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You built some of it (at most)

It’s no big deal that Republicans who want Barack Obama defeated have taken the president’s words out of context. I expect them to do that.

When they give an attaboy to entrepreneurs to “prove” that they really did build their company, what they’re really doing is telling the rest of us that they seriously don’t get it. They don’t understand what it means to be a complete member of a civilized society.

The current Republican party has taken the notion of individualism and ramped it up to an extreme. Attaboy or attagirl who went out and built a better mousetrap. Goodie for those who are making a fortune from their company.

CRH2 Bullet Train (China)

CRH2 Bullet Train (China)

They didn’t build their company by themselves. If it’s a better mousetrap, there’s the Interstate Highway system that gets the product to market. If it’s a sports team, there’s the taxpayer backed arena where the team plays. The arena was probably built with union labor.

If it’s a service industry, there are clients to schmooze. Along the east coast are our “bullet” trains that really don’t run much faster than trains of the last century. They could be running faster, but the USA decided to stop investing in infrastructure. Trains in Europe are much faster, and everyone uses them because they go absolutely everywhere. Europeans decided – collectively decided – to keep their infrastructure up-to-date. Trains in Japan and Chine are faster than ours. And, most of those trains are electric.

Belgium's "Solar Tunnel"

Belgium’s “Solar Tunnel”

In Belgium, they had to put a roof over some tracks to keep a forest from dropping huge trunks and branches on the tracks. In 2011, they put solar panels on the top of that makeshift tunnel. It generates enough electricity to power 4,000 trains a year.

Our trains are electric, too. Unfortunately each train in the USA has a diesel engine that powers the electric motors, spewing tons of greenhouse gasses that the rest of us get to breathe.

The US economy is sputtering and squeaking. One reason is that the “I built it” crowd has sent so many jobs overseas. Henry Ford – no friend of big labor – paid his autoworkers more than the going rate to put together Model Ts. He said he wanted his workers paid enough so they could afford to buy a Model T.

Today’s industry moguls have forgotten that. They know how to get products made cheaply, but they don’t know how to keep the marketplace running smoothly. They don’t know that it takes consumers to buy their awesome and shiny mousetraps. Cutting costs is only half the equation. If they want to claim “I built that” on cutting costs, it’s a dreadful legacy to leave to their grandchildren.

We need that American oomph that went over and kicked the crap out of Mussolini and Tojo. We need to hear from Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt who kept corporations in check and boosted our system of National Parks and Wilderness Areas. We need to see more Republicans like Ike Eisenhower who launched the Interstate Highway system. We desperately need more Republicans like Abe Lincoln who had the guts to defy the apartheid of our Founding Fathers to let our national Constitution evolve into something more inclusive.

What we need is a little more WE and a little less ME.