Mitt Romney delivered an impressive rebuttal to Barack Obama’s ill-considered remarks in a Roanoke, Virginia speech on small business owners this past Sunday. In a dramatic change of subject, Romney blasted Obama for suggesting that Steve Jobs didn’t build Apple, Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft, and (with a chuckle) that Papa John didn’t build his pizzeria powerhouse. Calling Obama’s remarks “both startling and revealing,” Romney’s rhetoric peaked when he argued that the American economy hasn’t seen success because Obama has spent the last three yearsattacking success. This is the meat of Romney’s remarks:
The idea to say that Steve Jobs didn’t build Apple, that Henry Ford didn’t build Ford Motor, that Papa John didn’t build Papa John Pizza, that Ray Kroc didn’t build McDonald’s, that Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft, you go on the list, that Joe and his colleagues didn’t build this enterprise, to say something like that is not just foolishness, it is insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America and it’s wrong. [Applause]
And by the way, the President’s logic doesn’t just extend to the entrepreneurs that start a barber shop or a taxi operation or an oil field service business like this and a gas service business like this, it also extends to everybody in America that wants to lift themself up a little further, that goes back to school to get a degree and see if they can get a little better job, to somebody who wants to get some new skills and get a little higher income, to somebody who have, may have dropped out that decides to get back in school and go for it. People who reach to try and lift themself up. The President would say, well you didn’t do that. You couldn’t have gotten to school without the roads that government built for you. You couldn’t have gone to school without teachers. So you didn’t, you are not responsible for that success. President Obama attacks success and therefore under President Obama we have less success and I will change that. [Applause]
I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think anyone could have said what he said who had actually started a business or been in a business. And my own view is that what the President said was both startling and revealing. I find it extraordinary that a philosophy of that nature would be spoken by a President of the United States. It goes to something that I have spoken about from the beginning of the campaign. That this election is, to a great degree, about the soul ofAmerica. Do we believe in an America that is great because of government or do we believe in an America that is great because of free people allowed to pursue their dreams and build our future?
This is just about pitch perfect. In the midst of all these attacks on Bain Capital and private equity, conservatives have urged Romney to start fighting back with full-throated defenses of capitalism and private property. Obama’s weird statement gave Romney the perfect opening, and Romney did not let it go to waste. He also correctly diagnosed why Obama made that argument and why Obama’s prescription is exactly what we don’t need in the next four years, which he addresses in the part of the speech that immediately follows this excerpt.
Here’s the full speech, courtesy of The Right Scoop, along with the transcript below:
Thank you. Thank you so much. Boy, Pennsylvania knows how to welcome somebody, I’ll tell you that. You guys. You know it is that enthusiasm and that optimism that I am convinced is going to drive America to an economic rebound, is going to create jobs, a brighter future for our kids. I am not someone who is looking to America to decline, I am looking to America to take off and it’s going to happen with new leadership. But we’re going to have to take a very different direction than thiscountry has been on in the last three and half years if we’re going to see the kind of bright future we’d like to see for ourselves, for our friends and neighbors, and for our children. Because the President came into office and recognized things were in trouble and he went on The Today Show after being inaugurated and he said “look if I can’t turn around the economy in three years, I’d be looking at a one-term proposition.” Well, he’s right. Now I think he’s got the message that there are 23 million Americans that are out of work, or that have stopped looking for work, or can only get part time jobs. I think he has heard that about half of thisyears college graduates can’t find work or find work that’s consistent withtheir college degree. I think he’s heard the message that the median income in America has dropped by 10% in the last four years. I think he’s seen the record number of foreclosures and so he has to recognize his policies have failed to get America working again. And my guess is that he wonders why that is and I have the answer for him: liberal policies don’t make good jobs. [Applause]
