In reading and hearing reaction to President Obama’s recent remarks about business owners not “doing it on their own”, I’ve tried to be as objective as possible and understand the meaning behind remarks that many people found offensive.
I understand some people taking offense to Obama’s statements, but I also understand those who say that they were taken slightly out of context. Sure, business owners didn’t literally build the roads and bridges. Sure, successful people get some help and breaks along the way. This isn’t some grand revelation by the Harvard-educated president, it’s common sense. No big deal.
The reason folks are bothered by the remarks (and the reason I side more with that group) is because of what Dan Flaherty wrote in CatholicVote.org today:
What struck me is how essentially unremarkable (Pres. