"The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money." — Alexis de Tocqueville
The following is an aggregation of comments from various conservative-leaning writers on Obama’s recent remarks on the government’s (collective’s) role in creating businesses.
“Barack Hussein Obama never so much as operated a corner lemonade stand, but his perspective on free enterprise, shaped by his lifelong socialist indoctrination, is certainly getting some traction.
Invoking the two pillars of his re-election campaign, tax "fairness" and class warfare, Obama first focused on the tax piece, asserting, "I'm not going to see us gut the investments that grow our economy."
In ObamaSpeak, "gut the investments" translates as "cut taxes," and "grow the economy" translates as "grow the government." This remark was a smokescreen in regard to Democrat efforts to let the across-the-board Bush tax rates expire, which, in effect, will raise taxes on all Americans who earn a living rather than live on the dole.
To that end, Obama's Senate lap dog, Patty Murray (D-WA), served up this ultimatum: "If we can't get a good deal — a balanced deal that calls on the wealthy to pay their fair share — then I will absolutely continue this debate into 2013 rather than lock in a long-term deal this year that throws middle-class families under the bus."
Of course, EVERY aspect of her classist rhetoric requires a secret decoder ring.
"Good deal" means "raising taxes" and "balanced deal" means "more spending." If the Demo-gogues were serious about balancing anything, they'd do precisely what "middle-class families" do during tough times: cut expenses.
"The wealthy" means "tax payers rather than tax consumers." As for paying their "fair share," the producers and job creators who earn $250,000-and-above (which is the target for Obama's looming tax increase) while constituting just two percent of the population already pay 43.6 percent of all federal income taxes. Obama is also keenly aware that the top 25 percent of income earners already pay more than 84 percent of income tax revenues and the top 50 percent of earners now pay almost 98 percent of all income tax revenue collected — which means he's all but created a voting majority who pay little or no federal income tax.”
Clearly, Democrats don't represent the "99 percent." Instead, they pander to the 50 percent who are the beneficiaries of confiscated and redistributed wealth from the other 50 percent. I invoke again the timeless words of George Bernard Shaw: "A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul." Mark Alexander-Patriot Post
Perhaps the rain made the teleprompter unreadable. That's one thought I had on pondering Barack Obama's comments to a rain-soaked rally in Roanoke, Va., last Friday.
Perhaps he didn't really mean what he said. Or perhaps — as is often the case with people — when unanchored from a prepared text he revealed what he really thinks.
"There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back," he began, defending his policy of higher tax rates on high earners. "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 to 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."
In other words, Steve Jobs didn't make Apple happen. It was the work of a teacher union member -- er, great teacher -- and the government agencies that paved I-280 and El Camino Real that made Apple happen.
High earners don't deserve the money they make, Obama apparently thinks. It's the gift of government, and they shouldn't begrudge handing more of it back to government.
And that's true, as he told Charlie Gibson of ABC News in 2008, even if those higher tax rates produce less revenue for the government, as has been the case with rate increases on capital gains. The government should take away the money as a matter of "fairness." Michael Barone
Barack Obama's great rhetorical gifts include the ability to make the absurd sound not only plausible, but inspiring and profound.
His latest verbal triumph was to say on July 13th, "if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own." As an example, "Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business — you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."
Let's stop and think, even though the whole purpose of much political rhetoric is to keep us from thinking, and stir our emotions instead.
Even if we were to assume, just for the sake of argument, that 90 percent of what a successful person has achieved was due to the government, what follows from that? That politicians will make better decisions than individual citizens, that politicians will spend the wealth of the country better than those who created it? That doesn't follow logically — and certainly not empirically.
Does anyone doubt that most people owe a lot to the parents who raised them? But what follows from that? That they should never become adults who make their own decisions?
The whole point of the collectivist mindset is to concentrate power in the hands of the collectivists — which is to say, to take away our freedom. They do this in stages, starting with some group that others envy or resent — Jews in Nazi Germany, capitalists in the Soviet Union, foreign investors in Third World countries that confiscate their investments and call this theft "nationalization."
Freedom is seldom destroyed all at once. More often it is eroded, bit by bit, until it is gone. This can happen so gradually that there is no sudden change that would alert people to the danger. By the time everybody realizes what has happened, it can be too late, because their freedom is gone.
