It's the latest talking point from both Activist and Neighborhood Liberals: Every time a conservative points out something like "Apple created the iPod 3 without government help" they respond, "Oh yeah? It's shipped on public roads...and most of their employees went to public schools! Couldn't do it without government!"
The reality is that the American public is waking up and realizing (finally!) that government is not the solution to our problem and that, in fact, it is the source of many of our problems. So now liberals are once again trying to change the conversation by bringing up schools and roads and other such things that government is the...shall we say, least worst...entity to handle. It's also a rationalization for saying that "the rich don't pay their fair share in taxes!" (Which they have to rationalize since fact is the "evil" top 1% pay 36% of the tax burden and the top 10% pay more than 70% of the tax burden.) They try to rationalize it by saying that those businesses use public infrastructure to ship their products ergo they somehow benefit more than other citizens from the public roads (of course, those same people use the same roads to get to their jobs etc).
It's time for a reality check on this talking point, which I'm pleased to be able to provide. First and foremost, this entire argument is a Straw Man argument. Conservatives don't argue with government handling infrastructure (for those of you from Palm Beach County, FL, that'd be roads and bridges). We do think the best place to handle this kind of project is local governments or, at most, state governments and not the Federal government. The most efficient (relatively speaking...government efficiency is an oxymoron as always) way to handle these jobs is the public sector. Conservatives also don't argue with public schools. Yet we again believe the best way to handle schools is the local level or at the most the state level, and never at the national level.
Now to the issue at hand: Does this translate into "couldn't live without government?" Absolutely not! Fact is, public schools weren't available to all individuals in America until 1870! It wasn't until 1910 when public school attendance was mandatory. Are you saying that there weren't businesses before 1910? Of course there were! As far as public highways? The first public highway wasn't commissioned until 1921! And again, every citizen has the right to use the public roads and has equal access. The disparity between the taxes paid by the business owner over the rest of the population more than covers the theoretical extra wear and tear on the road from business shipping.
More importantly, this excuse of "infrastructure and education" absolutely does not validate the level of government spending that the modern liberal desires. Government has handled both for decades. Let's take a couple of snapshot years, shall we?
In 1952, the federal deficit was $3.883 Billion. Adjusted for inflation that's $31.536 Billion in modern dollars (translation - less than one day of modern deficit spending). In 1954 the deficit was $3.114 Billion. Adjusted for inflation that's $24.695 Billion in modern dollars (translation - again, less than one day of modern deficit spending). Finally, in 1962, the federal budget deficit was $9.229 Billion. Adjusted for inflation that's a mere $65.780 Billion in modern dollars (translation - about two days worth of modern deficit spending).
What's the point, you ask? Here's the point: In every one of those years, government was spending on infrastructure and schools. Yet the deficits were very reasonable...and I didn't even mention fiscal years 1951, 1956 or 1957, where the federal government ran a modest surplus...and yes, the government was spending for infrastructure and schools in those years as well. Clearly, the cause of our trillion dollar deficits each year aren't because of Obamanomics and government spending.
Talking about infrastructure and education, or if you prefer fire departments, police departments, or any other legitimate public service is simply a cop-out by the Left to deflect the realities: Government isn't overspending on the things it ought to be doing, nor is the problem that we don't tax enough. The problem is...the problem has always been...that we spend too much and we spend to much not on necessities but on frivolous and unnecessary things. Sometimes, those unnecessary things are veiled as compassion.
Feeding people who legitimately can't feed themselves? Fine. But doing so in a way that other people's money can be spent on candy, on potato chips, on soda? (I've managed an inner-city store...it was infuriating to see what food stamps were spent on...in greater quantities than actual nutritious food.) Advertising food stamps? Again, those who need it don't need advertisements (which I can tell you due the fact that I work in media advertising is not cheap) to tell people "you may not think you qualify for food stamps, but you might!" Think about that! "You may have enough money to buy food...but we can give you food stamps anyway!"
The truth that no liberal wants to tell you is that infrastructure, schools, etc. are a drop in the bucket of the deficit. More importantly, they won't tell you that conservatives don't argue against infrastructure or school spending. We do argue against Cowboy Poetry festivals, investing in phantom "Green Energy" and paying for people to not work for 3 years and giving food stamps to people who legitimately do not need it. We argue against waste. So let's refuse to engage in this misdirection and change the conversation.