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Creating jobs, once the goal, dropped as criteria for $3.4-billion Energy Department project

July 9, 2009 |  5:44 am

Democrat Vice President Joe Biden touts the Obama administration's economic recovery plans

Remember all that talk last winter about the historic awfulness of the inherited economy and how urgently the new Obama administration needed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's economic stimulus bill to get through Congress and the president flew all the way out to Denver to sign the $787-billion bill because, well, because they didn't have an Air Force One photo shoot for New York that day?

And how it was absolutely, really, essentially important to start spending all that money ASAP so that it would create good, solid, strong, patriotic American jobs right here in America? And keep the jobless rate maybe somewhere around 8-8.5%?

Which seems really pretty good today now that it's already at 9.5% and predicted to exceed 10% for much of the next year, which takes us right up close to -- oh, oh, look out! -- the 2010 midterm elections.

In fact, back in April at one $3.4-billion spending ceremony for the media, Vice President Joe Biden, who's got a lot of private meetings to attend but was still assigned to drive the stimulus spending hard, said: "This is jobs -- jobs!" Creating or saving a gazillion-point-five jobs used to be the main goal.

Not anymore.

More change. That was April. This is July. And the spending sujet du jour has moved on to.... reform, which is absolutely essential to get through Congress ASAP because the economic recovery depends on it as do millions of Americans who, the president promises, will face disastrous medical cost increases if we don't spend several hundred billion more, though some of that will be covered by savings, he also promises.

Today the president is in Italy. And Biden's political talking points take him to New York to tout the economic recovery and out to Ohio, where new polls indicate the administration's popularity is sagging, to discuss healthcare and small businesses.

Back in Washington, however, ABC's ever-vigilant Rick Klein reports on a mystery: It seems that about 10 days ago job creation was quietly dropped as a major criteria for rating proposed projects for potential funding over at the Department of Energy. Even as grumbling grows about the glacial pace of recovery (jobs) from the once much-vaunted funding.

Not only do jobs no longer matter in choosing projects to get money, but power grid upgrade project officials need only report the jobs quarterly.

A department Q&A asks: "Will DOE use the number of jobs estimated to be created and/or retained as a criterion for rating a proposal for funding?”  The answer: "No."

A department spokeswoman explained to Klein that although job creation no longer mattered in choosing which projects to fund, job creation still mattered in choosing which projects to fund. It "will be taken into account," she said.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Associated Press