All the high-flown talk about how people who are successful in business should "give back" to the community that created the things that facilitated their success is, again, something that sounds plausible to people who do not stop and think through what is being said. After years of dumbed-down education, that apparently includes a lot of people. Thomas Sowell.
"If you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. ... If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to 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." -- Barack Obama
The president's defenders have claimed he either misspoke last week at a Roanoke, Va., campaign event or that what he said is true. Both defenses have merit. Obama surely didn't mean to say something that politically idiotic so plainly. And it's true that no man's accomplishments are entirely his own. We're all indebted to others, and we all rely on government to provide some basic things. Only the straw-men conservatives of Obama's imagination yearn for an America with no roads and bridges.
At best, Obama's "gaffe" is a banal truism, and if the president's praetorians want to defend him on grounds of platitudinous banality, fine. But even they have to know in their hearts that this is a pathetic maneuver, given that the reason they're rushing to defend Obama in the first place is his commitment to the very philosophy they deny he's espousing.
This is the great irony of Obama and his defenders. He is a progressive ideologue and a passionate believer in "social justice," and that's a large reason why his fans love him so. But if you ever say that he is what he is -- if you take his words seriously -- they ridicule you for believing he's anything other than a pragmatist and moderate.
Meanwhile, what many conservatives don't appreciate is that Obama is not some otherworldly radical, importing foreign ideas, but that he in fact fits within an old American intellectual tradition. Indeed, you might even call him a reactionary progressive; he seeks to restore the assumptions and priorities of the Progressive Era.
Herbert Croly, the godfather of American progressivism, spoke for a generation of progressive intellectuals when he wrote that the "individual has no meaning apart from the society in which his individuality has been formed." For the progressives, society and government were almost interchangeable terms. John Dewey, the seminal progressive philosopher, believed that "organized social control" via a "socialized economy" was the only means to create "free" individuals. For the progressives, freedom wasn't the absence of government coercion, it was a pile of gifts from the state.
Progressives invented the idea of the "moral equivalent of war" as a means of inciting citizens to drop their personal priorities and rally around the state for a government-defined "cause larger than themselves." Obama came into office under the motto "a crisis is a terrible thing to waste" and has been looking for "Sputnik moments" ever since in a search for a way to rationalize his agenda.
To the extent Obama ever speaks the language of religion, it is to justify, even sanctify, the works of government. He often invokes the Hallmarkized biblical teaching that "I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper" as a means to rationalize not personal action but government action. (Obama's own half-siblings have received little attention from their very wealthy and famous relative.) Jonah Goldberg.
If you've got a business — you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." — Barack Obama, Roanoke, Va., July 13
WASHINGTON — And who might that somebody else be? Government, says Obama. It built the roads you drive on. It provided the teacher who inspired you. It "created the Internet." It represents the embodiment of "we're in this together" social solidarity that, in Obama's view, is the essential origin of individual and national achievement.
To say all individuals are embedded in and the product of society is banal. Obama rises above banality by means of fallacy: equating society with government, the collectivity with the state. Of course we are shaped by our milieu. But the most formative, most important influence on the individual is not government. It is civil society, those elements of the collectivity that lie outside government: family, neighborhood, church, Rotary club, PTA, the voluntary associations that Tocqueville understood to be the genius of America and source of its energy and freedom.
Moreover, the greatest threat to a robust, autonomous civil society is the ever-growing Leviathan state and those like Obama who see it as the ultimate expression of the collective.
Obama compounds the fallacy by declaring the state to be the font of entrepreneurial success. How so? It created the infrastructure -- roads, bridges, schools, Internet — off which we all thrive.
Absurd. We don't credit the Swiss postal service with the Special Theory of Relativity because it transmitted Einstein's manuscript to the Annalen der Physik. Everyone drives the roads, goes to school, uses the mails. So did Steve Jobs. Yet only he conceived and built the Mac and the iPad.
Obama's infrastructure argument is easily refuted by what is essentially a controlled social experiment. Roads and schools are the constant. What's variable is the energy, enterprise, risk-taking, hard work and genius of the individual. It is therefore precisely those individual characteristics, not the communal utilities, that account for the different outcomes.
