If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else did that.
Fairly straightforward for a President who is a master at using words so that almost anyone listening can hear almost anything they want to hear in his speeches. Think Progress has an article out today claiming that Obama’s words were taken out of context. Really? Let’s take a look at the offending paragraphs and you can draw your own conclusion. From the White House website here are the sections that I find offensive (and incredibly disingenuous and ignorant):
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — 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.[emphasis added] 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. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.
So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President — because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together. (Applause.)
You can read the entire speech here.
The problems with this speech are many. First, he conflates the subject of basic government services (roads, firefighting, public education) with the activities of business people investing their own capital, their own resources, their own time, their own energy, into an idea that someday, maybe, might create a product or service that might produce revenue that might enable that person to hire other people to provide more services and products. Capitalists will use the roads and fire fighting services but those services can’t be provided unless and until the capitalist succeeds and creates wealth or revenue which can then be taxed to build the roads and hire the firefighters.
Government services are separate and apart from capitalistic ventures and cannot be provided but for a government that confiscates wealth through taxes to build roads or hire firefighters. Government does not create wealth, but can only spend wealth.
Second, the President deftly conflates the creation of the United States by the Founding Fathers with the ability of individuals to succeed. He says “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.” Seriously? A system that allows us to thrive? The Founding Fathers believed in a system of limited government with only enumerated powers and not of an overreaching, intrusive government that allows us to thrive. He’s got it backwards. We thrive because we have limited government in our unique social compact.
Finally, inferred in the President’s remarks is that somehow government creates jobs, creates wealth, creates the middle class, creates all that makes America great. his vision is one a federal government with unlimited powers, redistributing wealth, creating common, equal outcomes, served by a subservient population that depends on the government doing all these things collectively.
It is the antipathy of what capitalism and the American republic is all about and which enabled us to become the most advanced, successful and wealthy population in the history of mankind.
No, the President wasn’t taken out of context. I only wish that he had been. That wouldn’t be nearly as frightening.