How many jobs from stimulus money? It depends.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/File

When former President Bush wanted to knock off a recession, he took out his rifle, loaded in a temporary tax cut or rebate, and fired.

It wasn’t always successful, but it was simple.

President Obama, by contrast, is stalking much larger quarry with a shotgun. It packs a bigger shell, but its effect is more scattered.

Stimulus in 1,000 ways

What that means is that if the final package looks anything like what passed in the House Wednesday, most Americans will experience the Obama stimulus in a complex, diffused way.

There’ll be a tax cut but also $1 billion for “construction, repair, and alteration of border facilities and land ports of entry.”

There will be money for roads, bridges, and highways but also $200 million for the “Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund Program.”

Bottom line

These are probably worthy programs. But how many jobs will they create?

It depends.

Overall, Mr. Obama says the $819 billion plan will create or save more than 3 million new jobs – at least 3.7 jobs per $1 million of federal stimulus.

That’s pretty conservative compared with what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates it can do with $400 million in stimulus spending for habitat restoration and mitigation. The money will be spent on wetland restoration, removal of obsolete dams, and similar “green” projects.

Wetlands work

NOAA estimates they’ll put 8,000 people to work – 20 direct or indirect jobs per $1 million spent, says Perry Gayaldo, deputy chief for NOAA’s restoration center. (What’s an indirect job? The extra work at a steel company because NOAA money pays for a steel pipe for a culvert, he says.)

Those estimates are within the 14 to 38 jobs created for every $1 million spent on highway construction, according to estimates drawn together by the Economic Policy Institute.

Those are temporary project jobs. What about long-term positions?

One cop for every $75,000

In the past, the Justice Department has capped its community policing grants at $75,000 – or 13 officers per $1 million spent. So the House plan’s $1 billion would pay for 13,300 cops patrolling the beat under the old formula, says spokesman Gilbert Moore. The new formula hasn’t been worked out yet.

But another stimulus effort –the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program – would leave most people scratching their heads.

Vests, yes. Jobs, maybe.

The program supports a broad range of state and local policing from funding computers and bulletproof vests to drug treatment and witness protection. It was slated to be cut, but the new House plan granted it $3 billion.

How many jobs does the Department of Justice (DOJ) think that buys?

“This is not information that DOJ keeps or would calculate,” a spokeswoman writes in an e-mail.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.