Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) sent a letter on Nov. 13 (pdf) to Earl Devaney, the chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, raising some questions about the stimulus data posted on Recovery.gov. Issa was specifically concerned about the “jobs created/saved” data: The site claims 640,329 jobs have been created or saved, but there’s widespread agreement that figure is wrong.
I’m sympathetic to Issa’s central complaint; I’ve spent a fair amount of time browsing the stimulus data in recent weeks, and it’s clearly full of errors. There are multi-million dollar projects that have allegedly created zero jobs, and there are individual employers who report more than half their workforce was “saved” by stimulus spending. Both claims are hard to believe.
Devaney sent a response to Issa today, and his letter has attracted a bit of media attention. Reporters are focusing on the idea that Devaney is backing away from the quality of the Recovery.gov data. But he never made any promises about the quality of that data; in fact, as he told me when I interviewed him earlier this year, it isn’t his job to certify the data. Recovery.gov is a repository for data from other entities. The data in question — the jobs data — comes from the recipients of stimulus cash: State and local governments, private companies, individuals. If there are problems with the data, therefore, the problems are with the recipients, not with the board.
In other words: This is a non-story. There are problems with the stimulus data, and that is a story, but the locus of those problems isn’t the RAT board. It’s the people reporting the data.