Did the stimulus create jobs? (Five by 8 – 9/28/10)

It did, but will they last? Comedians fire back at Congress. Bike crackdown at the U of M. How to turn around a school system. The kids are alright.


Did the stimulus bill create jobs? Let’s get this settled once and for all. Over 100 ads on TV are claiming it didn’t. FactCheck.org is out with the verdict:

But it’s just false to say that the stimulus created “no jobs” or “failed to save and create jobs” or “has done nothing to reduce unemployment” – or similar claims that the stimulus did not produce any jobs.

As we have written before, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report in August that said the stimulus bill has “[l]owered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points” and “[i]ncreased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million.”

Here’s the analysis.

The larger question is whether it created jobs that last? The Star Tribune reports that for many job counselors who were hired with stimulus money, the answer is “no.”

Related: In Duluth, competitors are unhappy that stimulus money was used to provide spiffy new buses at a private company. They’re used to take people to the Twin Cities.


You knew this was coming. A day after Congress (and the media) criticized comedian Steven Colbert’s testimony before a House committee, the comedians fire back.

In an editorial, the Fort-Worth Star Telegram says Colbert was worth taking seriously:

He said that as a free marketer he would normally leave the problem to the invisible hand of the market — then pointed out that the market has already sent 84,000 production acres and 22,000 farm jobs to Mexico and shut down a million acres of U.S. farmland “because apparently even the invisible hand doesn’t want to pick beans.”

He suggested that giving immigrants visas to work the farms could help provide safeguards against worker exploitation. With that, plus improved pay and working conditions, maybe Americans would be willing to take the jobs again. Or “maybe the easier answer is to just have scientists develop vegetables that pick themselves.”

The satiric point: We could devise a doable, rational solution — or chase an absurd and impossible one.

Are immigrants taking American jobs in the fields of Amerca? No, the Associated Press reports today. They’re taking jobs Americans won’t do.


A crackdown on bicyclists who don’t stop at “stop” signs at the University of Minnesota isn’t making the grade with some students.

“I don’t really feel like I’m a threat to other people on my bike,” she said. “I think that it’s stupid. I don’t really know who I’m going to hurt by going through a stop sign when there are absolutely no cars.”

Elsewhere on the crime patrol: The underwear burglar has apparently been caught in Fergus Falls.


If “smaller is better” as some education experts say, how come the largest public school in Massachusetts has gone from being one of the worst to one of the best? Two words: Reading and writing.


What if we focused on what kids do know how to do instead of what they don’t? An AP-generated grenade asks “are we raising a generation of nincompoops?

Susan Maushart, a mother of three, says her teenage daughter “literally does not know how to use a can opener. Most cans come with pull-tops these days. I see her reaching for a can that requires a can opener, and her shoulders slump and she goes for something else.”

OK, I’ll bite. #1, why do you need a can opener? #2, an entire American generation couldn’t set the clocks on their VCRs. Both of my kids are of the targeted generation. One commented the other day that he still gets a thrill when 400 laptops reboot because he tells them to. He’s in charge of servers for a major company in the Twin Cities. He’s 24. I don’t think the kid can cook. Does he have to? Son #2 saved someone’s life the other day. He’s a paramedic and he knew what to do. I wouldn’t. Would you? He’s 22.

Here’s another bomb from the article:

Google means kids don’t have to figure things out or solve problems any more. They can look up what they need online or call mom or dad for step-by-step instructions.

The same mom and dad that calls it The Googles? Times change. People adapt. Old skills that aren’t needed are replaced by new ones that are.

Discussion points: What “skill” didn’t you need that your parents did?

Bonus: The Big Picture looks at fall. Favorite: A pumpkin as a canoe.

How did Francisco Liriano become an ace again for the Twins? The Hardball Times provides the proof,: images comparing last year’s Liriano with this year’s version.


President Obama said Monday that the American school year is too short, and he noted that students in other advanced countries have about a month more of school each year. Should we have a longer school year?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Republicans have recently released their new policy ideas as a “contract with America” to win over voters. Midmorning considers whether tough economic times and anti-incumbent sentiment will help Republicans recapture the House and even the Senate in November’s elections. We’ll also fact-check candidates’ claims in the local gubernatorial election.

Second hour: If music is a language, its lyrics are flying in the face of the rules of English grammar. Midmorning explores the grammatical slip-ups that make popular music great, but still irk the experts.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Education Minnesota president Tom Dooher talks about the teachers union’s views on education reform.

