Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"You Didn't Build That"

It’s too soon to tell whether Roanoke, Virginia will be President Obama’s Waterloo, but last Friday, in the midst of a campaign speech, Obama demonstrated definitively why he should never stray from his teleprompter.

When he spoke at Roanoke President Obama dismissed the notion of individual success. You have no right to take pride in your achievement; you owe your success to the collective.

When you succeed in Obama’s America you have incurred a debt. President Obama will graciously permit you to pay off that debt by paying higher taxes. If you are already paying high taxes, he will happily allow you to pay higher taxes.

Incurring a debt involves guilt. In the German language the word for guilt, Schuld also means debt.

We say that criminals pay their debt to society. If the rich owe more than they have already paid that can only mean that they acquired wealth illegitimately, and that the rest of the nation has the right, even the duty, to take it away from them.

Higher taxes have a moral basis. They are the wages of sin.

Let’s examine the text itself. Herewith I will quote from the White House transcript.

Obama’s first point is unobjectionable:

look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own. 

Fair enough. John Donne said it before: No man is an island. We are all members of community.

Since no one is saying that any man is an island, who he is preaching about?

If Obama is so enthralled by the collective, you wonder why he did not offer a discourse on how we should be proud of our nation’s greatness. If he was going to make an argument for patriotism and loyalty and American exceptionalism, everyone would have cheered.

Why didn’t he? Well, President Obama seems to adhere to a philosophy that suggests that all success is ill-gotten. If the success of an individual depends on the collective, why not take it a step further and say that a nation’s success depends on the rest of the world.

Thus, America’s success is a sin that can only be expiated by transferring wealth to less developed nations.

Would that not be a logical extension of Obama’s idea?

Next, Obama indulges in a little mind reading. He tries to plumb the mental depths of those who are very successful.

Since they are his enemy, Obama does not suggest that any of them might have feelings of humility about their success. He does not suggest that they are grateful to America for providing the opportunity to succeed. He prefers to portray them as arrogant narcissists.

In Obama’s words:

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.  (Applause.)

At the least, this is a peculiar thought. Obama is questioning the basis for success: if there are so many people who are just as smart and just as hardworking as you, how did it happen that you succeeded and they failed?

Obama will claim that people succeed, not because they work harder or are smarter, but because of what America provides them.

But, those who are just as smart and just as hardworking, but who do not succeed… they are Americans too, aren’t they? They use the same internet and are protected by the same police departments, aren't they?

Obama doesn’t say it, but he is implying some people have an unfair advantage or even that they cheated their way to the top. Perhaps they have friends in the government who funnel money to them. Or perhaps he is saying that if the rich can provide more advantages for their children the reason must be that the government has not taxed them enough.

This also implies that the people who are smart, hardworking and less successful are victims of the corruption of the moneyed class.

We all agree that success requires more than smarts and hard work. It involves the particular kind of smarts you have, whether or not you are encouraged to develop them, and how well they fit with what the economy needs.

Obama is thrilled to note how much government can facilitate success. He has nothing to say about how government can inhibit success.

The founders of the Home Depot once explained that they could not have created the same company in today’s regulatory environment.

Obama then goes slightly off the rails, by saying that you owe your success, not just a part of it, but all of it, to the government.

In his words:

 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.

It’s such an astonishing statement that it has provoked much commentary.

Allow me to put it more succinctly. Obama is saying that if you hit a home run you did not hit the home run. The groundskeepers hit it, because they created the conditions without which there would not be a game. And your hitting coach taught you how to swing at the ball, so you didn’t hit the home run, your coach hit it.

Try a thought experiment: the next time that Alex Rodriguez strikes out in the clutch, how you would react if he said: I didn’t do that… somebody else made that happen… the groundskeepers and my hitting coach?

Obama’s statement is striking because it is so raw and so utterly wrong. Obama seems to believe that he has the right to take away your pride and your wealth because you owe it to everyone else.

Besides, who exactly was it who paid the taxes that funded the government that hired the private contractors who built the roads on which you transported your goods?

The answer is: those who are rich and successful.

In a nation where half the population does not pay federal income taxes, it’s a bit rich for Obama or for Elizabeth Warren to claim that the rich are exploiting the poor, or that they are getting rich off of the tax revenues paid by the poor. That would be the very same poor that does not pay federal income taxes.

In truth, the untaxed poor benefit from the internet and the military. Yet, they did not pay the taxes that fund either of them. And they receive government services, whether Medicaid or food stamps, to which their taxes contributed precious little. 

No one is suggesting that the government end Medicaid. I am suggesting that Obama’s reasoning leaves much to be desired.

Will the real freeloaders please stand up?

