Actually, We Did Build The Golden Gate Bridge On Our Own

Everyone's rightly jumped on the President's appearance in Roanoke, VA, yesterday, where among other things he said this:
look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.  (Applause.)
     If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
     The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. 
 Let's let Paul Ryan refute that. And Mitt Romney takes it apart in the speech linked below too. It's easily refuted. I want to focus on some other things.

First of all, truly, the President and his people are clueless and living an insular life. Are they not aware of the hot water Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren got into for saying almost exactly this in almost the same words? How can you be running for re-election and not aware of how the Senate campaigns are going -- and avoiding their mistakes? If the President had anyone competent in his speechwriting shop, he'd have been warned at the very least not to put it that way, or to address the objections.

Similarly, here's another instance of the speechwriters citing historical examples that don't support the point they're making. A sentence or two later Obama, citing things the Federal government did for us, says:
That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam.
Blap! Wrong. The Federal government obstructed the building of the Golden Gate Bridge every step of the way. They opposed it; said it couldn't be done; wouldn't sell the land; once they did sell, they obstructed and obfuscated for five years.
Construction did not go as smoothly as planned. It takes another FIVE years for the government and the architects to come to agreement on the design. Furthermore, Federal contractor unions wanted the contracts to build the bridge and stalled the government on the issue, demanding they take action to halt construction unless they got the contract. Fortunately, local authorities insisted that as part of the contract only local labor would be used instead of Federal union contracts, insuring the area had work during Depression era unemployment.
Then the Stock Market collapsed and the project would have died except...
The Golden Gate committee now has trouble issuing the bond needed for the construction of the bridge, even though the citizens of the surrounding area had put up their own personal lands and farms as collateral. It takes 3 more years and the wealthy President and founder of Bank of America, A.P. Giannini, to personally buy the 35 million dollar bond which he then finances through the bank. Without the bank and the intervention of private industry fueled by personal wealth, again the bridge would not have been built. By 1937 the bridge is completed—and [architect Joseph] Strauss delivers the bridge 1.7 million UNDER budget, using local non-union labor and private contractors.
Doesn't it seem as though a person being paid to write speeches for the President of the United States might occasionally think to Google and see whether his examples are true before asserting them? Once again, the President is caught giving a speech that reads as if it were the product of a late-night cram session. (Don't get me started on the folly of invoking the greatness of the moonshot if you're the guy who killed the space program.)

In the President's favor, though, I have to say he is on to something that the GOP needs to take more seriously (Romney does a great job with this in the speech below). Some time ago Mr. W. was in New Joisey for a family wedding and was chatting with a bunch of extended family who are all inveterate Democrats: union men, suspicious of the GOP.  As we were talking about some of the conversations he got into, I realized for the first time why Republicans are considered "the party of the rich" even though the Democratic Party overtook the GOP long ago in terms of wealth of its members, and the GOP champions the individual and the family whereas the Dems champion "groups."  Maybe this is obvious, but it only just "clicked" for me.

Mr. W's relatives are largely "workers." They don't imagine themselves starting businesses (the ones that do are Republicans, or at least more sympathetic to the GOP), and because that's not on their radar screen, none of the GOP rhetoric about "entrepreneurs" and "businessmen" hits home. When they think "businessman" they aren't thinking about about their next-door neighbor's hardware shop or pest control franchise. They think Wall Street fat cat. Because the economy is poor, these workers --who work hard and honestly-- are fearful for their security. Rick Santorum had this much right: that the GOP has to connect not only with entrepreneurs, but with "workers." So it's not enough to mock the President for saying "you didn't build your business." Of course not. You built it --and with the help of your workers. But the GOP is going to have to find a way to articulate its economic vision in such a way that "workers" understand they're a part of it, and they don't feel mocked by talk radio and our pundits.

Update: Back on the Golden Gate, ninme highlights a different portion of the same Reason article linked above asking a good question.
My biggest problem with the Golden Gate metaphor isn’t necessarily the federal vs. state/private distinction, it’s that government spending at any level is being confused for the construction of gorgeous, useful bridges. That $35 million during the Depression is worth around $530 million today, or far less than 1 percent of Obama’s stimulus package. So, where the hell are our new Golden Gates? What, exactly, has been the return on all this added “investment”?