Today's roundup of stimulus reporting:
The most visible success of the stimulus program so far, writes David Leonhardt of The New York Times, was the Cash for Clunkers program, which induced a car sales boom at the most unlikely of times. Now White House officials are looking to create a similar boom elsewhere in the economy, this time by looking at home weatherization. There are two similar "Cash for Caulkers" proposals floating right now -- one from venture capitalist John Doerr and one from former President Bill Clinton -- which would offer cash incentives to cover about half of home weatherization projects. But, Leonhardt writes, many homeowners could already save money by weatherizing their homes, so it's hard to say whether the program could hope to gain as much popularity as its clunker counterpart.
It's not easy being the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, writes Alec MacGillis of The Washington Post. The more transparent the board is, the more outrage it induces over stimulus reporting errors. At this point, MacGillis writes, the administration's decision to frame the stimulus package as a job-creating initiative, and to try to account for dollars spent by reporting jobs created, may have been a strategic mistake. "Finding flaws in the data is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, and reporters have been all too happy to fire away," MacGillis writes. "First reporting the numbers with fanfare when they are announced, despite their obvious shortcomings, and then, days or weeks later, reporting that they are not entirely sound."
Companies planning a wind farm in Texas have said they'll build a U.S. plant to make the turbines, reports USA Today. The announcement comes after the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University reported on stimulus money going to foreign wind farms, and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., raised a stink about it. Schumer has asked the Obama administration to block stimulus funds from going to the Texas farm unless its turbines are made in the United States.
And finally, the federal Office of Management and Budget reports that more than $98 billion spent by government agencies was wasted in fiscal year 2009. The waste -- up $26 billion from the previous year -- was mostly from questionable claims for tax credits, unemployment insurance and Medicare benefits. So what, you may be asking, does this have to do with the stimulus? While the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board has amassed hundreds of thousands of reports from stimulus recipients about money spent and jobs created, it's not tracking the types of waste that OMB's report found. And let's face it, with nearly $800 billion in stimulus spending on the way, there's bound to be a certain amount of waste.
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