From the Wall Street Journal, ‘You Didn’t Build That’, 7/17/12:
Speaking in Roanoke, Virginia, Mr. Obama delivered another paean to the virtues of higher taxes on the people he believes deserve to pay even more to the government. “There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans,” he observed, and many of them attribute their wealth and success to their own intelligence and hard work. But the self-made man is an illusion: “There are a lot of smart people out there,” he explained. “Let me tell you something—there are a whole bunch of hard-working people out there.
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help,” he continued. “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.”
This mirrors Elizabeth Warren’s similar screed:
“You built a factory out there? Good for you,” she says. “But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.”
She continues: “Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
What does she mean by the “rest of us”? Is she insinuating that the businesses who have paid billions in property tax, billions is fuel taxes from running their fleets of trucks, generated billions in sales taxes and paid billions in state and federal income did not pay their share are thus not included in “the rest of us”? Let’s be clear- they paid a vast portion of that bill she attributes to “the rest of us.”
Thomas Sowell noted inTrashing Achievements in Townhall, 7/20/12:
People who run businesses are benefitting from things paid for by others? Since when are people in business, or high-income earners in general, exempt from paying taxes like everybody else?
At a time when a small fraction of high-income taxpayers pay the vast majority of all the taxes collected, it is sheer chutzpah to depict high-income earners as somehow being subsidized by “the rest of us,” whether in paying for the building of roads or the educating of the young.
And, by the way, there are two sides of a “social contract”, and the other side is that those in public office are supposed to manage and spend that money responsibly. How many of the “rest of us” do you think believes they are upholding their end of the deal?
Obama’s comments belittling business owners have infuriated business people. It is an expansion of Elizabeth warren’s comments than nobody got rich on their own. It is an example of stating the obvious to reach a conclusion that is far from obvious to anyone who has actually worked in a privately held business.
Of course we all use the roads and benefit from police and the teachers. All of us have stood on the shoulders of those before us and those around us. We all benefit from the cumulative wisdom of workers, educators, writers, thinkers, and purveyors of ideas. What is the point of belittling those who have benefitted from this? Isn’t that the reason we incur this effort and these expenses ?
Yes, Mr. President, there are others who are smarter and others who also work hard. But there are also many who benefit from those roads and teachers and policemen and firefighters who do not pay a dime for them and there are many who had access to these same advantages who did not build a business that created wealth and generated the tax revenue that paid for this and other government expenses. Roads without enterprise are just…. roads.
Didn’t the president also benefit from an education and roads and infrastructure? Does that mean that he doesn’t deserve to be president or that he deserves no credit for that accomplishment?
If the government and others are the reason “you’ve got a business” and are successful, are they not also responsible for those that failed? Are they not also responsible for those that were unable to start a business because of the regulatory burden?
Nathan Duszynski, 13, decided he wanted a hot dog cart, so he could earn some money. But as he was setting up shop Tuesday in the parking lot of Reliable Sports at River Avenue and 11th Street — across the street from Holland City Hall — a city of Holland zoning official shut him down. Now, after spending more than $2,500 to start up his business, Duszynski is throwing in the towel, his mom said.
And this tale out of Obama’s home town:
Gibson Guitars CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz , whose factories were raided by armed federal agents wrote in the Wall Street Journal, Gibson’s Fight Against Criminalizing Capitalism, 7/19/12:
Growing businesses face a number of hurdles in today’s economy. For Gibson Guitar—a company that has created more than 580 American jobs in the last two years—the largest hurdle is the federal government.
This is an overreach of government authority and indicative of the kinds of burdens the federal government routinely imposes on growing businesses. It also highlights a dangerous trend: an attempt to punish even paperwork errors with criminal charges and to regulate business activities through criminal law. Policy wonks call this “overcriminalization.” I call it a job killer.
In America alone, there are over 4,000 federal criminal offenses. Under the Lacey Act, for instance, citizens and business owners also need to know—and predict how the U.S. federal government will interpret—the laws of nearly 200 other countries on the globe as well.
Many business owners have inadvertently broken obscure and highly technical foreign laws, landing them in prison for things like importing lobster tails in plastic rather than cardboard packaging (the violation of that Honduran law earned one man an eight-year prison sentence). Cases like this make it clear that the justice system has strayed from its constitutional purpose: stopping the real bad guys from bringing harm.
Of course we now hear that we took the President’s comments out of context. But either he is making an obviously banal statement or he is belittling those who “stumbled” upon success.
Interestingly, it is not the successful who feel that they act alone, it is the unsuccessful. When they declare bankruptcy, lose their investment and often their collateral which is commonly their house, where is their help? They are the ones who feel alone.
The implication is that without this help you could not have “made” it. Therefore you owe and you owe big. However much you have already paid doesn’t matter; you owe more. And you don’t owe just for the infrastructure and police- those things that we understand government is for. You owe for the expansion of government far into areas beyond basic government services.
The implication is that the money is not really yours, and the government can assess whatever portion of it as they see fit. If this is not what they are saying then what is the point of the statement?
The comment underlies the fundamental belief that government is not just the facilitator of the conditions allowing opportunities to expand wealth, but the harbinger of wealth generation itself. And for those who benefit so handsomely from the perks of political power this is true.
It is the belief of an elite that is jealous of those less educated and deemed less intelligent that have managed to earn wealth not because of the government but in spite of them. They may have used the government roads (that we paid for), but they also had to maneuver around the endless roadblocks that government continues to build.