Elizabeth Warren yesterday came to the defense of her former boss President Obama’s controversial statement that businesses’ owners can’t take credit for their success, repeating her own campaign line that, “nobody got rich on their own.”
Warren’s reiteration of her statement — which became an iconic and controversial cornerstone of her campaign — comes as conservatives have leapt on Obama for saying “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
Warren said during a campaign stop in Dorchester yesterday, “I think the basic notion is right. Nobody got rich on their own. Nobody. People worked hard, they build a business, God bless, but they moved their goods on roads the rest of us helped build, they hired employees the rest of us helped educate, they plugged into a power grid the rest of us helped build,” she said.
“The rest of us made those investments because we wanted businesses to flourish, we wanted them to grow, we wanted them to create opportunity for all of us. That’s what we do together. We get richer as a country when we make those investments.”
Again, the straw man argument is repeated. Conservatives and other promoters of free enterprise are anarchists who don’t believe in government and the idea of public goods. You know, people like Paul Ryan, whose Path to Prosperity budget — also more or less the Romney plan — would spend $20 trillion on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security over the next decade. But because it would not spend $21 trillion as Obama would, Ryan is a Social Darwinist.
Also, according to Obama and Warren, folks in private enterprise don’t believe they should pay taxes to pay for those public goods. Yet the top 1% already pay 40% of the income taxes despite earning just 20% of national income. Again, under the Ryan plan, government would still collect $37 trillion in taxes over the next decade. But because it would not collect $39 trillion, Ryan believes in a dog-eat-dog, You’re On Your Own Society.
What Obama and Warren are really doing is making the case that successful Americans really didn’t earn their success — or did earn enough of it to escape huge tax increases to pay for a greatly expanded social welfare state. Blogger Dan McLaughlin yesterday had a great series of tweets on this:
– Point of Obama’s “you didn’t build it” is to reverse the presumption that your $ is your property. It has no limiting principle.
– Obama is also drawing on a long tradition, esp. in legal academia, of trying to define property rights as gifts state lets you keep.
– The parties have genuine differences on the extent to which govt must justify its exactions from taxpayers. Obama is trying to lower bar.
– This is not a misunderstanding; if you convince people that success has little to do w/work & merit, you justify more burdens on successful.
– Romney’s position is Lockean: govt must exist so others can’t steal fruits of your efforts. But it’s not the cause of success.
– It is, moreover, one of the few philosophical arguments that Mitt Romney is actually equipped & willing to make.
Yes, the election is about the economy. But not just whether it is getting better or worse and how much credit or blame Obama deserves. This election is also about how America will organize itself economically going forward. A top-down state capitalism focusing on redistribution or a bottom-up market capitalism that promotes innovation as the path to prosperity.