Explaining 'Lives Touched' to the Mainstream Media

In late July, a Government Accountability Office report circulated which analyzed stimulus funding being spent by the Department of Energy.  The main gist of that report involved the cost of each job being generated by the stimulus bill - a staggering $194,000.  Tucked away in that report was a phrase that was new to most of us, a way to calculate jobs through a term called ‘lives touched'.

Last week it was confirmed that some departments being funded by the stimulus are indeed using the metric ‘lives touched' - a regression from the absurd ‘jobs saved or created', which was already a step down from the incalculable ‘jobs created'.

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.

Essentially, the Obama administration had figured out another way to inflate job numbers to better fit their claims of success.  And yet, the media has remained largely silent on this matter.  Even as Vice-President Biden released a report on the Recovery Act yesterday, with a specific focus on the Department of Energy and job creation.

Below is an outline of how the administration and the DOE are collaborating to inflate their numbers by measuring the number of ‘lives touched' by the stimulus bill.

In their remarks, Vice-President Biden and DOE Secretary Chu reference job creation several times (emphasis mine throughout).

Biden:  "...the Recovery Act's $100 billion investment in innovation is not only transforming the economy and creating new jobs...

Chu:  "...these breakthroughs are helping create tens of thousands of new jobs..."

Biden:  "We're planting the seeds of innovation, but private companies and the nation's top researchers are helping them grow, launching entire new industries, transforming our economy and creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the process."

The Biden report being cited, The Recovery Act: Transforming the American Economy Through Innovation, references several companies that have generated jobs through the Recovery Act.  Each footnote in the report explains that the job estimates are from a company's own reports, which is the norm for reporting job results through the recovery website.

Referring back to the CH2M company, we know that their reports include a directive to use numbers which estimate ‘lives touched' by the stimulus.  We not only know this from the spokesperson's explanation of the metric above, but by the reporting instructions provided to subcontractors which defines the phrase as "(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 instructions state 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.

The DOE themselves have also confirmed this metric.  Spokesman Cameron Hardy explains:

"Lives touched" represents the cumulative number of full-time, part-time, and temporary workers that have been employed with EM Recovery Act funds at some point since the start of the program in April 2009.  As of June 30, 2010, the lives touched number is more than 24,000 and we have 10,500 full-time Recovery Act workers, working across the DOE Complex.

The metric, according to the DOE, was developed by the Office of Environmental Management "to capture all workers that have been employed under the Recovery Act." 

But why the need to capture all workers, when some may have only worked a mere hour on a project, or who have only supported a project in some manner?  Simply put, to inflate the numbers.

The GAO report claims that calculations from the DOE "ranged from about 5,700 jobs to 20,200, depending on the methodology used."  

What is the harm in providing an overall headcount, as long as it remains separate from official job reports?  Well, it turns out that they can't seem to keep things separate.

When these numbers are presented publicly and then parroted through the mainstream media who have clearly not done their homework, as was the case with yesterday's Biden report, the result is deceit.  The administration provided job estimates while failing to provide any context or explanation as to how the numbers were derived.

An example of this can be seen in an April News Flash provided by the Office of Environmental Management.  The chart on the right tallies up the total headcount or ‘lives touched' as 20,249.  A statement on the left claims that "EM Recovery Act funding has employed over 20,000 workers on stimulus projects in 12 states." 

Which is it, employed or touched?

A contract award summary for the National Opinion Research Center speaks volumes of the disparity.  In their ‘description of jobs created' section, they explain how the numbers are derived:

"...the total headcount, (the number of 'lives touched' or, the number of people who have labor hours funded by stimulus funds, not distinguishing between part-time and full-time, or the length of the job, as of June 30th is a combined total of 480 staff members hired/retained as of the end of the quarter."

The summary then goes on to explain that only 2 of the 480 jobs being discussed were newly created positions.  Two jobs, but a grand total of 480 are being reported.  That's a markup up of 24,000%.

It would be funny, if it weren't so sad.

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.

Perhaps the polls in November will clearly demonstrate how many lives are being touched by the stimulus bill - in a negative way.

Crossposted at The Mental Recession