Friday, July 20, 2012

You Didn't Build That!

My two favorites of the memes...

Jefferson Starship gets educated by president Obama. They didn’t, in fact, build that city on rock and roll. Somebody else made that happen.

So, the right-wing has gone into a frenzy over remarks by Obama that seemed to me at least, perfectly unremarkable.  He said, to wit:

“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. 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. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

Pure heresy! I know that we Americans like to believe that we are all rugged individuals, possessors of steely resolve and iron determination, but to get to any level of success, you are going to need some help and cooperation from your fellow man in several forms or the other.  You are guaranteed to use some government resources to get to the highest pinnacles.  This was a fact that I thought was very much understood, but apparently to Republicans, every man is indeed an island. 

Republicans tend to believe whole-heartedly in "American exceptionalism”, the idea that the American people hold a special place in the world, by offering opportunity and hope for humanity, derived from its unique balance of public and private interests governed by constitutional ideals that are focused on personal and economic freedom.  Yet, some seem to have difficulty understanding that “invisible hand”  helping them to achieve their goals isn’t just the market, but other people, who buy their products, give them an education, drive their trucks, finance the networks that they rely on, deliver their mail, etc.  Other people also help to provide and maintain a stable government which helps businesses thrive and grow.

The Romney response to that concept is this:

“The idea to say that Steve Jobs didn’t build Apple, that Henry Ford didn’t build Ford Motor, that Papa John didn’t build Papa John Pizza, that Ray Kroc didn’t build McDonald’s, that Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft, you go on the list, that Joe and his colleagues didn’t build this enterprise, to say something like that is not just foolishness, it is insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America, and it’s wrong.

“And by the way, the president’s logic doesn’t just extend to the entrepreneurs that start a barber shop or a taxi operation or an oil field service business like this and a gas service business like this, it also extends to everybody in America that wants to lift themself [sic] up a little further, that goes back to school to get a degree and see if they can get a little better job, to somebody who wants to get some new skills and get a little higher income, to somebody who have, may have dropped out that decides to get back in school and go for it. . . . The president would say, well you didn’t do that. You couldn’t have gotten to school without the roads that government built for you. You couldn’t have gone to school without teachers. So you didn’t, you are not responsible for that success. President Obama attacks success and therefore under President Obama we have less success and I will change that.”

Apparently acknowledging that you had help along the way to your achievements is now considered “attacking success.”  It probably has nothing to do with being a distraction for Romney still failing to turn over his tax returns.  Consider that Ann and Mitt Romney freely admit that their (wealthy) parents helped them with an education and buying a house when they were first starting out.  Just with those two things, they had access to benefits that most people would never have, and that they concede were key to their eventual success.  Yet when the President talks about the way in which we have all benefited from each other, he's a Marxist/commie/pinko determined to enslave us all.  It depresses me, because the two viewpoints are so starkly opposed, and I have a hard time seeing how they can ever be reconciled.

P.S. Dude in the Romney ad received millions in government money...


  1. Why do you hate successful people so much? Foreigner. :-)

    It's a fairly simple concept, being humble enough to realize that no enterprise occurs through one person's effort alone. Amazing that Rs can justify turning that into an attack on "successful" people.

    And the part I actually find the most disturbing about how Romney is handling this is: he is bending over backwards to dog whistle to the birther crowd right now. I guess when the going gets tough, the Romney goes dirty?

  2. Oh, this is so stupid. Like there aren't enough real, actual things Obama has done to get upset about.

    I hate willful misunderstanding. Gah, I've erased a bunch of sentences on this. That's how stupid this is -- it's rendered me inarticulate!

  3. I agree that it is silly, and based on willful misunderstanding. But since it has the right-wing talking machine all aflutter, I thought best to examine what all the fuss was about. Still puzzles me a bit though. I guess because it plays so neatly into OMG!!!Obama is a Marxist!!! meme that is already ongoing, it gained a lot of traction.

  4. Oh, I didn't mean to imply that your discussion of it was silly. I just can't get over that this is a real issue Romney is blathering about. And apparently the GOP still hasn't learned what Marxism actually is.

  5. No worries, I know what you meant beadgirl. Republicans seem to think the definition of "Marxism" is "anything I don't like."

  6. When I actually heard that part of Obama's speech, I thought it was really obvious that he was saying that the business owner didn't build the roads and bridges themselves - not that he was saying that they didn't build their business themselves! Also, I'm really trying to figure out what the total hysteria is about Obama being a Socialist. Is there some specific actions (beside the bailouts that were started under Bush) that he has taken to stoke those fears?

  7. It feels like a fake outrage. It also feels like it comes from such a position of personal entitlement. I sometimes joke that JFK would be called a communist if he said "Ask not what your country can do for you, bout what you can do for your country" today... but I really think he would be. I added a Postscript to the post, because the star of the Romney ad has received millions in federal contracts, Small Business Administration loans, and tax-exempt state bonds... Oh, Sweet Irony.