Context of Obama’s “You didn’t build that” line makes it worse
posted at 12:30 pm on July 19, 2012 by Craig Westover
The Romney campaign and myriad others have jumped on President Obama’s now infamous line “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made it that happen.” They use it to portray the President as anti-business, anti-individual and anti-American.
The rebuttal from the Democratic camp is that Romney et al are taking the line out of context. If one looks at the relevant excerpts of the President’s speech given in Roanoke, VA, one gains a totally different perspective on the President’s comments, say Democrats. Romney’s simplistic criticism unfairly perverts the President’s message that individual achievement flourishes best in an environment of collaboration and cooperation.
Unfortunately for Democrats, looking at the full context of the President’s notion that “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made it that happen.” only makes his statement more alarming and his position more vulnerable. Unfortunately for Republicans, Romney is ill-equipped to take advantage of the President’s weakness.
President Obama did not intend his comment as the premise for an intellectual discussion of the role of society in individual achievement. The “context” the Democrats would have us consider is a logical argument for raising taxes on a minority for the purported benefit of the majority. It is a justification for using the force of government to confiscate private resources for government to “invest” as it sees fit regardless of the intention and values of the individuals who created them.
Obama is making the pragmatic argument “Because a road runs past your building and a teacher taught you to read, goverment is entitled to tax you at a higher rate to give your neighbor health care.” He is making the argument “Government has the moral authority to ‘spread the wealth around.’”
We can certainly debate whether a successful individual has an obligation to contribute a greater share of his wealth to the community, but it is beyond debate that government has moral authority to take from some individuals simply because they have resources and use those resources for purposes not among the enumerated powers of the federal government.
Unfortunately, Democrats are correct that Romney’s attacks are out of context. Romney Republicans’ simplistic attacks on President Obama as anti-business, anti-individual and even anti-American may resonate with the base, but they do little to elevate the man Mitt Romney as a candidate or the Republican Party as the party of ideas.
Have we really fallen to the level as a country where the American people cannot be challenged with more than sound bites? Do Republicans have so little respect for the electorate that they do not trust the American people with substantive ideas? Can we not make the case for what we believe instead of always taking the default position that “Democrats suck”?
(Interesting that on this site there are more tags for Barack Obama than Mitt Romney.)
Why, for example, are Romney and Republicans fighting defensive battles on the Bain Capital and outsourcing fronts? Simply going with the “I’m rubber and you’re glue” response to the President’s attacks, however forceful the expression might be, is more bluster than brains.
A man representing the party of ideas would be defending outsourcing as a viable and necessary component of prosperity. He would be defending the morality of free-market capitalism itself. He would make the case that indeed individual achievement depends on collaboration and cooperation — the voluntary collaboration and cooperation of a free market not the coerced collaboration and cooperation of a command and control economy.
Once again President Obama has led with his chin, and once again Republicans are responding with body blows. Instead of giving us Lincoln and Douglas, Romney and Obama are giving us Bluto and Dean Wormer. Time spent listening to these two guys provides high entertainment value, but when the lights come on, you really haven’t gained a lot of insight. Republicans could do better.
Craig Westover is a Republican activist and a Ron Paul delegate to the Republican National Convention. Follow him on Twitter: @CraigWestover and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/craig.westover.