Obama: Businesses Are Lucky & Should Thank the Government
[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.
The President goes on to qualify (sorta) the above by explaining that businesses wouldn’t be successful without all the “good stuff” the government provided via
our tax dollars magic(?).
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.
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.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses responds:
What a disappointment to hear President Obama’s revealing comments challenging the significance of America’s entrepreneurs.
His unfortunate remarks over the weekend show an utter lack of understanding and appreciation for the people who take a huge personal risk and work endless hours to start a business and create jobs.
I’m sure every small-business owner who took a second mortgage on their home, maxed out their credit cards or borrowed money from their own retirement savings to start their business disagrees strongly with President Obama’s claim. They know that hard work does matter.
Every small business is not indebted to the government or some other benefactor. If anything, small businesses are historically an economic and job-creating powerhouse in spite of the government.
There is just enough truth in President Obama’s statement to seem sorta plausible. But it is true only from a stratospheric view in that our country, often through the government, did make these improvements or create programs that do help business at the macro-level. But individuals who create businesses–and who have also paid and continue to pay taxes that fund the government programs cited by the President–don’t gain any particular advantage over anyone else thanks to this stuff. Yes, they are also often supported by friends, family and community, but in the end they’re the ones putting their own asses on the line.
ADDENDUM: Jim Pethokoukis adds his thoughts:
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…..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.
UPDATE: Perhaps this explanation by Charles Krauthammer will help people better understand the “strawman argument” being put forth by President Obama as well as the nuances that are being missed by some: