As I was saying …

OSHA, Bono and unspent money

I read a news item not long ago that reported the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) left about $6.4 million unspent in funds provided to the agency as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—the "stimulus" that was adopted in 2009. A few observations:

  1. Wow. A federal agency actually left money unspent.
  2. And of all agencies to do it, it was OSHA. Who'd have thought?
  3. It turns out OSHA still manages to spend more money, conduct more inspections and collect more fines than it did the previous year, so we don't need to lose sleep worrying it was adversely affected by the unspent funds.
  4. How was the money provided to OSHA supposed to "stimulate" anything? Maybe the idea was more inspections would lead to more employer stress, which would lead to more doctor visits, which would help create jobs in the health care industry.
It also recently was reported the rock star Bono said: "Capitalism and entrepreneurial capitalism take more people out of poverty than aid."

It is arguably more astonishing that such an astute thought could come from an entertainer than to find unspent money at OSHA. Perhaps Bono has the ear of the secretary of labor.

There is, of course, a more serious point to be made. Real, sustainable job creation comes from the private sector, not by providing stimulus money to federal regulatory agencies or, for that matter, by simply having the government spend more money. Jobs are created when owners and investors can upgrade or expand. Bono gets that. Some legislators get that (but not enough).

For example, NRCA has been trying for nearly 15 years to change roof system depreciation rules so owners can depreciate their roofs during roofs' actual life expectancies and not buildings' life expectancies. This simple change would not only be fairer, but it also would create more jobs in our industry. Oh, and it would save the U.S. a lot of energy, too.

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to have the highest corporate tax rate in the world—yes, the world!—while our economy limps along.

Bono's band, U2, recorded a song called "Where Did It All Go Wrong?" It probably wasn't meant to refer to unspent stimulus money, but it's food for thought.

Bill Good is NRCA's executive vice president.


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