The ultimate Obama fallacy, however, is the conceit that belief in the value of infrastructure — and willingness to invest in its creation and maintenance — is what divides liberals from conservatives.
More nonsense. Infrastructure is not a liberal idea, nor is it particularly new. The Via Appia was built 2,300 years ago. The Romans built aqueducts too. And sewers. Since forever, infrastructure has been consensually understood to be a core function of government.
The argument between left and right is about what you do beyond infrastructure. It's about transfer payments and redistributionist taxation, about geometrically expanding entitlements, about tax breaks and subsidies to induce actions pleasing to central planners. It's about free contraceptives for privileged students and welfare without work — the latest Obama entitlement-by-decree that would fatally undermine the great bipartisan welfare reform of 1996. It's about endless government handouts that, ironically, are crowding out necessary spending on, yes, infrastructure. Charles Krauthammer.
There was a time, within living memory, when the achievements of others were not only admired but were often taken as an inspiration for imitation of the same qualities that had served these achievers well, even if we were not in the same field of endeavor and were not expecting to achieve on the same scale.
The perseverance of Thomas Edison, as he tried scores of materials for the filament of the light bulb he was inventing; the dedication of Abraham Lincoln as he studied law on his own while struggling to make a living -- these were things young people were taught to admire, even if they had no intention of becoming inventors or lawyers, much less President of the United States.
Somewhere along the way, all that changed. Today, the very concept of achievement is de-emphasized and sometimes attacked. Following in the footsteps of Barack Obama, Professor Elizabeth Warren of Harvard has made the downgrading of high achievers the centerpiece of her election campaign against Senator Scott Brown.
To cheering audiences, Professor Warren says, "there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You build a factory out there, good for you, but I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers that the rest of us paid to educate."
Do the people who cheer this kind of talk bother to stop and think through what she is saying? Or is heady rhetoric enough for them?
People who run businesses are benefitting from things paid for by others? Since when are people in business, or high-income earners in general, exempt from paying taxes like everybody else?
At a time when a small fraction of high-income taxpayers pay the vast majority of all the taxes collected, it is sheer chutzpah to depict high-income earners as somehow being subsidized by "the rest of us," whether in paying for the building of roads or the educating of the young.
Since everybody else uses the roads and the schools, why should high achievers be expected to feel like free loaders who owe still more to the government, because schools and roads are among the things that facilitate their work? According to Elizabeth Warren, because it is part of an "underlying social contract."
Conjuring up some mythical agreement that nobody saw, much less signed, is an old ploy on the left -- one that goes back at least a century, when Herbert Croly, the first editor of The New Republic magazine, wrote a book titled "The Promise of American Life."
Whatever policy Herbert Croly happened to favor was magically transformed by rhetoric into a "promise" that American society was supposed to have made -- and, implicitly, that American taxpayers should be forced to pay for. This pious hokum was so successful politically that all sorts of "social contracts" began to appear magically in the rhetoric of the left. Thomas Sowell.
President Obama's "you didn't build it" gaffe just defined the 2012 campaign. It succinctly encapsulates the president's prejudices about the public versus the private sector. Though the president has frequently mouthed platitudes in praise of enterprise, his suspicion and contempt for business has always percolated just beneath the surface.
Of course, the president is partially correct, in a banal sort of way. Yes, roads, bridges, firefighters and teachers are essential prerequisites to establishing an environment in which business can operate. So are peace and freedom — for which we must thank the military.
But the president doesn't understand that a critical aspect of good government — and an essential ingredient for stimulating economic growth — is not just roads but rules of the road. As economist John Taylor reminds us, steady, predictable and permanent rules permit business owners — and individuals -- to plan for the future.
That is the opposite of what the Obama administration has provided. Obama touts his small business tax credits, but in his stimulus bill, the proposed 2011 jobs act and other legislation, the tax incentives are temporary, while the tax increases are permanent.
The Heritage Foundation estimates that the burden of regulation under Obama is five times what it was under George W. Bush. The yearly cost of regulatory compliance was $8.1 billion under Bush. It's $46 billion under Obama.
