There are many data points we could rest on to legitimize that headline, but today’s installment is his notion about how businesses come into being and success is built.
[L]ook, 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.
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.
Let’s look at this in pieces.
“[L]ook, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own.”
No, not strictly on your own. You did have to find customers. You had to find people who wanted what you were producing and valued it at the price you set for its sale. If you didn’t find them, and they didn’t find you, you could not become successful. Eventually you also likely needed an employee or two. But neither of them took the risk to make the business happen—you did. And while they would be out of a job if the business foundered it wasn’t their life savings and maxed out credit cards on the line, or their butt in bankruptcy court. You, if you were to be successful, could never vote “present.”
Indeed, there are. Some even get elected to high office they don’t deserve. But not all smart people work their tails off to make a business successful. A whole lot of them waste their smarts, or are content with whatever comes their way. Or have no idea what it takes actually to be successful, try as they may.
“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.”
True, there are. But not all people who work hard take the risk to start their own business. And lots of people who “work hard” are paid time and a half for anything beyond the first 40 hours of hard work. Any entrepreneur who figures out a way to work fewer than 40 hours per week and become successful has bottled lightning and could make a mint selling that.
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.”
Possibly, but was that great teacher great only for that person? Or was that great teacher great also for all the people who did not go on to start their own successful business? I’ll bet on the latter. So that’s not a point in his favor.
“Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.”
In fact, a lot of somebodies did—from the Founding Fathers on through to today. And the system that allows private individuals to thrive is the one that puts the fewest unnecessary barriers in the way of innovation and does the least to dissuade investment.
“Somebody invested in roads and bridges.”
Right: the business owner also invested in the roads and bridges, likely well before he was successful. And those are the same roads and bridges that everyone uses, including those who did not start successful businesses. So that’s not an argument in his favor.
“If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
See, this statement is simply wrong, and patently offensive (the National Federation of Independent Business and others have had some great reactions). Lots of people have the same conditions as those who start successful businesses—education, public infrastructure, government-guaranteed loans, etc. But only a very few actually take the risk and try to start their own business, and then only a small part of those actually become successful—most fail. No one else “made that happen”—the thought is simply illogical. If you found the business then it is founded because you founded it. Nameless, theoretical “Everyman” didn’t found it: you did. If it is successful there are undoubtedly various factors that you did not personally set up that played a role, e.g., favorable and predictable tax and regulatory scheme, laws that enforce contracts, competition that does not catch up, etc., but none of those is “government hand-out” or “we’re all in this together” in any way beyond buying and selling. And none of it would matter if you had not founded the business and guided it through the government regs and market forces to success.
Obama’s overall point was, in essence, “we’re all in this together,” and a version of “a rising tide lifts all boats.” That’s nice language, and it’s not wrong, but the government does not make it happen. The money to pay for the public school teachers, the roads, and the bridges did not come from thin air or, historically, loans from China. The tax revenues that made this country what it is came from the historically unprecedented wealth-generating dynamo of American ingenuity and private enterprise. Private individuals created wealth, transactions happened freely, thus giving the government a tax base, enabling the bridges to be built and teachers to be paid. The improved infrastructure contributed to further development of enterprise and even greater returns on investment, but that did not magically put the government ahead of private activity in wealth creation.
That Obama imagines it does and governs with such reckless disregard to the effects his policies have on small business and individual liberties, bodes very badly for American ingenuity and liberty if he is reelected.
Barack Obama has been an Ivy League student of dubious record; a community organizer who associated with committed socialists, unrepentant terrorists, and a virulently anti-American pastor; a part-time law professor; a state legislator who won by getting his opponents kicked off the ballot, personally blocked the Born Alive Infant Protection Act and mostly voted “present;” a one-term U.S. senator who won when his opponent’s court-sealed divorce proceedings were mysteriously leaked, and then spent most of his Senate term running for President; and a wildly divisive President who spends most of his time raising money, golfing, and blaming others for his failures. He’s never actually accomplished or built anything: how or why should we expect him to think anything else?
P.S. A wonderfully terse piece that shares some facts I did not have at my finger tips on this same subject is available at the Washington Examiner. One of the money quotes: “Only someone who has never signed the front of a paycheck could make such an ignorant comment.” Read the whole thing.