Lapdog Slate Says Ryan Company “Didn’t Build That”

by William Teach | August 15, 2012 3:02 pm

It’s obvious that Slate writer Sally Kohn[1] didn’t build her post: surely the Obama administration did

When Paul Ryan took to the stage in Mooresville, North Carolina, as Mitt Romney’s running mate, he attacked President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” remark about the role of government in supporting private innovation. But while Republicans have been clamoring to make this election a false dichotomy between the private sector and the public sector, Paul Ryan – heir to a private fortune made by building public highways – is a gaping pothole in that plan. Paul Ryan is a living, breathing GOP example of how public infrastructure and private entrepreneurship work hand-in-hand.

Paul Ryan’s great-grandfather started a construction company to build railroads and, eventually, highways. According to the Web site of Ryan Incorporated Central, the company was “founded in 1884 with a single team of mules building railroad embankments in Southern Wisconsin.” And in the 1800s, railroad construction was subsidized by the federal government. Mid-century, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act into law, providing taxpayer dollars to fund the construction of a transcontinental railway. All railroads thereafter connected to, and benefited from, that public investment.

At the turn of the century, Ryan Inc. turned to road building. A subsidiary family corporation, Ryan Incorporated Southern, states on its Web site, “The Ryan workload from 1910 until the rural interstate Highway System was completed 60 years later [and] was mostly Highway construction.” The $119 billion spent by the federal government on the Interstate Highway System was, by one account, “the largest public works program since the Pyramids.”

Except, the Ryan company did, in fact, build that. First, they were a privately owned company. Second, where did the money come from? She even mentions it: the taxpayer. Private citizens who had their money forcibly taken by the government. Mr. Ryan built the company, then used the company to make money by being involved with “public works” projects. Of course, Sally carries more water for the Obama administration

When President Obama said that we succeed in America “because of our individual initiative but also because we do things together,” he was actually speaking in more general terms – about manufacturing companies that ship their goods on our railways and highways and thus indirectly benefit from that public infrastructure. With a net worth of up to $3.2 million and ranking as the 124th richest member of Congress, Paul Ryan very directly and very significantly benefited from the federal spending he now rails against.

A couple points. First, Obama only attempted to position his “you didn’t build that” comment about infrastructure afterwards when he tried to “explain” the comments. It was quite obvious from the initial speech that he meant a company couldn’t be built without the super duper awesome hand of government. 2nd, Paul made his money before entering Congress, unlike others *cough Harry Reid cough* who somehow made themselves millionaires while in federal office. 3rd, Conservatives, including Ryan, do not have a problem with government itself, they have a problem with the size and scope of government, and how money is wasted on stupid projects, and wasted in general. If a road needs building or fixing, sure go ahead, let’s get that done (interestingly, who usually builds the road? A private company who wins the contract to build that road). But, if you take that taxpayer money and use it to, say, build a $10 million turtle tunnel, repaint bridges, repave roads that do not need paving, put a shrimp on a treadmill, yeah, we have a problem with that.

What we have is a difference of viewpoint: those on the Left believe things can only get done with the hand of government. Those on the right believe it’s about your initiative first and foremost.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove[2]. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach[3].

  1. Slate writer Sally Kohn:
  2. Pirate’s Cove:
  3. @WilliamTeach:

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