Obama to American business: You’re welcome


It’s always illuminating when President Obama gives his insights on how America’s free enterprise system works. Here he is last Friday at a campaign event in Virginia:

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.

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.

Of course, the money line in that snippet of the speech is “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

That ranks right up there with “When you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody” as an Obama statement that seemingly confirms a collectivist streak in his economic cosmology.

1. The less damning interpretation is that Obama is merely parroting Elizabeth Warren’s blindingly obvious statement that private enterprise benefits from certain public goods that government provides, such as education and infrastructure, and thus investors and entrepreneurs and other wealthy Americans shouldn’t mind paying taxes for them.

But  that’s a strawman argument — and a divisive one at that. Demonization through distortion. Few opponents of higher taxes are arguing that the most successful Americans should pay no taxes — only that with the top 1% making 20% of the income and paying 40% of the taxes, that the system is already progressive enough. Indeed, you could quite plausibly argue that the United States already has the most progressive and lopsided income tax system among advanced economies.

2.  The more worrisome interpretation is that Obama is adding his own philosophical addendum to the Warren Doctrine: that there is no such thing as individual achievement or merit. All success is directly due to society’s collective effort as manifested by government. It takes a village — or at least its bureaucrats — to accomplish anything. There are no heroes, no great Americans other than The People who express the National Will through Government. As if the nation’s entrepreneurs all stand on the shoulders of the giants at the Commerce Department and the Small Business Administration and the Energy Department. If entrepreneurs really add no value to the efforts of government, why not not tax them at 90%? That way, more money for government — the “somebody else” in the Obama statement — to create more middle-class prosperity.

Does he not think free enterprise is an essential part of “this unbelievable American system”?

3. There’s also no recognition in the speech of all the many ways government hurts business,

– how government wastes tax dollars and cause tax rates to be higher than they should be,

– how government impedes business through dumb and duplicative regulations,

– how government threatens the viability of the Republic through the monstrous and ever-mounting national debt.,

– how the best laid plans of government might not work as well in practice as they do in theory.

In speech after speech — even taken in their best possible light — the president demonstrates that he is a man of government first and last and through and through, that he sees government as the font of innovation and growth.

Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

21 thoughts on “Obama to American business: You’re welcome

  1. James, I would go one step further. I truly believe that Obama holds business people in contempt. Business people only achieve financial success because they exploit workers and the system provided to them by government. I think he said exactly what he means: “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

  2. I’ve long stopped being surprised at the current administration’s blatant anti free-enterprise statements, but this most current one by the President is so simultaneously arrogant and condescending; were I a small business owner I would be up in arms. Businesses achieve success by the sweat and blood of the employer and employees, and a little bit of luck. To insinuate that businesses somehow owe the government their success is simply asinine. And the Obama administration tries to claim that the GOP is out of touch with Middle America?? Mr. President, your statements are either a reflection of your complete incompetence as President of this great nation, or show your true motives to turn the free enterprise system that made our nation into the greatest the world has ever known into a government subsidized and regulated socialist economy.

    It’s an election year, and its understandable that you are scrambling to try and show the nation anything that can be considered an achievement, Mr. President. But don’t you dare try to take away the achievements of the Americans who have worked to make this country the great nation it is.

    Shane Carini

  3. The president does not say to whom or to what to give some. I assume he means taxes again. Certaily many people are involved in a business enterprise but it usually starts with an entrepreneur that has the idea and takes the risk on his time and money invested. Also the president conviniently does not mention that most if not all the successful business people do give indeed to schools, foundations, Hospitals, Pay high Taxes, and so on.

  4. What a pathetic little man who is our president.

    A man who has done little in his life other than getting elected and occasionally showing up to vote on legislation is belittling men and women of vision, hard work, leadership, and accomplishment in order to turn around his political fortunes. Is it any wonder that a man who has not displayed any leadership in office does not recognize the role that vision and leadership plays in creating a successful business?

    Marxism and contempt for the American experience is clearly at the root of Obama’s world view, but I have come to the conclusion that modern liberals/progressives really don’t think about or analyze the philosophical underpinnings of their critiques or solutions like conservatives do. Good intentions and cliches trump results.

