American Elephants

Barack Obama Has It All Backwards. by The Elephant's Child

Mr. Obama ignited a firestorm with his remark on small business —”If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that, somebody else made that happen.” It has become a major controversy. Small businessmen are indignantly telling their own stories. There have been rallies, billboards, cartoons, late-night jokes and all sorts of marvelous campaign commercials.

Mr. Obama is now claiming that his words were taken out of context. “Of course Americans build their own businesses” he said in a campaign video.  He meant that government prepares the way for business creation. It’s the old “roads and bridges” thing, that he has clung to for three-and-a-half long years.

That’s how he was going to rescue the economy, if you remember; the roads and bridges the government built would create all sorts of jobs. And all we heard about was guard rails on the road around a dry lake, and an addition to an airport in Pennsylvania that seldom received an airplane. And there was a bridge that only got about 3 cars a week. That ended with the grudging admission that there weren’t any “shovel-ready” jobs after all.

That’s not right either.. The roads and bridges of the nation have been built in response to business need. When Henry Ford developed the production line and began turning out Model Ts in quantity, some roads were already there. They had been created  often in the first place as game trails or Indian trails. The pioneers cut down trees and made crude roads with pick and shovel.  Increased travel, more wagons, herds of stock widened and improved them.

Business and their growing needs called forth roads. Private turnpike companies built thousands of miles of toll roads across the states. Henry Ford built the Model T to handle bad roads, because there were many of them. It was the growing automobile business that created roads and bridges, not the other way around.

Federal aid to highway building didn’t begin until 1916, and the Interstate highway system was built under the Eisenhower administration in the 1950s. Before that it was the business of state and local governments.

It’s only in modern times that developers will build an industrial park with the needed roads and facilities, hoping to attract tenants. That is usually private developers, not government built infrastructure. Of course there is the example of Solyndra, but the less said about that, the better. Has that place sold yet?

The Cato Institute suggests that federal financing has become an increasingly inefficient way to modernize America’s  highways. Federal spending is often misallocated to low-value activities, and the regulations that go hand-in-hand with federal aid stifle innovation and boost highway costs.

This is not an administration that is responsive to the needs of  business, small or large. Their thinking about business and jobs and the economy begins with the federal government, and deals with control and regulation and taxes. They are basically hostile. There’s nothing about what business might need in their approach.

Obama not only doesn’t understand how business works, he’s got it all backwards.

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