You look at them one by one. Everybody knows that our healthcare system has all sorts of problems and things that need to be corrected, most important of which, or one of the most important is it’s very expensive, health insurance is extraordinarily expensive. There are a lot of things that need to be done to improve healthcare but Obamacare is not the answer. We’ve got to replace it and get rid of it. [Applause] He has other policies that haven’t helped create jobs. Obamacare, you know, I hope you know the Obamacare, by the way, I hope you know the numbers on that and the impact it’s had on job creation. The Chamber of Commerce went out to their members and surveyed them and said what’s been the impact of Obamacare and three quarters, three quarters said they are less likely to hire people because of Obamacare. You see, his policies did not help create jobs, they depressed job creation andthat’s why we’re still struggling with so many people out of work. And by the way, let me just note, this number, 8.2% unemployment, we have gone 41 months with unemployment above 8%. And why’s that number, why do we keep ontalking about 8%? Because that’s the bogey the President himself set. He said look if we let him borrow $787 billion in his first year, which Congress let him do, that he would hold unemployment below 8%, and it has not been below 8% since. And that’s a number but it represents real people, people facing some real tough times, people out of work, and stopped looking for work, as I said, but also people who are actually working in jobs, a lot of them facing tough times. A lot of people employed wonder whether they’re going to be able to afford retirement. There are a number of folks who, I don’t know whether you read the story over the weekend, there was a story in The New York Times, which described a couple of women that are working in a day care center, one of whom is a single mom. She has three kids. One full-time job, three kids does not make a real comfortable life. She’s had tougher and tougher times. Being middle class in America is getting tougher and tougher and a lot of people in the middle class have fallen into poverty. This President’s economy is not working for the American people, even for those that are employed. [Applause]
So I mentioned Obamacare as something that kills iobs. There’s another one. When you increase the number of regulations at a rate three times that of his predecessor, with a bill likeDodd-Frank that makes it harder for small banks to grow and thrive and makeloans, you don’t add jobs. When you have energy policies that say no to fracking and no to drilling offshore and no to drilling in Alaska, no to taking advantage of our resources here, when you say no to coal, when you put in place regulations that don’t allow coal to be able to be mined or to be used, these things kill jobs and that’s got to stop.
There’s, there’s something else that’s got to stop and I believe you know about this but you know the history of our country is a country where individuals with their dreams go out and begin an enterprise like this one here that Joe and his colleagues built, and they go out and talk to friends and family and say “would you loan us the money to start the business” and people scrape together the cash and build, or buy a building like they bought this one here and get started in business, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, that’s sort of how we have done it in this country. And that’s very different than the way they’ve done it in other countries, where the government comes in, and based on who you know in government, whose a friend in government, you get money from them, you get tax payer dollars. That’s happening in this country today. I am ashamed to say that we’re seeing our President hand out money to the businesses of campaign contributors, when he gave money, $500 million in loans to a company called Fisker that makes high-end electric cars, and they make the cars now in Finland. That is wrong and it’s got to stop. That kind of cronycapitalism does not create jobs and it does not create jobs here. I believe in free people and free markets and I want government to get out ofinvesting in individual businesses. [Applause]
So, so the President’s looking around for someone to blame, and recently, I became the reason for all our problems here. I was as surprised, my family and me, but he’s always looking for someone out there: ATM machines, tsunamis, China, Europe. I mean it’s always something, Congress. We won’t forget, by the way, that Congress was in his party for two years with a super majority. He takes responsibility for what happened while he was President and he had his Congress. But so he’s looking around, he can’tfind someone to blame effectively. He’s out of ideas. He’s got no new ideas for getting the economy going. He’s got no one new to blame. He’s out of touch with what’s happening in the country and that’s why in November we are going to put him out of office. [Applause]
You know, thank you, you know something happened, something happened on Friday. President Obama exposed what he really thinks about free people and the American vision, and government, what he really thinks about America itself. He probably wants to understand why hispolicies failed. If you want to understand why his policies have failed, why what he has done has not created jobs, or rising incomes in America, you can look at what he said. And what he said was this, I quote, and he was speaking about businesses like this one, small businesses, big businesses, mid-sized businesses, mining businesses, manufacturing service businesses of all kinds. He said this: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that, somebody else made that happen.” That somebody else is government in his view. He goes on to describe the people who deserve the credit for building this business. And, of course, he describes people who we care very deeply about, who make a difference in our lives, our schoolteachers, fire fighters, people who build roads. We need those things, we value schoolteachers, fire fighters, people who build roads, you really couldn’t have a business if you didn’t have those things. But, you know, we pay for those things. The taxpayers pay for government. It’s not like government just provides those to all of us and we say oh thank you government for doing those things. In fact we pay for them and we benefit from them and we appreciate the work that they do and the sacrifices that are done by people who work in government. But they did not build this business.