    The fact that this man has even 40% support indicates we are in big trouble.

  5. Of course businesses become successful through the help of “other people” — other people who were paid for what they provided to the business. There are no charities devoted to giving things away to businesses. And if those “other people” were from the gov’t, then the business’s taxes paid them (and probably too much for what it got in return).

    How would Obama know how a person goes about building a successful business, anyway? Not from personal experience, that’s for sure. It guess he read about it, like Judaism, in books — probably books written by Marxist college professors who have no personal knowledge about the subject, either.

  6. Obama is a Marxist. He lies about our economic system in order to justify taking more money from our economy, and further crippling our economy. Obama and the left are buying all the votes they can with money essentially stolen from the system they disdain. Obama’s war on business and success has a long, clear history.

  7. Obama is right…there was a bloomberg article that talks about the infrastructure in this country is what makes it the most desirable place to do business and where people enjoy a better standard of living.

    • In reality, who payed for those roads and highways? Who paid for the major projects that the government has done? The government has no money on it’s own. It produces nothing of value to sell on the market. The only place that the government gets money is from the people through taxes, fines, and tariffs. Wealthy people pay the most in taxes, and for a time at a 90% rate. Do people who pay 0% in federal taxes, or better yet get money back from the government invest in the roads? The majority of the money came from wealthy individuals. So in reality, the wealthy has already contributed to the roads, teachers, firefighters, police, and every other public project or entity in a bigger share than the middle class and below.

  8. This President is a sightless Majo Boob.. may be a nice fella. Seems descent enough.. with skewed idea of reality. Only individuals create and invent and discover. Groups accomplish nothing together. They mostly serve in every case to thwart real progress by their collective self satisfied ignorance. Einstein.. Edison.. DaVinci.. Ceasor.. Lincoln.. you fill in the blank. Individual Genius of Sight.. Vision.. seeing beyond the obvious.. History turns with these. The BOs of the world are haltingly and hatingly envious. Of these. They seek to suppress and smother them by shere numbers of group think. Only individuals fix problems and then the group tags along and refines.

  9. Obama, Commie mother, commie father, commie grandparents, commie mentor, commie friends …… commie Barack. Not too difficult to figure this out. He’s a red diaper baby.

  10. So, this pretty much lets Romney off the hook for anything that happened at Bain, right? After all, “Somebody else made that happen”.

  11. I could not help myself but wonder whether President Obama felt as strongly about the contributions government makes to business failures as it does to business successes. Here is my version of his speech.

    If you are a failure, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life but that teacher did not help you. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed a few to thrive and others like you to fail. Somebody invested in roads and bridges but that did not help you. If you’ve got a failed business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

  12. Echos of Ozymandias-on-the-Potomac’s one-man take-down (with minor supporting bit-players) of Osama bin Laden abound.

    Just like his pre-and-Senatorial efforts, if realized, would have totally prevented the “eeevil Bush era” intelligent apparatus and teams that were used to eventually track down and take out bin Laden, Ozoneman’s Leftist/Statist/Marxist-socialist worldview would eagerly and immediately gut the Defense budget which, among other things, created this Internet thingie that our benevolent and beneficent “Gummint” is being given credit for providing. DARPA probably would never even have existed if Obamessiah and his crew could finalize their Utopian wet-dream of a “transformed” (and neutered) America.

    Not to mention that this nebulous “American system” he seems suddenly so proud of was primarily created by the private sector operating within an environment that facilitated, not frustrated, a nationwide messy, sometimes-chaotic gaggle of individuals and companies interacting with one another.

    Dang, this “freedom” and “liberty” stuff is a tad hard to tightly control from the Throne of Power. In America, however, that’s not a bug but a primary, defining feature.

    It always rubs despots the wrong way.

