I’ve been listening to some absurd attacks this week by Mitt Romney and his surrogates against President Obama – the latest a claim that Obama is saying Henry Ford didn’t build Ford Motors or Papa John didn’t build Papa John’s, the government did.
Here is what the President actually said: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges.”
The point the President was making is that private business, big or small, cannot thrive without public investments including investment in all forms of transportation. These things cost money and without those public resources the private sector couldn’t thrive. This point is pretty obvious to anyone – that is except Mr. Romney and his campaign, which will say virtually anything to deflect attention away from Swiss bank accounts, tax returns shrouded in secrecy, and the Bain founder’s record of outsourcing American jobs.
Let’s do some basic economics.
The economy cannot succeed without a modern and efficient transportation system. Today, transportation accounts for one in ten dollars spent in the economy. Pretty simple idea here. If you can’t move products or people safely and efficiently by ground or air our economy comes to a screeching halt.
Transportation is one of the most important wealth creators in our economy and even Mitt Romney, the self-proclaimed expert on everything about the economy, should understand this unambiguous fact. When passenger rail and transit systems get people to and from work or meetings, they are keeping the arteries of the economy healthy. When our air transportation system flies more than 600 million passengers this year, our businesses will thrive. Without well-funded and modern seaports and navigation channels our exports are choked and our system of commerce fails. When our freight railroads, trucking companies and manufacturers are humming our economy is humming. Sort of Economics 101.
Bottom line is this Mr. Romney: Of course Bill Gates built Microsoft but he didn’t build the transportation systems, public schools and public health systems his company has relied upon for decades. And no single company built the Internet. Actually, as the President correctly said, massive government research and investment got that train rolling.
President Obama gets it. Mr. Romney clearly doesn’t. And not even vicious attacks like the embarrassing tirade by John Sununu will cloud anyone’s vision about what is really going on here.
Mr. Romney, perhaps a refresher course on the role of public investments in the history of the American economy is in order.