Barack Obama: "You didn't build that.." Is he just misunderstood?

Let's look at what Obama really said about people who Photo: President Obama, AP

ARKANSAS, July 23, 2012 ­­­­ Over the last week, the outrage towards Obama from conservatives, libertarians, and moderates has been intense. Last week, Obama gave a speech in which he attacked the one group of people that you just don’t attack, whether you’re conservative or liberal.

Obama attacked small business owners, people who aren’t quite rich enough to be in the 1percent, who face obstacles from the government, taxes, regulations, and even other businesses. This was a fatal mistake, and has led to tens of thousands of memes and angry social media responses, the criticism of experts, and even a direct response from Mitt Romney’s campaign.

Now Obama is claiming that it was all a big misunderstanding. Let’s look at what he said and see what he actually meant.

What Obama actually said

Obama was giving a speech to rally his angry “99 percent” base. His base supporters are those who don’t like to romanticize anything about the people in charge of businesses; it’s just not good marketing for them. They’re better off politically if they can discount the successful, and glamorize the poor and what they call the “working class”.

In his speech, Obama began talking about infrastructure being important. That’s fair, everyone agrees with that. Roads and teachers are nice. But then he began throwing jabs, even saying that he “chuckles” whenever a businessman tells him that he’s successful because he’s so much “smarter” than everyone else.

I’ve never in my life heard a business owner say that.

Then he threw another jab that just hurt small business owners more than anything else. He mocked them for thinking they work “harder” than anyone else, suggesting that they just don’t.

But the worst of the worst came a few moments later, when Obama said the following:

“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.”

First, somebody has to point out to our dear leader that the idea the “government” invented the Internet is a complete myth. It’s just not true. Even the Wall-Street Journal points this out where columinist L. Gordon Crovitz writes:

“But full credit goes to the company where Mr. Taylor worked after leaving ARPA: Xerox. It was at the Xerox PARC labs in Silicon Valley in the 1970s that the Ethernet was developed to link different computer networks. Researchers there also developed the first personal computer (the Xerox Alto) and the graphical user interface that still drives computer usage today”

Either way, I actually watched the speech before jumping to conclusions. And after I finished the speech, yes, I jumped to the only conclusion for the intellectually honest: Obama took his class-warfare rhetoric of getting his base to demonize the successful a step too far.

No, Henry Ford didn’t invent the car. But he did build Ford Motor Company, the business. The idea that you didn’t “build” your business because someone else invented something you use in it absurd.

By that logic, carpenters don’t build houses because someone else invented the hammer.

It makes zero sense and can only be seen as a good point by someone who has decided to reject the most basic tenet of capitalism: People are responsible for their own actions, good or bad.

But he meant something nicer, right?

Obama’s campaign has responded by blaming it all on the GOP, as though the people who plainly heard the speech didn’t just think for themselves. Classy. Whenever a major gaffe occurs, Obama essentially always blames it on the Republican party, George Bush, or someone else.

Once again, he hates the most basic aspect of capitalism, which is personal responsibility.

I’ve posted repeatedly about this on the Capitalism Institute fan page, and a handful of Obama supporters have come out of the woodwork to defend their leader. The general argument is that Obama, in the speech, talked about teachers and roads being important, therefore that’s all he was talking about.

This is intellectually bankrupt on several levels. Let’s say I gave a speech and said:

a) We love teachers and need them.
b) You didn’t build your business. Someone else did.

I’d be right about the first point. And then I’d be wrong about the second point. The idea that we can’t focus on a specific point by Obama but have to ignore it and focus only on the fluffy things he says is just ridiculous. He’s right about teachers being nice. It’s the mockery and the insults to small business owners that are wrong.

Another fan of his rose to the occasion and said that we’ve got it all wrong, and that his use of the word “that” just meant “roads and bridges.” Here’s what Obama literally said again: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

The liberal pro-Obama defense is that in the first sentence, his “that” didn’t have anything to do with that sentence specifically; it somehow had something to do with earlier sentences.

So we essentially need to delete half of the sentence to make it work.

Of course, intellectual dishonesty rarely requires we ignore just one bit of information; intellectual dishonesty usually requires that we begin ignoring evidence left and right. This is no exception.

When Obama last talked about infrastructure, he was talking about “roads and bridges”. Even then, you don’t refer to “roads and bridges” as “that”. You refer to them as “those”, as in, “You didn’t build those“.

So what did Obama really mean? Exactly what he said: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” 

No conspiracy theories are necessary to understand the situation at all. Obama said buinessmen didn’t create their business, but should thank God that the government or someone else did it for them. Absurd.

Are we overreacting?

I come from a line of middle-class, small-business owners. We’re proud of our history, of what we do, and we plan on keeping up the tradition. I started my first business in highschool. I gave up my social life for years, working hours which would be illegal for an employee. I made essentially no real money for a couple of years.

I traded my youth for a business.

And that’s fine. I don’t want to be treated differently — I want the same treatment. I want the same tax rate, the same regulations, and the same respect that Obama gives to those teachers and other people.

But I didn’t get any of those things, because Obama knows that people like myself are the enemy to his campaign. We think he’s failed, we don’t like him, and we’re more likely to support someone with business experience. This is unavoidable.

Sorry, but it’s brutally clear what Obama meant. He was mocking business owners, and he crossed the line. He should admit that he crossed the line, apologize the American people, and just stop demonizing business owners altogether.

It’s like what Mitt Romney said:

“It’s not like government just provides those to all of us and we say, ‘Oh, thank you government for doing those things.’ No, 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.”

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Shaun Connell

Shaun Connell is an investor, writer, and entrepreneur passionate about economics, finance, and politics.

Shaun is the editor of Capitalism Institute, where he writes about economic principles and political theory. He’s also the author of Live Gold Prices, where he reviews important economic and market news.

Passionate about economics and liberty, Shaun was naturally drawn to the Austrian approach to human behavior, and tries to write all of his content from such an angle.

Shaun also enjoys nice cigars, good bourbon, and grilling as often as he can.


Contact Shaun Connell


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