The idea to say that Steve Jobs didn’t build Apple, that Henry Ford didn’t build Ford Motor, that Papa John didn’t build Papa John Pizza, that Ray Kroc didn’t build McDonald’s, that Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft, you go on the list, that Joe and his colleagues didn’t build this enterprise, to say something like that is not just foolishness, it is insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America and it’s wrong. [Applause] And by the way, the President’s logic doesn’t just extend to the entrepreneurs that start a barber shop or a taxi operation or an oil field service business like this and a gas service business like this, it also extends to everybody in America that wants to lift themself up a little further, that goes back to school to get a degree and see if they can get a little better job, to somebody who wants to get some new skills and get a little higher income, to somebody who have, may have dropped out that decides to get back in school and go for it. People who reach to try and lift themself up. The President would say, well you didn’t do that. You couldn’t have gotten to school without the roads that government built for you. You couldn’t have gone to school without teachers. So you didn’t, you are not responsible for that success. President Obama attacks success and therefore under President Obama we have less success and I will change that. [Applause]I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think anyone could have said what he said who had actually started a business or been in a business. And my own view is that what the President said was both startling and revealing. I find it extraordinary that a philosophy of that nature would be spoken by a President of the United States. It goes to something that I have spoken about from the beginning of the campaign. That this election is, to a great degree, about the soul ofAmerica. Do we believe in an America that is great because of government or do we believe in an America that is great because of free people allowed to pursue their dreams and build our future? [Applause]
You understand, of course, what’s going on. What he is saying is his justification for raising taxes higher and higher, because government needs more. What he is saying is his justification for Obamacare, which says that we need 2,300 pages of legislation to have government more intrusive in your life. What he is saying is his justification for a larger and larger government. This is very different, by the way, than the Democratic Party of Bill Clinton that said that the era of big-government was over, that reformed welfare. You heard that story by the way, he is trying to take work out of welfare requirement. It is changing the nature ofAmerica, changing the nature of what the Democrats have fought for, and Republicans have fought for. In the past, people of both parties understood that encouraging achievement, encouraging success, encouraging people to lift themselves as high as they can, encouraging entrepreneurs, celebrating success instead of attacking it and denigrating, makes America strong. That’s the right course for this country. His course isextraordinarily foreign. [Applause]
Now, Joe, Joe got it right. Where did Joe go? He, there he is right here. Joe got it right. He said somethingabout what would happen if President Obama were reelected. And I don’t think that’s going to happen. But if he were reelected, I want you to know that what you’ve see for the last three and a half years, you’d be seeing for the next four and a half years. And what that means is: chronic high levels of unemployment, it means low wage growth to negative wage growth, declining median incomes in this country, and it means putting America on the door to fiscal calamity. We have seen what Obama’s political philosophy brings, and we don’t want any more of it. [Applause] I have a very different view than the President’s. You see, I happen to believe that the kid who studies hard and works hard and gets an ‘A,’ that he achieved that or she achieved that and I give them credit it for doing so. [Applause] I believed the person who worked hard and did a good job and got a promotion deserves credit for having achieved that. I believe that the young person who came up with a new idea that changed the world on the internet deserves credit for having done that. [Applause] And, by theway, I believe that Joe and people around him and all these businesses I met around the country that have grown and thrived, I believe that they and thepeople who work there, built those enterprises, it is their responsibility,their achievement, and they deserve credit for it. [Applause]
The President justifies taking more of what people earn by saying:“look it’s also our system of government that makes things possible for entrepreneurs and innovators and that’s true, but let’s stop and think about the government and what it tells us in its founding document, the Declaration of Independence. It does not say that the government gave us our rights; it said that God gave us our rights—they come with us, not with government. It said that among our rights given to us by God, by our creator, were life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our capacity to build and lift ourselves and reach for the stars is not thanks to a government that says “fine.” It is instead thanks to a God who loves us and gives us those rights and those opportunities. [Applause]