The regulatory drag goes beyond those compliance costs. The uncertainty about what government will require in the future is inhibiting expansion and risk-taking. The two marquee laws passed under this administration -- the ironically titled Affordable Care Act and Dodd/Frank -- are vast pools of dark matter. They vest enormous discretion in federal bureaucrats so that no one knows what to expect. Most of the rules regarding insurance costs, penalties (i.e., taxes) and minimum standards for insurance, remain to be issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. Adding to the sense of arbitrariness are the hundreds of waivers HHS has issued to politically favored businesses and unions. Mona Charen
The professional political class (of which I am a dues-paying member) has made it clear that they believe Barack Obama is a world-class campaigner and Mitt Romney steps on his tongue with some regularity.
I have bought into this theory if only because (a) I think a sitting President deserves the benefit of the doubt, and (b) I think that Obamas biggest critics are, at a minimum, a little nutty.
I have changed my mind. And this might put me into the "a little nutty" column, but I no longer care.
Last month Barack Obama said, "The private sector is doing fine." Lest you think I am quoting out of context, here's what he said via the Huffington Post, not a right wing mouthpiece:
We've created 4.3 million jobs over the past 27 months. The private sector is doing fine. Where we're seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government, oftentimes cuts initiated by, you know, governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government and who don't have the same kind of flexibility of the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in.
The federal government, states the Gospel According to Obama, is the court of last resort for governors and mayors no matter how bloated the public payrolls and public pensions, nor how inefficient the delivery of services.
All right. Everyone gets to make one boneheaded statement. Lord knows I've used up several lifetimes of "Get Out of Jail Free" cards for idiotic things I've said in the heat of battle on TV.
But, then Obama said the other day that people who have started and built businesses are claiming credit for something they shouldn't. Obama said, in part:.
If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.
Barack Obama has never — within our sketchy knowledge of his background — had to put his personal money at risk neither to create anything nor to hire anyone.
When Obama is talking about building a business he has no idea what he's talking about, because he's never done it. Rich Galen
I could cite many more examples for the passionate responses to Obama’s remarks, but that would become boring. I must admit that every example cited is in 100% agreement with what I have written in the past few days on this issue. This is not because I am so smart and perceptive, it’s because its true and no one has a monopoly on the truth.
Obama and his progressive allies are firm believers in the “How to Catch a Wild Pig” theory when it comes to gathering in the voters. Here how the theory goes.
First you find out where the wild pigs are roaming and feeding. You then put some corn out in an open field. Soon the pigs will come to eat the free corn. You keep putting out this free corn every day. More wild pigs will come. After the pigs get used to your free corn, you put up a length of fence along one side of the open field. Soon the pigs will get accustomed to the fence. You keep giving them the free corn. Later you put up another section of fence at right angles to the first. You keep giving them the free corn. The pigs get used to the second fence. After a while you put up a third section of fence at right angles to the second section. You now have a U-shaped fenced open area. You keep giving them free corn. Then you put another section of fence with a gate in it, making a closed area except for the gate. You keep giving them free corn. Now, the pigs are no longer out in the woods, working to find their own food. They get accustomed to the fenced area with the open gate. Then, one day you slam shut the gate trapping the wild pigs inside. They quickly lose their ability to find their wild food and become totally dependent on your free corn. They cannot survive without you.
This is how communism and socialism works. They give you “free corn” until you are dependent on them. Until you lose your ability to support yourself. They rob you of your free spirit and self-respect. You become their domesticated worker pigs.
There is no difference between communism/socialism and any other corrupt government system. They all have “haves” and “have nots”, the privileged rich and the desperately poor. If that is true, why then is democracy preferable over communism? Simple, democracy and capitalism have one advantage over all other systems of government. The word is “CHANGE”. There is the possibility to change and improve. Not just change and improve the government but change and improve individually. There is social and economic mobility. The “have nots” can become the “haves”.
In his remarks of July 13, 2012 Obama has shown his true colors as a collectivist believing in Marx’s dictum of “to each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” He and his progressive supporters view us all as pigs. If they can get us corralled in their pen of a nanny state they will forever rule us.
If Obama’s stupid and irresponsible remarks catch hold across the electorate and Romney can use them as a hammer to beat Obama over the head he just might win in November.