You really didn’t build that

I’ve been struck lately by how quickly each presidential campaign attacks the other for the slightest misstatement. A most recent attack on President Obama grew out of his remark that none of us got to be successful on our own.

The statement reminds me a little bit of some author whose name I can’t recall who once said every time you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he had some help getting there. I’m certain what President Obama meant, and I subscribe 100 percent to the theory that all of us who have had any modicum of success are in part indebted to the country in which we live and the government that provides us so many things.

Imagine for a moment the hardest worker in the world who seeks to make a living by transporting goods across the country by truck. How well would he or she fare without the interstate highway system? So the argument can be made that these folks paid for the system via their motor fuel tax; however, that argument would not stand up to close scrutiny. One of the facts concerning motor fuel tax is that there is probably as much or more gasoline consumed on the streets of cities; the taxes paid on that gasoline goes to maintain and build state and interstate highways.

In a recent article, Cal Thomas ridiculed the statement made by Obama and pointed out great newscasters Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite as great successes on their own with absolutely no help from government. Unfortunately, this shows a woeful lack of knowledge about the regulation of the broadcast media by government. Imagine for a moment if there were no Federal Communications Commission and anyone could broadcast on any frequency they chose, thereby creating a system where the most powerful station with the most wattage would be the station most listened to, to the exclusion of others. It is a basic principle in our present capitalistic and democratic system that the airwaves in America belong to the people. That ownership by the people is protected by healthy regulations concerning the use of public airwaves.

I am equally amused by successful doctors, engineers and even lawyers, who boast of being self-made with absolutely no help from anyone. The majority of us have graduated from public schools where taxpayers have paid the lion’s share of the cost of our education, which enables us to pursue our professions to a successful end.

Doctors generally practice their trade in hospitals they didn’t pay for. Lawyers make money at the courthouse they didn’t pay for. Owners of airlines fly in airspace made safe by the Federal Aviation Administration. Passengers should and do take comfort from the fact that only qualified persons sit at the controls of airliners as required by our government.

How would the successful ship owner, no matter how hard he might work, how clever or smart he might be, succeed without the Corps of Engineers, paid for by daily, working taxpayers, keeping the waterways and ports of our nation open and properly dredged.

The successful person who continually boasts of being totally responsible for his or her success, no matter how hard they worked, is a braggart with an empty boast. They somewhat remind me of the quarterback, no matter how talented, who claims he is responsible for all of the touchdowns made by his team. A quarterback without the blocking of his linemen will never be a star. Capitalists investing in a refinery will never be successful without pumpers, gaugers, steelmen, welders, metalworkers and ordinary laborers.

Of course, hard work and perseverance is to be appreciated, even revered, in our society. Unfortunately, under our current system, many things do not speak to that end. As a great example, the earnings of a man or woman who works as hard as they can work, day and night, contributes more to support our government than does the money earned by inherited wealth, investment, economic adventures in foreign countries, or suppliers of military goods who are chosen because of their political connections rather than their low prices or quality products.

It is an actual fact that successful politicians do not elect themselves. Successful businessmen get nowhere without the assistance of faithful employees and loyal customers, all the while being protected by their government in numerous ways.Carl Parker has practiced law in Port Arthur since 1958. He is a 1958 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. Elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1962 and the Senate in 1976, Parker continued to practice law while writing and sponsoring hundreds of bills that became laws relating to every aspect of life in Texas, including many regarding consumer safety. His e-mail is cap1934 [at] aol [dot] com.