In a scant 56 seconds, President Obama spoke about small business and created another controversy that divides along party lines.
Democratic supporters believe that the president's comments were insightful and accurate. His Republican adversaries believe those very same comments reveal him to be anti-American, anti-capitalism, and opposed to everything that our wonderful country stands for.
During the 56-second sound byte that I watched on YouTube (from a campaign appearance in Virginia last Friday), President Obama goes down two different roads. On the one hand, he points out that no one who has had a successful business has grown it without help.
If you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own.
Maybe a teacher was a big influence. Maybe the Internet, which was created by the government, played a big role as well. And of course, the roads and bridges that were built by the public sector made it all possible as well.
So far, so good. But then the president points out that a business doesn't grow because the owners are smart.
There are a lot of smart people out there.
And hard work is not why businesses grow either. A lot of people work hard, according to the president.
There are a lot of hard working people out there.
I find these comments a little disturbing. Sure, there are many smart, hard-working people out there who don't have thriving businesses, but that in no way detracts from the efforts of the people who do.
But the most troubling quote (at first) was as follows:
If you've got a business, you didn't build that.
President Obama seems not to be giving credit to the successful businessman, accusing him instead of not building his business up at all.
I listened to the YouTube video over and over and finally came to the conclusion that the word "that" is not referring to the business (from the previous clause); it refers to the roads and bridges he had been talking about a few seconds before.
No roads, no business. This is what I believe the president is saying. Ronald Reagan saw the government as a necessary evil that needed to be restrained, but not eliminated. Thirty years later, Barack Obama welcomes government assistance with open arms, believing that without it, we wouldn't thrive.
Both perspectives are valid. Both perspectives can coexist together in harmony. My concern is that our current president is more inclined to give credit to the public sector for creating an environment for business to prosper than he is able to give to the private sector for its hard work and intelligence in using that environment to develop businesses and create jobs.
See my WSO blog