[My thanks to Neo-neocon for linking this post. Herewith a link to her fine post. Serendipitously, she referenced the same John Donne quote. What was that old line about great minds thinking alike?]


Ari said...

If, like Obama, you got more power, influence, money and fame than you ever dreamed possible without earning any of it, you somehow think that everybody else has gotten what they have by simalar means. Unfortunately for Obama, the real world was not built by race guilt hustlers. It was built by people who had to actually produce something.

n.n said...

Left-wing ideology is analogous to placing the forest before the trees. Obama is arguing for the forest, while appealing to the trees. As he promises the trees instant gratification, the paradox he constructs may be ignored but will remain unresolved and engender a dysfunctional outcome.

Well, this seems to settle the question of what is his true faith. It is my understanding that Christian faith dictates that we will be judged by our individual conscience, which suggests that individual dignity takes precedence over the collective.

While there is no collective salvation, there is collective damnation, and so we have the "general Welfare" clause to promote the greater (not individual) good. It is a compromise between the individual and the collective; with the intention of preserving individual dignity.

CorkyAgain said...

Perhaps we should be reading his speech as a sort of confession?

He knows that all of his own success is due to favors he received from others. It wasn't the result of his own hard work.

"I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart."

Obama does often seem to believe he is smart, and there are many people who are saying that he is.

But what if, down deep, he's not so sure?

He sees how so much has been given to him, through no particular merit or effort of his own, and he supposes that the same must be true of everyone else who has enjoyed similar success...

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Very good point. I agree entirely. I think that deep down inside he knows that he's an impostor, someone whose credits go far beyond what he has earned, and that he's just waiting for the moment when everyone else is going to figure it out.

Dennis said...

I think that is the reason that many in the movie business are Leftists. They get a large number of "takes" to get it right so where is the real talent and work? I suspect that is the reason why many of them have little use for other Americans who don't get those kinds of breaks.
One have to wonder at the logic espoused by Obama which seems to be saying that no one is responsible for their own actions or success. Just think of the possibilities for someone addicted to power given this logic. That because you went to school, drove on roads, live and own property in the US, et al nothing is really yours. You didn't make government possible, government made you possible.
It does make Ayn Rand prophetic because Obama's speech almost reads as if it came directly from
Atlas Shrugged."
The one good thing is that Obama has let the "mask" drop.

Anonymous said...

Another reason those in the entertainment business are Leftists is because they got a break in their careers and have to justify their success against those that were also qualified and talented who did not get the breaks and have the luck that they did. Having never worked at a "real" job and many of them cut off from families of origin, little understanding of the concept of individual success though hard work is known to them.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I would also add that people who succeed in the entertainment industry make amounts of money that are so grossly disproportional with the work they put in and the value that they contribute to society that they often feel like they are receiving an entitlement.

After all, they are stars and stars are like demigods.

The other important point about entertainers is that they do not really belong to work communities; they do not go to the office every day for years and see the same people. They do not develop company loyalty and the same sense of community.

Often they travel a great deal and do not feel rooted.

U. Ville said...

Ah, Stuart, I just KNEW you'd weigh in on this one -- and you didn't disappoint me! I'm sharing it on Facebook. Just shoot me now.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

How can I when I don't know who you are... anyway, thanks for sharing it... it's much appreciated.

The Elephant's Child said...

Obama is such an interesting personality. We will be dissecting him for years. As a community organizer, he got his charges to demonstrate and boycott bankers to get mortgages for people who could not afford them under prudent rules of banking. In the Ill. State Senate, he was given bills written and developed by others to pass in his name. Got elected with phony "presidential logos" on airplanes and podium, making him appear inevitable as a president. Got the Nobel Peace Prize for ? And the recession that he actually worked (a rare event)to create — he blamed on Bush. Interesting character.

Nick said...

I post many of you articles with excerpts on Facebook. I never add my own commentary and no one has ever commented on them (probably because they can't argue with the logic.) Since I'm from DC and most of the people I know are liberal or Democrat, I think I'm just pissing them off. I love it though because I remember the hysteria here in 2008. So many people here think they're incredibly intellegent, but in reality many still live in darkness.
I have Conservative friends who thank me or ask me to send them things however, so I know I'm reaching some people - they just don't want everyone to know they're Conservatives. (I just don't care. I consider Obama and libs to be bullies and I've always stood up to bullies.)

Anonymous said...

If U.S. citizens were not so easily prone to guilt trips over slavery and past injustices to black people, Obama never would have been elected. His 2008 campaign was a kind of delirium the likes of which we (hopefully) won't see again any time soon, where citizens elected an inexperienced, unqualified person to the highest office in the land. Let's hope we've all learned something.