From time to time in my county wanderings, I’ve stopped for a pulled pork sandwich at an imitation caboose in a shopping center parking lot. Nearby, is a miniature trolley car where I’ve sometimes ordered an espresso. Whenever I visit these modest establishments, I’m overcome with admiration. Someone may have risked his life’s savings to pursue the dream of going into business for himself. The proprietors have to be accountants, salesmen, servers, employers, janitors. Small businesses such as these are the chief creators of jobs in America.
Are these the kind of people Barack Obama had in mind when he unleashed his “You didn’t build that” diatribe? It wasn’t a gaffe. It was a passionate, spontaneous expression of his scorn for free enterprise and individual initiative. And it wasn’t so much the content as the tone that was so shocking — angry, accusatory, resentful. He couldn’t resist mocking successful people who think they’re “just so smart” — this from a man who must always feel that he’s the smartest person in the room. The idea that someone might make it on his own is an offense to his ideology.
Not that it should have surprised anyone. According to David Maraniss in his biography “Barack Obama: The Story,” the president told his mother that his experience at Business International was like “working for the enemy,” and in his own memoir, “Dreams from my Father,” he referred to the same stint as being “Like a spy behind enemy lines.” He’s of the mindset that believes people get rich simply by taking more than their share. In his view, it’s the job of government to erect barriers so they can’t steal more. He talks about “spreading the wealth,” but hasn’t voiced a single idea for how to grow the wealth, other than more government spending. Hiring more bureaucrats is one of his bright ideas for stimulating the economy.
The president paid lip service to “this wonderful system” we have, but here again he showed his fundamental misunderstanding of the American economy. It’s not a “system” we have. It’s the opposite – a decentralized market energized by millions of enterprising individuals, a dynamo powered by trail and error, success and failure. A system is what people like Obama dream of — a centrally controlled, top-down economy, with resources allocated and economic decisions dictated by the government.
Obama’s screed was a haymaker delivered to a colossal straw man, as someone pointed out. No rational person disputes the fact that we need government and that government does many things that the private sector can’t do. No one denies the virtues of “people working together” or the importance of roads, bridges and teachers. But in Obama’s view, these factors are the primary causes of individual success. No one disputes the fact that the top earners ought to pay taxes. In fact, they pay the lion’s share.
Obama creates a phony and toxic argument by casting government and the private sector as antagonists. They should compliment each other and do what they do best. Unfortunately, today they’re either at each other’s throats or in bed together. Obama ought to be cheering for the top earners to succeed, since they provide the funds which permit him to pander to various interest groups for votes. But apparently it’s impossible for him to express any admiration for American business persons. Vultures? Predators? Does Obama’s list of enemies include people like George Foreman, who after a stellar career in boxing, made a barbecue equipment fortune, which he’s busy giving away?
It’s astonishing that we have a president who’s so hostile to the ideals that have inspired America’s greatness. And yet, in spite of his failed economic policies, at least half the country seems ready to vote him another four years. The only explanation has to be that many of us have bought into the illusion that the government is a generous uncle who distributes benefits cost-free and that Obama will protect these benefits. It doesn’t seem to matter that they’re being financed by borrowed money – a form of fiscal suicide. Most of us are unwilling to give up an iota of our entitlements even to secure their sustainability, even if it means long term national decline. Americans used to celebrate liberty and opportunity. Now it’s, “Don’t touch my benefits,” and “Take care of me.”