500,000 new jobs -- are we supposed to be impressed?

Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson tells Wolf Blitzer the economic stimulus plan will result in half a million new jobs. It's about time.

By Andrew Leonard
May 1, 2008 2:30PM (UTC)
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On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson told Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "The Situation Room" that the economic stimulus checks currently being cut by the IRS will pump $50 billion into the U.S. economy in May, and another "$50 billion plus in June." The payments will create "at least 500,000 additional jobs," he said.

Five hundred thousand is a nice round number that President Bush and his economic advisors have been touting ever since the $168 billion economic stimulus plan sailed through Congress, although it's unclear whether the bulk of the gains will come from the money that consumers are supposed to spend on products and services, or from the tax breaks for businesses included in the plan. Back when the prediction was first reported, economist Greg Mankiw made fun of it, observing that, if true, each additional job would "add $336,000 to the national debt." Which wasn't very nice of Mankiw, seeing as how he was once Bush's chief economic advisor, but maybe he's still sore about that whole outsourcing debacle.


But my question is, how will we know? The U.S. economy has been shedding jobs for three months straight -- 76,000 in February and 80,000 in March. We'll find out the April numbers on Friday. So just getting back to zero losses would be a major victory -- which means you could argue that a summer marked by no job growth at all might actually include those 500,000 new jobs, compensating for the jobs that would have been lost without any stimulus.

Perhaps a better way to judge would be to see whether the overall job creation rate for the entire Bush administration budges off its current dismal level over the remainder of the year. Economist Dean Baker pointed out Wednesday morning that Bush's job creation record is the worst of any president since 1960 -- the rate of job growth during his administration has been a pathetic .59 percent. (For comparison purposes, Clinton's was 2.38 percent and Reagan's was 2.06 percent.)

To put that in perspective: Around 250,000 jobs per month were created over the entire Clinton administration. And now we're supposed to get excited because giving away $168 billion will create 500,000 news jobs by the end of 2008?

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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