Since individual stimulus dollars are not tangible, unlike the bridges, tunnels, and ramps they pay for, we must rely on economists’ estimates, however imperfect. And that’s where reporters must push back on politicians’ job creation claims, explain where the estimates come from, and separate how many jobs are directly being created versus indirectly created.

In the ferry terminal project, McGeehan writes, it turns out the construction company hired to do the rebuilding would employ just 100 to 200 people at the site. Then, according to Representative Michael McMahon, a Staten Island Democrat, the ripple effect will take hold. But when faced with those hard numbers, even McMahon, a major champion of the project, says it adds up to hundreds—not thousands—of jobs.

So good for McGeehan for fact-checking the ferry project and uttering That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named; that tracking stimulus job creation is tricky business.

Alexandra Fenwick is an assistant editor at CJR.