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Professor NewtI love listening to former history professor Newt Gingrich lecture others about “history” because… as I’ve pointed out before… he gets it wrong so often. And not just “wrong”, but 100% BACKWARDS wrong. He did so again during last nights’ CNBC GOP debate in Rochester, Michigan:
 


 

Gingrich, in an answer regarding the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters, chastises protesters… and President Obama by name… for “not knowing history”:

In this town, Henry Ford started as an Edison Electric supervisor who went home at night and built his first car in his the garage.

(Note: It was pointed out to me that Gingrich said “the” garage and not “his” garage. But, unless Ford “went home” and built his car in the *neighbor’s* garage, I’m certain Gingrich was suggesting Ford built his first car “at home” in his *own* workshop rather than the Edison Machine Shop where he worked. And as reader “Loge” on DKos pointed out, “Why would Henry Ford or anyone [else] have a garage before cars were invented?” – Mugsy)

Where to start? Other than getting the Ford/Edison connection right, History Professor Newt blew just about everything else in that sentence. “In this town”? Henry Ford started in Dearborn not Rochester where they were debating. The Edison Electric Institute where he worked was also not in Michigan, it was in New York City. A mild gaffe that I’d otherwise let pass, except he goes on: When he says “Henry Ford built his first car in the garage”, he’s implying (or, IMHO, believes) Ford invented the automobile. While Ford built his Quadracycle in 1896 (in NYC, not Michigan), he was only able to afford to do so AFTER his promotion to Chief Engineer of the Edison Illuminating Company in 1893. Ford’s big success came when he invented the Assembly Line as a way to increase worker productivity, ten years AFTER he started the Ford Motor Company in 1903. By that time, he was already worth millions.

Professor Newt continues:

Now, was he in the 99 percent or the 1 percent?

While not in the 1%, Ford was definitely more well off than most when, as Edison’s Chief Engineer, he built “his first car” in 1896. But his REAL success came only after he started the Ford Motor Company in 1903. By the time he invented the Assembly Line in 1913, the company was already worth millions. Ford’s family owned their own farm, so he had no mortgage hanging over his head, and didn’t have any huge college loan debt hanging over his head limiting his opportunities for success.

Next:

Bill Gates drops out of college to found Microsoft. Was he in the 99 percent of the 1 percent?

Yes Newt, Microsoft founder Bill Gates was already in the 1% before he started his company. Bill Gates’ father, William Gates II, was an attorney that went to college on the G.I. Bill. His mother served on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem and the United Way. Gates’s maternal grandfather was J. W. Maxwell, a national bank president. Born into great wealth, Gates was already in the Top 1% when he was sent to Harvard in 1973.

And all this kind of misses the point. As Professor Newt unwittingly points out, it was MUCH easier to ascend from lesser means to great wealth in 1896… or even just a few decades ago. The harsh truth is, that with the spiraling cost of college, and the near total evaporation of “social mobility” since Newt’s extreme brand of Conservativism swept this country in 1994, stories like those of Ford or Gates have become mere pipe dreams to the young people protesting on Wall Street, and THAT is why they are out there. The very fact Gingrich has to go back ALMOST 40 YEARS for his most recent example of someone “making it big on their own” clearly doesn’t dawn on him.

If there’s one person that needs a history lesson, it’s History Professor Newt.


Sign my petition for GREEN JOBS TOMORROW fast & cheap. Use those $4 Billion in oil subsidies to put Solar Panels on the roofs of 40,000 government buildings, or order 100,000 hybrid mail-trucks. Not only would this INSTANTLY CREATE JOBS, it would spark ENTIRE INDUSTRIES with a future, reduce our dependency on oil, reduce greenhouse emissions, and quickly pay for itself (and cut future expenses) with the energy savings. We need 5,000 signatures by December 20th.

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