to quantify a vague term such as a job “saved or created” is impossible, it’s important to remember that the White House went one step further – completely fabricating a phrase known as “lives touched” to help inflate those job numbers by significant amounts.

This is from a column I wrote in 2010:

Now however, the GAO report shows that the phrase ‘jobs created’ or ‘jobs saved’ is no longer the term of choice.  They have decided to go with — wait for it — ‘lives touched’.

Essentially, we’ve now transitioned from the aforementioned terminology, on to ‘jobs funded’, and eventually landed on something reminiscent of an after school special, ‘lives touched’.

So what exactly defines a touched life?

A spokesperson from the CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company explains:

“Lives Touched” is a figure that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) uses to track the amount of people who have been positively affected by the Recovery Act funds.  This total would include people who have been provided full time employment (i.e. saved and created jobs) through the Recovery Act and people who at some point have supported a project funded by the Recovery Act.

In other words, the administration has stumbled upon another way to inflate their job numbers.  They were already reporting on those saved or created, but will now include ‘people who at some point have supported a project.’

Additionally, the significance of this coming from a CH2M spokesperson cannot be overstated.  According to the Recovery.gov web site, the CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company is listed as having been awarded four of the top ten contracts from stimulus funds; contracts worth over $1.2 billion as of July 30th.  The CH2M web site boasts of 4,547 ‘lives touched’ as of March, with only $471 million in contracts.  The government web site, based on the four contracts over $1.2 billion, reports a grand total of 2,466 jobs funded.  Meaning somehow, someway, the remaining $793 million is being used to touch the lives of 2,081 individuals.  That’s $381,347 per touch.

This new accounting system being implemented by the DOE is essentially a cumulative analysis of all individuals who contribute anything to any given project.  An overall headcount of sorts.  According to reporting instructions for CH2M subcontractors, this constitutes the “total number of workers who have directly charged 1 or more hours of work time to a … contract”.  One hour of work and your life has been touched.

Additionally, the report states that, “The lives touched headcount will remain the same or increase over time as new workers become involved with ARRA contracts.  The total headcount will never decrease.”

In other words, a temporary, part-time, or seasonal worker can come into a project, work no more than one hour on said project, and that person will continue to appear in the headcount with each report.  They will not be removed upon their departure from the project.

None of this comes as a surprise to those monitoring the efforts of the DOE, however.  The GAO report lists the department as a high-risk agency due to their history of ‘ineffective oversight and poor management’.  The New Mexican reports that, “In reporting statistics for job creation, DOE often reports three different numbers that GAO found confusing and potentially misleading.”

The disparity in the numbers is overwhelming, with the GAO claiming “calculations ranged from about 5,700 jobs to 20,200, depending on the methodology used.”

Frank Munger, who is covering another of the DOE’s projects at Oak Ridge, explains, “Obviously, the job counts done using the “lives touched” method are much, much higher than those that are calculated as full-time equivalents, but it doesn’t appear that DOE has done much to explain the difference in the reports circulating publicly.”

In fact, they not only report these numbers publicly, but fail to provide any context or explanation as to how the numbers were derived.

It’s all part of the overall deception however.  The White House continues to throw out random numbers in their quest to convince the public that their behemoth stimulus bill is saving jobs at a massive rate.

Whether it is created, saved, funded, or touched, the Obama administration’s smoke and mirrors tactics continue.  Perhaps that will change.  Perhaps the American people will see right through these lies.



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