Who Built What?

Guest Columnist | 9/6/2012, 3:04 p.m.

What entitlements is he talking about? Subsidies to Head Start, proven to make a difference in early childhood education? Unemployment benefits, which many in his Janesville, Wisconsin hometown community used when a General Motors plant closed under President George Bush not, as he suggested, President Obama? Would he remove Pell grant subsidies to college students? Would he eliminate Social Security? Does he visit national parks? Government subsidies built that. Does he ride on any of our nation's government subsidized roads and highways? Ryan has told us what he feels about Medicare, but his slam on government entitlements ignores the work government has done. Who built the roads? "We" didn't. Government did, with the help of well-paid contractors.

If Republicans want to know what "we" built, they need to look back to the record of former President George W. Bush. That president built a banking crisis, and gave banks nearly $800 billion to bail themselves out. Bush built an unemployment rate that continued to soar under the leadership of his successor, President Barack Obama.

Republicans need to be reminded of who built what when they walk into our nation's capital. Some folks eagerly claim credit for their quasi-accomplishments. Others toil, and it takes more than 200 years for our nation to grudgingly acknowledge them. As a descendent of enslaved people, that "we built it" rhetoric repels me.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.