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Front Page » Opinion » County Has Few Jobs To Show For Massive Stimulus Outlays

County Has Few Jobs To Show For Massive Stimulus Outlays

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Written by on September 16, 2010

By Michael Lewis
Without debating how well a stimulus bonanza has grown jobs nationally, the only thing Miami-Dade County government’s stimulus spending excels at is spending itself.

We’re either an aberration, clumsily spending federal funds and missing job-creation targets, or else we’re the norm and nobody in the nation is creating many jobs via the giveaway.

Either way, anybody who really thought Miami-Dade stimulus spending would unleash a flood of jobs probably also believed Mayor Carlos Alvarez when he pledged that thousands would labor to erect Florida Marlins stadium — a figure he has since slashed a full decimal point to several hundred.

We aren’t doing even that well on stimulus jobs. Moving the decimal point one space to the left wouldn’t come near to making up for our wild overstatements.

When Miami-Dade first sought the federal pot of gold in 2008, we had 89,131 jobless, 7.3% of our workforce. The county wanted $1.5 billion to immediately add 23,110 jobs at an average cost of $64,907 each.

That would have put 26% of the county’s unemployed back to work.

In January 2009, as the stimulus neared reality, our jobless had swelled to 103,628, 8.5% of our workers. So the county upped the ante to a $7.2 billion request to create 10,962 jobs at $645,814 each — costing ten times as much per job the earlier figure.

That would have put 10.6% of the unemployed to work, far less ambitious at far more cost but still a big bite out of unemployment.

By November 2009, the jobless had soared to 131,660, 10.5% unemployment. Washington had OK’d $230 million in stimulus to the county, which reported it had thereby created or saved 49 jobs at $4.7 million each — 74 times as much per job as originally planned, though to be fair not all the money had yet arrived.

Those jobs were a thin hair of total unemployment.

Now the county has spent far more stimulus money and more is pledged. With a staggering 170,900 now jobless in Miami-Dade, a 13.2% rate, the federal commitment is up to $284 million. Excluding short-term jobs for teens and their cost, as we reported last week county government says it has created 240 jobs at $1.03 million each.

Those jobs total about one tenth of one percent of Miami-Dade unemployment — not the 26% of joblessness we started at or the 10.5% we scaled back to, but one puny tenth of one percent.

Whether or not the federal plan was effective, Miami-Dade government stimulus spending of $284 million clearly hasn’t nudged unemployment.

Yes, despite the stimulus hoopla, the county has created about as few jobs as it has at Marlins stadium — although to be fair, the stadium will cost us about ten times the current stimulus outlay. So at least stimulus spending is more effective at adding jobs than tossing cash down a stadium rat hole.

Your politics may affect how you translate local stimulus failure onto a national stage.

If the goal was just to spend and build national debt, the plan has succeeded wildly.

But if the stimulus was meant to put large numbers back to work quickly, as we were told, it’s been an expensive failure here.

Pity we couldn’t funnel that federal spending into the baseball stadium. Then all the nation’s taxpayers could have joined us in our two wasteful giveaways at once.

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