I’m convinced that President Obama’s efforts to denigrate and diminish success and individual achievement would diminish us all, and that’s one reason why he’s not going to get reelected. I’ll tell you this: I’m convinced he wants Americans to be ashamed of success. I want Americans to welcome it, to celebrate success, to encourage people to reach as high as they can and in some cases to build enterprises. I don’t want government to take credit for what the individuals of America accomplish. Whether they work in government or work in the private sector, it’s the people of America that make America the unique nation, the exceptional nation that it is. [Applause]
I believe that if you have a philosophy and an approach as a nation which celebrates risk-takers and celebrates achievement and says go out there and do whatever you can and welcomes dreamers from all over the world that that will make us more prosperous and create more jobs. We know what his philosophy brings. We’ve seen it the last three and a half years. We’ve seen the numbers. We’ve seen the suffering. His philosophy of big government, government intrusive in our lives, higher taxes keeps us from achieving what we can achieve. I’ve got five steps to get this economy going again, five things I’m going to do. And I want you to know those five things, if we do them—and I’ll do them—if we do them these things are going to cause a resurgence in America’s economy that’s going to surprise the world, is going to convince moms and dads that the future’s brighter for them and the future’s brighter for their kids. And I’ll tell you what those five things are:
Number one: I want to take advantage of our oil and our gas and our coal and our renewables and our nuclear. [Applause] Seems to me you agree with that point.
Let me mention another one, and that is one that this President has really not pursued, and that is trade. You see, we’re a highly productive nation. We make more goods and services per person than any other major nation in the world. And so it helps us to trade with other nations. By the way: China and Europe figured that out. Over the last four years, three and a half years rather, they’ve put together some forty-four different trade agreements with other nations to sell goodsback and forth because they know that helps them. Do you know how many this President has put in place? Zero. If I’m President, I want to open up new trade with places particularly in Latin America, right next door: a lot of people, a growing middle class, huge opportunity for us. That’s my number two is trade.
Number three: when you have a government that consistently borrows massively more than it takes in and you create larger and larger debt, as that debt gets so large relative to the size of the total economy, you slow down economic growth. Slow growth means fewer jobs. And that is why as President of the United States I will get America on track to have a balanced budget. [Applause] So number one energy, number two trade, number three a balanced budget—let me mention another one.
I want to make sure our people have the skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow. And I’m not going to thank government for giving them those skills I’m going to make sure the people have the opportunity to reach for those capabilities. I want people to have good training opportunities in the workplace and in our colleges and universities. I also want people to get the best schools in the world. We’re not providing our kids the education they need. I want more choice in education. I will put our kids first and our unions behind, give the kids the best schools in the world. [Applause]
And my fifth, in addition to skills and education, is this: I want to encourage economic freedom. Our economy is driven by free people pursuing their ideas and their dreams. It is not driven by government. And what the President’s doing is crushing economic freedom. This philosophy of his, least him saying we’re going to take the tax on investment from 15% to 25% so government’s bigger, I want people to be freer. That’s why, in my view, anybody making $250,000 a year and less should pay no taxes on capital gains, interest, or dividends at all. Be able to invest. [Applause] He’s crushing economic freedom, crushing economic freedom with taxes and an overwhelming regulatory burden, with high costs in healthcare, with labor rules that are not favorable to the employee or to the employer but only to the bosses of the unions. Look, we have to restore economic freedom in this country, and when we do those five things—energy, trade, balancing our budget, improving our schools giving people the skills they need, and restoring economic freedom in a major way—we do those things you’re going to see us come roaring back.
