Devin Griggs || Opinion Editor
Former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) once remarked that Wall Street represented the ‘nerve center’ of American capitalism. I strongly disagree with the former senator on this issue.
To me, the ‘nerve center’ of American capitalism is not Wall Street. It’s Main Street, USA. What makes American capitalism work is the man or woman on the assembly line, the pipefitters and the electricians, the steelworkers, the teachers, the police officers and the firefighters.
Teachers, police officers and firefighters? What do any of those guys or gals have to do with the success of American capitalism? When we talk about a productive economy, shouldn’t we be talking about the entrepreneurs and the risk takers, not the man or woman who minds the shop floor or teaches kids for a living?
Behind every risk taker, behind every innovator and behind every entrepreneur, there was someone who helped them get along. A financier might be a hot shot today that commands a six-figure salary, but they wouldn’t be in that position if it weren’t for quality education provided by a decent teacher in a good school.
That same financier wouldn’t be able to churn out anywhere near as many financial innovations were it not for the police protection that keeps his or her bank from being robbed by the ‘have-nots’ or ‘have-littles’. This is exactly the point that President Barack Obama tried to make on the campaign trail a few weeks back in his now famous (or infamous, if you’re of the conservative persuasion) “You didn’t build that!” remark.
Despite what the Mitt Romney campaign and his fellow Republicans are trying to accuse the president of saying, his speech was pretty clear cut in that business ultimately benefits from large scale public investment in things like basic education, police protection, firefighting departments, and other services we take for granted everyday.
How far, for example, would the American auto industry have gotten if the American government (that is, we the people) hadn’t decided to embark on the largest public works project in modern human history (the Interstate Highway System)? How many private spaceflight companies might we have if basic research and development funding was not a priority in the United States?
Those same teachers, autoworkers, pipefitters, and police officers today make American capitalism work just as they have for nearly two and a half centuries. Isn’t it about time that we gave credit where credit is due? Isn’t it about time we gave the real job creators a break?