In the latest example of Trump's Used-Car-Salesman tactics of free-association to find any word that sticks with a listener just to close a deal, the Commander In Chief of the US Armed Forces said today on CNBC that the wheel was invented by an innovative American capitalist, as an example of the corporate ingenuity that must be protected at all costs.
Trump seems to believe the wheel was invented in the United States: "We have to protect all of these people that came up with, originally, the light bulb and the wheel and all of these things." pic.twitter.com/re6CyRi6HY
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 22, 2020
It's not particularly notable or remarkable that Trump also credits Thomas Edison with the invention of the light bulb. It is true that Edison (through his company) perfected and patented a practical modern light bulb for use in American homes. But people across the globe had been experimenting with incandescent bulbs for a century before Edison locked it down; in fact, Edison's initial patent was denied because it was too derivative of the work done by William Sawyer.
But of course Edison gets all the credit. And in this case, that's not really an indictment on Trump. It is, however, a painfully accurate metaphor for the kind of "innovators" who actually get rewarded under American Capitalism — savvy business people who navigate legal loopholes to profit off of someone else's labor and ideas.
This all reminds me of something I saw on Twitter once. I can't find the original source right now, but the argument was essentially that American colonists used the wheel to prove their superiority over Native Americans. But Native Americans understood that wheels require roads, which require frequent maintenance, which requires an economic system that encourages people to disadvantage others in order to force them to perform the labor required to make the roads work, in order to subsidize their use of the wheel, which is how they justified their superiority.