Second hour: A debate about dealing with terrorism suspects, from NPR’s “Intelligence Squared” series.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The changing roles of men and women. Men lost most of the jobs in the recession, women outperform men in school, and many earn more at the office.

Second hour: Adrian Goldsworthy joins host Neal Conan for the real story of Antony and Cleopatra.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – There are groups considering placing wind structures on Lake Superior’s north shore to take advantage of strong off-shore winds. There are communication companies that want to place additional cell towers to fill in the many gaps in coverage along the shore. But there are concerns that either of those structures could do a great deal of harm to birds following the shoreline on their fall migration south. MPR’s Bob Kelleher will have the story.

MPR’s Euan Kerr will have the story of a 7 1/2 hour play at the Guthrie.

  • Discussion points: What “skill” didn’t you need that your parents did?

    I can do better–skills that I learned that I don’t need today. Why in the name of all that is holy did I need to learn synthetic division? Or how to derive square roots?

    Cursive writing is almost there as an art I didn’t need to learn–I never was good at it anyway.

  • Bob Collins

    And these kids today don’t even know how to use a rotary telephone!

  • mindtron

    I don’t know that my parents needed it, but my dad and uncles could repair just about any part of a car there was.

    me? not so much, but why should I when half the things that go wrong with a car seem to need a computer to diagnose them?

  • Idaho law allows bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs, which makes sense: bicycles have a much shorter stopping distance than automobiles, and bicyclists have a better view of approaching traffic than drivers (they’re positioned higher than most cars, and are a couple of feet at the most from their front wheel). Minnesota’s recent change to the red light law for bicycles, allowing them to proceed through lights that don’t change for bikes (Dale & Marshall and Otis & Marshall are the intersections that come to mind on my commute…), is a good step in that direction.

    But I always stop and yield at four-ways when there’s traffic, taking my turn like a car; would that more cars would take turns as consistently.

  • MR

    I was talking to someone a few years ago, and somehow the topic of majors in college came up. Her degree was in “Soviet Studies.”

    I think that the more interesting issue isn’t about “Those darned kids can’t even do .” We should be asking questions about what the purpose of education is (developing specific work skills vs. generalized communication and critical thinking skills) and whether we’re fulfilling that goal.

  • brian

    @Paul I’m in Grad school for math, and I hear a lot of things called pointless. But you are absolutely correct: Synthetic Division is pointless. You can do any problem with regular long division that you could do with synthetic division, plus many more. It is still in most books but I never teach it.

    It seems that there might be a solution to your daughter not knowing how to use a can opener… teach her to use a can opener.

    Also show her how to do laundry and use a bank. My wife works at a bank, and many students don’t realize that they need enough money in their account to use their check card. Or that ” I didn’t have my computer so I couldn’t check my balance” isn’t a good excuse. Kids aren’t going to learn these things if you always do everything for them.

  • Bob Collins

    //many students don’t realize that they need enough money in their account to use their check card.

    I just saw an entire country brought to its knees because many of their parents didn’t know the math of buying a home.

    // teach her to use a can opener.

    I know how to use a can opener. I use the skill about once a year; when I go camping. The rest of the time, I use the little pull ring at the top of the can. That’s what made the article rather funny on this particular point. You don’t HAVE to know how to use a can opener. It’s like teaching someone how to hang up laundry with a clothespin.

    //Idaho law allows bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs

    Phyllis Kahn filed similar legislation in Minnesota last year. I actually thought it had become law, given how much sense it makes

  • Al

    \\And these kids today don’t even know how to use a rotary telephone!

    Mine do. I showed them how to do it when we saw one at the History Center a couple of weeks ago. They also have an idea about how a horse-powered threshing machine works.

    Learning about how things used to be does provide perspective. And learning about mechanical things, understanding how they work, can help train your mind to think mechanically. It could come in handy the next time you need to fix or build something. And yes, people still do fix and build things.

  • Bob Collins

    We’re slipping back into the “things I can do my kids can’t do” mode. Think about it from the other end: things they can do that I can’t.

    I can’t send a text message in under 10 minutes. My kids can.

    They can develop applications for communications tools. I can’t. They can relate to the value of new technology and re-adapt it for their particular needs. I can’t.

  • vjacobsen

    OK, so one thing that I know how to do, but I doubt my children will know it existed:

    Going to the catalog department of a department store to use the phone on the wall to order something, and then coming back a couple of weeks later to pick it up.

