I hate to say this, but I completely agree with Barack Obama and his supporters when they say that many Republicans are taking the President’s words out of context when he said “You didn’t build that.” Before you stop reading, or ask that I be banned from this site forever, please hear me out.
First, I think that by taking his words out of context we hurt our cause. It’s obvious what he meant if you listen to the entire quote, and those who do hear the entire quote will assume that’s what conservatives do—take something out of context to fit our agenda. It also makes it harder to point a finger at Democrats and their misleading ads when they do the same thing. Let’s not lower ourselves to that level. We don’t need to. We have the truth on our side.
More importantly, though, we’re missing an opportunity to point out Obama’s complete lack of understanding about the entrepreneurial spirit, which is evident when his words are read as he actually intended them. Are you still with me? Let’s examine his words for a moment in context. He said:
“There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me, because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, 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.”
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped 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.”
When many conservatives quote him, including in political ads, it comes out: “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.” They leave out the sentence before. That’s obviously misleading, and it does not serve the conservative cause well to mislead, especially with independent voters.
Instead, let’s take his comments at face value for a moment, without trying to twist his words. He’s saying there are a lot of smart, hard-working people out there. That’s true. He’s saying that business owners had the benefit of good teachers, as well as infrastructure like roads and the Internet. They didn’t build that stuff. That’s also true.
Okay. So what, Mr. President? If that’s all it took to start a business, there would be a whole lot of people starting businesses out there. Every smart person who worked hard and had a good teacher and a road in front of their house would have a business. But that’s not the case. Why? It’s because entrepreneurs are a special breed. They have an idea and they make a choice to risk their money to bring it to life. They tend to be driven to work harder than the average person, and they know what needs to get done to grow their business. They take more risk for the opportunity to earn more reward.
Who the president actually described in his comments is most everyone else, including me. Most folks out there are pretty smart, work hard, and benefited from things like a good education and government-provided infrastructure. But, most of us are not entrepreneurs. Most of us don’t have that winning idea that we can turn into a business. Even if we did, most of us don’t want to risk our money or work 60 to 80 hours a week to get a business off the ground.
So, what do we do if we’re smart, well educated and hard working? We go get a good paying job from one of those folks who did take the risk to start a business. Those are the same folks the president says aren’t contributing enough. Those are the folks whose taxes the president wants to raise when they already pay the majority of income taxes in this country–while 47% of the American public pay no income tax at all. Those are the folks he calls millionaires, billionaires and private jet owners, when he really means anyone making over $250,000 a year.
Many of these people are small business owners who file the taxes for their businesses on their individual tax forms. These are the same business owners who’ve stopped expanding, stopped or slowed hiring, or even closed their doors because the government is making it too hard and too expensive for them to do business, while injecting uncertainty with Obamacare and unknown future tax implications.
That’s why we’ve had an anemic, jobless recovery, and the president doesn’t get it, because he has no idea how business works. That’s what the full context of “You didn’t build that!” really shows.