“We Built It” was the Republican Convention slogan that tried to mock the sensible and correct argument by President Obama that government had in fact built much of what makes our economy tick: from many of the essential pieces of our infrastructure, from the Erie Canal or the interstate highway system, to the great public universities that produce groundbreaking technology to the research and development efforts in that have built our great biotech and aerospace companies. Put aside for the moment that the speakers at the convention took the president’s statement totally out of context, trying to assert that he was claiming government built the businesses—not the surrounding infrastructure that permits businesses to thrive.
The speeches captured the disdain that Mitt Romney expressed for all things governmental, until his recent, late night conversion to moderate Mitt.
I have a slight reformulation for the folks who live in the path of Hurricane Sandy. “Who rebuilt it?” Who showed up in this moment of great need to provide shelter and emergency medical assistance? Who helped rescue families from flooded areas and provided transport for the elderly? Who is there fixing the critical infrastructure and safety systems that we all rely on in crisis?
Suddenly New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is sounding more appreciative of the FEMA funding that the Romney-Ryan budget wants to decimate. Suddenly even Republicans are talking respectfully about the need for the mass transit system to work, for bridges to reopen, for all the government actions and investments that were mere impediments, in their pre-Sandy world view, to the private sector.
It is too bad that it takes a tragedy like Sandy to get some to appreciate the essential role that government investments play in our society. Maybe after the storm has passed, and the election has faded at least a week or two into our memories, we can agree that government really did build something critical that we all need—and should be thankful for.