  13. Clearly you take this away from his intent. No doubt, the words didn’t come out right, but clearly his point was made… most entrepreneurs worked hard through a public school system, and that’s taxpayer funded. Most entrepreneurs open businesses that have had some sort of government infrastructure. He isn’t saying that entrepreneurs are callous, nor does he want to fight them. He’s saying, clearly, that infrastructure plays a hand-in-hand role with allowing entrepreneurs to succeed, or succeed more. There are a lot of people who turn on the water, work in plants, police the streets, etc., who are a part of society, and they are not to be overlooked. The Obama name-calling shows ignorance. Even Romney would tell you that hard working Americans who work on bridges are important to this country. Obama is no Marxist. He believes that government can play a greater role in areas, and sure, disagree on that. But the long lengths people are going to name-call and smear, the more entrenched these ideas will get. There are more civil servants and factory workers and employees than there will ever be business owners. Populism gets elected, and if you fail to see that, your politics will fail, too.

    • Some entrepreneurs didn’t enter the public school system. Some entrepreneurs built their business with 2 jobs and grew from the ground up with their own money. Some entrepreneurs payed for that infrastructure through tax. Some roads are built by private people some road are not federal owned but state. The fact of the matter is Obama is against the private sector which includes the religious part of peoples lives, religious schools religious businesses. He calls for collectivism rather then the individual.

    • Yes, there are a plethora of things that are present today in which government has had a hand: basic infrastructure like roads, bridges, clean running water and sanitation, the Internet infrastructure, police and fire protection, a basic social “safety net”, an educational system which on some occasions provides a good experience with a teacher that actually helps someone in a profound way.

      All of these things contribute to the “no man is an island” sense that no one today can accurate claim that 100% of their existence is attributable to themselves alone.

      But this is an utterly facile observation, and a straw man to boot, because no one who is claiming to have successfully built a business “on their own” is making that sort of claim.

      What they are rightly claiming is that the incremental, marginal success above and beyond the baseline standard of living that most people experience today is a result of their personal effort and sacrifice.

      The infrastructure and other benefits that result from government programs (which are paid for by taxpayers… they are not simply largesse bestowed upon us by a benevolent goverment) redound in very great degree to everyone in the country, and in a generally equal way.

      Yet despite having access to all of this, not everyone creates new wealth and opportunities through the creation of new and successful businesses. No, very far from it.

      Very few people create jobs where there were no jobs before. These entrepreneurs have created something new at the margins, and the success that they accumulate in the form of wealth above and beyond the general population is something that they did, indeed, create.

      It is that marginal success, that marginal increase in available jobs, and that marginal increase in wealth produced that they very well did create, and in many cases, that act of creation was done “on their own”.

      If Obama’s “point” were true, and the existence of this infrastructure was both necessary and sufficient to cause success to spring up, then everyone would be successful, and everyone would be running their own businesses.

      It’s obvious and true that infrastructure is largely necessary to success.

      It’s false to assert that infrastructure is also sufficient to cause success. It’s not. The credit for the “sufficient” part of the equation (and the rewards that accompany it) belong to the ones who went that extra mile to create something at the margins that didn’t exist before.

      That’s what the business owner typically means when they say that they created their business “themselves, on their own”. That owner may well have provided that sufficiency themselves, and without their personal efforts, that business would not have existed.

      Am I “reaching” in order to come to that conclusion? I don’t think so. What Obama was denying by his construction is that there is any component of the success of a business that belongs SOLELY to the creator’s effort. He’s saying that you can’t point to something (and “something” in this case logically maps to “anything”) and rightfully say “I created that. I’m the one who deserves the credit. It was me. I did it, and I deserved the rewards.”

      When he says “You didn’t create that… someone else made that happen”, that’s what the statement means: That you don’t get credit for your work, and you owe everyone else for whatever success you have.

      … and you should therefore pay more, because you owe everyone else for your success.

  14. I think what the President is saying is common sense. None of us, no matter how smart you are, no matter how hard working you are, how ethical ,innovative, etc., all of us business owners are provided this tremendous system of law and order, local, state and federal infrastructure, security and protection, clean air, water, fish and wildlife, all of which has been protected, developed and refined upon by prior generations of Americans. It’s an American myth that we like to think of thid rugged image of the self made man, It’s a nice thought. It’s not true. Let us recognize the tremendous good our national government has done for our public health, safety and welfare. We all stand on our forefather’s collective shoulders. Let us be cognizant of this reality and stop fighting or degrading our nation’s achievements whether they be in law, science, technology, education, public health. Paul Ryan, you are not a self made man either my friend. Nor am I.

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