    Related? Waiting for the Christmas catalog to arrive and then spending hours looking through it and picking out a wish list.

    Strange, yes, but I just was thinking about it yesterday.

  • Julie

    The can opener thing cracks me up. I’m 25 and my 51 year old mom can’t use the internet. My dad is a complete tech geek, but she refuses to even have an email account. She can build houses and furniture, grow a garden, cook and can her own food and sewed all of our clothes, but hasn’t ever used a computer. At this point in her life, she doesn’t really need to anyway. I could look down on her for not knowing what Twitter is and she could tease me for failing to assemble an Ikea bookshelf, but what’s the point? We’ve needed different skills, and we can help each other fill in the blanks as they come up. There’s nothing wrong with that.

  • John P

    “They’re taking jobs Americans won’t do.”

    I’m growing a little tired of this rationale, especially when it’s presented by people who present themselves as free-marketers. The unemployment rate is close to 10%.

    If the job paid more than $10 and hour, they would find people who would do it. What if you doubled the pay? Sure, it would make a pint of strawberries cost a little more. When you consider how many strawberries a picker picks in an hour, the effect must be small. Maybe we would eat a bit less and lose some of the poundage everyone is stressing about.

    We pay less for food than nearly everone on the planet. If you paid farm workers what the market demands, you would find all the workers you need.

  • Momkat

    I still use a rotary dial phone–in our unfinished basement–and the damn thing just won’t die. Occasionally I dial out on it, most often a number that ends with ‘9000’. It’s downright painful if it weren’t so funny.

    And I have great computer skills!

  • Ben Chorn

    kids aren’t learning skills in schools or from parents anymore… especially not from soccer practice either. This is why we need more support for the Boy Scouts- it has done more for me than any mentor or school has ever done.

  • Al

    \\They can relate to the value of new technology and re-adapt it for their particular needs. I can’t.

    You can’t, Bob? Haven’t you done that with this blog and all of your live coverage of events? Don’t sell yourself short.

    Further, I don’t buy the line that kids can do all sorts of things with electronics that I can’t. That’s become a tired old cliche as well. Does it matter that they can text faster? I can text. I can figure out a new app or a new piece of electronics. I’m not a moron and most people I know aren’t. However, I don’t always see the utility in rapidly adopting the latest and greatest piece of electronics that I did just fine without last week. That does not mean I am incapable of understanding it. Tightwad maybe. Confused old man living in the past – definitely not.

  • Noodles

    Kids need to be willing to learn. If the want is there, their knowledge is there to be gained. I’m 31…I’m a software developer, M.B.A. student, I remodeled my kitchen (tile work, electrical work, carpentry work), I remodeled my den (sheetrock, wired sound system), I sided and roofed my shed, I can change my oil/air filter/wiper blades, I cook…and I could go on. None of these are amazing feats, and I certainly don’t think I’m special. It is just that I’ve grow up asking questions and figuring out how to do things for myself. I think kids today don’t have as much of a need to do things themselves. Cans have peel-off tops, Quickie Lube will change their oil, McDonald’s cooks for them. Luxury services have become the norm.

  • Kassie

    There are lots of things I can’t do that my parents can. For instance my dad can install any type of floor covering in a house. And he worked very hard so that I’d never have to learn that skill.

    Also, there are lots of things my co-workers can do that I can’t, skills I never learned, and same with my friends. We don’t all need to have all the same skills. If we did, nothing would get done.

    But really, my questions is, why hasn’t that woman taught her daughter to use a can opener? Just show her the next time she needs it. Jeeze.

  • brian

    //You don’t HAVE to know how to use a can opener.

    You do if you shop at asian grocery stores.

    But I get your point. Things change and that isn’t a bad thing.

  • Jeanne

    I thought an appropriate headline for the Colbert piece would have been “Send in the Clowns, Don’t Bother They’re Here.” But you’d have to be of a certain age range to get that one.

  • bsimon

    They make peel-top cans?

    What’ll they think of next?

  • Michael

    The yield concept makes sense I agree. But, there are a couple of places near my house where they don’t even do that, they just fly through and expect me to test my brakes. I’m hoping I won’t be the example in next year’s textbook on brake design.

    (And another thing… Actually, the opposite thing. What’s up with cars that come to a halt to allow bikes to cross a bike crossing? I thought only pedestrians got that benefit at a crosswalk, but that bikes had to wait at a stop sign like any other wheeled traffic for the traffic to break normally. Happens all too often in my ‘hood.)