Back on July 4th, I posted some thoughts about how much work it took by our society that I was able to eat a meal at Penn Station in New York City – how the water was being carried by a viaduct system built in the 1800s, how each of the components of the meal was coming from different parts of the country and the very nature of a McDonalds could not exist if it wasn’t for generations of people building things to make urban life possible.
On July 16th, President Obama (apparently having read my blog post!) said essentially the same thing. The ability for a business to succeed is dependent on many other things that needed to be in place before your idea could blossom. The employees in your company went to college and universities, your office buildings needed steel and concrete to be built, fire and police protection, a clean reliable supply of water, adequate electrical power, telecommunications, a cleaning crew. Your employees need to live in houses and drive to work or ride public transportation.
However, one of the problems with President Obama’s decidedly Socialist remarks is that the United States government didn’t build any of that either, although FDR definitely tried to Federalize a lot of things (indicated by an *)
Let’s start with the list of things the Federal Government did build
- Post Offices and Postal Roads
- Military bases
- Federal prisons to hold people who break Federal laws
- Federal Office buildings
- Tennessee Valley Authority*
- Hoover Dam*
- Dams and locks built by the Army Corps of Engineers
- Federal Parks
- Indian Reservations
Things that the Federal Government didn’t build
- The “Power Grid” – built by people like Thomas Edison, Sam Insull, James Duke, Peter & James Donahue, George Westinghouse
- The interstate Phone System – primarily built by AT&T
- The Steel Industry – most of that credit goes to Andrew Carnegie and Charles Schwab
- The Banking System – there were banks before there was a Federal Reserve (which is itself not part of the Federal Government) – JP Morgan, Andrew Mellon,
- The Canal systems – The Erie Canal connecting the Hudson River with Lake Erie was built by the State of New York. The Pennsylvania Canal connecting the Atlantic ocean to Pittsburgh was built at the direction of the Pennsylvania Legislature
- The Railroads – replacing the Canals – the Pennsyvania RR was built with private money, the New York Central was built by Cornelius Vanderbilt, the Missouri Pacific was built by Jay Gould, Southern Pacific and Central Pacific were built by Charles Crocker and 3 others,
- The Roads – other than the National Road (and a few roads located inside National Parks and on military bases), the US Government doesn’t build or maintain roads. Roads are built and maintained by States – increasingly reliaant on Federal funding. Standardization of traffic signals and safety features and coordination of the “US Highway System” is coordinated by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, an organization few people probably even know exists. It is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), the quasi-government entities that really run the country.
- Oil, coal and natural gas production and distribution – John D Rockefeller (Standard Oil), Frank Phillips, J Paul Getty, William Mellon (Gulf), Robert Pew (Sunoco), Joe Cullinan (Texaco), Francis S. Peabody (Peabody Coal), Mellon & Rockefeller (Consolidated Energy)
- Radio and TV Networks – William Paley, David Sarnoff, Allen DuMont, Edward J Noble
To the extent any of these capitalists are mentioned in Public School textbooks, it is generally calling them “Robber Barons”, rather than the “Men who Built America”. As a group, they were definitely not “Diverse”.
You sir, did not build America, either – in fact, it is hard to identify anything that you have built other than a huge increase in the national debt.