Monday, November 01, 2010

The Million-Dollar Job From The Recovery Act

The boondoggle that is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 continues to amuse the remaining independent thinkers in America, namely yours truly.  I wanted to see for myself how recovery dollars are spent in my neighborhood (hat tip to John Robb at Global Guerrillas for locating this tool).  I typed my home ZIP code - 94132 - into the handy box provided.  The result was a colorful map that looked a little like the SBA HUBZone's GIS tool.  I was mildly amused several years ago to discover that I live in one of San Francisco's HUBZones.  Maybe the same GIS mapping contractor got some extra work thanks to the site.

Anyway, here's a screen capture of the resulting map.

Those numbers in the black box at the lower left may be difficult to read, so here they are in plain text.  A total of $4,769,713 in stimulus money has created 3.70 jobs in my San Francisco neighborhood.  All of those jobs are amalgamations of contract estimates from San Francisco State University, the recipient of pretty much all of the money.  Clicking on the blue dot at SFSU reveals the details of the contracts and grants, primarily for scientific studies.  What's left unmentioned (until now) is that those studies end when the money runs out.  There will be no permanent job growth from the stimulus in my locale.  Those 3.70 jobs created are the weighted averages of probably several dozen part-time graduate students' credited research hours. 

If my rhetoric leaves you underwhelmed, just do the math.  The stimulus spent $1,289,111 per "job" created.  By contrast, I spend about $150 per year on my website and business cards to maintain my own job as a freelance investment analyst and market commentator.  That makes me about 8500 times more effective as a job creation machine than the federal government.  The flip side is that I could probably create 8500 new jobs with the same amount of money Uncle Sam just spent.  Don't believe me?  Fine, just give me that money and I'll show you how it's done.  :-)

Lee Majors played Col. Steve Austin, the Six-Million Dollar Man, in the heyday of 1970s cheesy television long before "Stone Cold" Steve Austin brought a new kind of cheesiness to mass entertainment.  The fictional Col. Austin was the product of a government program designed to create a human being with enormous potential.  The federal stimulus has attempted something similar but with less spectacular results. 

Nota bene:  SFSU became my landlord several years ago when they bought the apartment complex where I reside.  They're a fine landlord but I don't plan to spend the rest of my life here.  I am neither emploed by nor a student at SFSU.