I have seen it in the people of America. I have witnessed it as I’ve gone across the campaign trail. I was in San Diego, and I met with a guy named Alex Lukianov, Russian immigrant. Came over here, had some backproblems, looked at how we do surgery and had some ideas about how to come up with something better. He had this idea of instead of operating by going in through the middle of your backbone he goes in through the side and he puts in a little device to fuse the backbone vertebrae—I’m getting complicated here… [Laughter] But the long story short is he starts a business, trains doctors in how to provide this surgery, sells them the device that they put in their back, and, by the way, now he has 1,300 employees working in that business and $900 million in revenues. [Applause] And Mr. President: Mr. Lukianov and the other founders and the workers there built that business. Government did not build that business. [Applause]
I met a guy named Jim Leotold, and Jim didn’t do real well in school: he graduated second from the bottom in his class in high school. And his dad said to him: either go into the military or to college. And college didn’t look like it was the right place for him and he wanted to do something different so he asked his dad if he could get a loan to start a business. He wanted to start a restaurant. He wanted to make hot dogs and hamburgers, I believe, and his dad gave him a loan, but when he got the money he realized: there’s not enough money here to actually start a restaurant that has the cooking grills for hot dogs and hamburgers and the big hoods that vent the smoke and so-forth so all he could do with the money he had was to makesandwiches. So he went into a garage, made sandwiches, and he delivered the sandwiches to people at work. Today, Jim Leotold—or, you know him better as Jimmy John—has 1,200 restaurants and employs tens of thousands of people. [Applause] And you see, I happen to believe that Jim Leotold, JimmyJohn, built that business with the help of people around him, his friends, the people who worked there in that enterprise. I do not give government credit for having built that, I give free people credit for having built that business. [Applause]
And so I see that entrepreneurial spirit and that innovativeness of the American people and our willingness to work hard in whatever role we have and to lift and to improve our lot and to improve the lot of the enterprises we work in—I see that as driving this economy to be the most powerful in the history of the Earth. It has already; it will again. The coursewe’re on right now is foreign to us. It changes America. This is a vote for what kind of America we’re going to have, and for me I vote for freedom and free people. [Applause]
Let me just end with this thought: this is an important choice. This is a defining choice. This is a choice about what America’s going to be. Not just for the next few years but for a century. This is a choice which will determine what kind of future our kids are going to have. And, in fact, it also determines what kind of future the world’s going to have. America plays an unusual role in the world—I think we understand that. Some in some circles tend to brush that aside. But those that have fought in world wars and other conflicts recognize the greatness of America and our unique role in the history of the earth. [Applause]
We call them heroes. I want to express appreciation to heroes proved in liberating strife who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life. Could our veterans please raise their hands and members of the active duty armed services? Thank you. [Applause]
I was in Great Britain some months ago and met with Tony Blair andthen with David Cameron and with other leaders of the government there, and one said this to me: he said, you know Mitt if you’re lucky enough to be elected President of the United States and you travel around from country to country and to their capitals, you will undoubtedly have rehearsed for you all the things they think America is doing wrong. But please don’t ever forget this: the one thing we all fear the most is a weak America. American strength, strength in our values, strength in our homes, strength in our economy, strength in our military is essential to the world it is the best ally for peace. [Applause]
And let me assure you that dividing America and attacking success and minimizing the achievement and accomplishment of entrepreneurs of all kinds—that does not make a stronger America. Believing in America mean believing in those principles upon which this nation was founded. And I do. I will keep those principles aloft. We will fight for them. We will keep America the hope of the earth. Together we will bring back the strength that provides a bright future for us and for our children. Thank you so very much. [Applause]