ABC Champions White House’s ‘Greatest Hits of the Stimulus Program,’ Sawyer Trumpets ‘We Have the List!’

ABC’s World News whored itself out Thursday night to a hapless effort by the White House to prove its “stimulus” spending created a lot of jobs. “Still ahead on World News,” an easily impressed Diane Sawyer hyped, “We have the list! That White House stimulus, the top success stories. An exclusive report.” Jon Karl proceeded to highlight “the greatest hits of the stimulus program,” including a payout to the owner of MSNBC, but the White House examples he touted totaled a piddling 418 jobs.

Sawyer announced the “President's stimulus program” of $818 billion was “designated to create or save millions of jobs” and though “Republicans say it's been largely unsuccessful,” the “White House is firing back, and our Jon Karl has a look at the top of the list, the ones that have worked the best.” Previewing a report to be released Friday by the Vice President’s office, “100 Recovery Act Projects that Are Changing America” (AP dispatch), Karl trumpeted how “the White House will detail the top 100 stimulus programs in the country. We have an exclusive list at what they considered the greatest hits of the stimulus program.”

Karl began with a project in New Jersey “where a toxic area contaminated by an old electronics plant is being transformed into a new industrial park, thanks to $30 million stimulus dollars” and, he raved, “the project has already created 68 jobs.”

Showing the effort to which ABC went to produce the advertisement for President Obama, the Washington DC-based Karl showed himself at the site of his second example in New York City, to which he credited 120 jobs: “The White House is also touting the $175 million in stimulus funds being spent here at New York's Staten Island ferry terminal, replacing nine bridges like this one that are in a dangerous state of disrepair.”

Next, after noting Senator John McCain’s claim the spending has been a waste, Karl cited “230 jobs created” by “$51 million for a new facility for injured veterans at Fort Bliss, Texas” and, finally, without any job creation claim, “$25 million in tax credits for GE to build a new plant for energy efficient appliances in Louisville, Kentucky.” That would be a little corporate welfare for MSNBC’s owner.

Karl concluded that adding up all the jobs in the 100 projects in the White House list, though he did not cite a total claimed number, “comes to $250,000 per job, but the White House says the actual cost per job is much lower, because each of these projects will have ripple effects, creating many more jobs in the future.”

Sawyer then reiterated the White House line: “So they say these are facts, too, and these are the facts that show it's been working.”

The MRC’s Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the story on the Thursday, September 16 edition of ABC’s World News:


DIANE SAWYER: As we know, there's been an ongoing debate in this country about the jobs crisis, and the President's stimulus program – $818 billion designated to create or save millions of jobs. Republicans say it's been largely unsuccessful. But tonight, the White House is firing back, and our Jon Karl has a look at the top of the list, the ones that have worked the best. Jon?

JONATHAN KARL: That's right. This is in direct response to all those Republican attacks. The White House will detail the top 100 stimulus programs in the country. We have an exclusive list at what they considered the greatest hits of the stimulus program. The report highlights projects like this one in South Plainfield, New Jersey, where a toxic area contaminated by an old electronics plant is being transformed into a new industrial park, thanks to $30 million stimulus dollars.
                        
JARED BERNSTEIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF ECONOMIST: We're creating employment, getting folks in there, cleaning up that environment, and this will be a new industrial park creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs in decades to come.

KARL: The project has already created 68 jobs and is designed to be an economic boon to the South Plainfield area once it's completed next year. The White House is also touting the $175 million in stimulus funds being spent here at New York's Staten Island ferry terminal, replacing nine bridges like this one that are in a dangerous state of disrepair.

JANETTE SADIK-KHAN, NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: We're thrilled to have stimulus money available to repair the vital links that will keep New York City strong.

KARL: There are now 120 workers on the job here, rebuilding a transportation hub that services 65,000 commuters every day. The White House report is a direct response to Senators John McCain and Tom Coburn, who have issued three separate reports on what they call the top 100 wasteful stimulus projects. Those reports highlighted things like the $3.4 million spent on the so-called "turtle tunnel," allowing animals to go from one side of Florida's Route 27 to the other. Here's what McCain told us about his last report.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): I think all of them are waste. I think none of them, really, have any meaningful impact on creating jobs.

BERNSTEIN: Republicans have often criticized the recovery act without recognizing projects specifically like the ones in this report.

KARL: Projects like $51 million for a new facility for injured veterans at Fort Bliss, Texas –  230 jobs created; $25 million in tax credits for GE to build a new plant for energy efficient appliances in Louisville, Kentucky. GE is investing $600 million of its own money, bringing production now done in China back to the U.S.

The White House lists the total cost and the number of jobs created for each of these top projects. Now, Diane, doing a little math, it comes to $250,000 per job, but the White House says the actual cost per job is much lower, because each of these projects will have ripple effects, creating many more jobs in the future.

SAWYER: So they say these are facts, too, and these are the facts that show it's been working. Okay, thank you, Jon Karl.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center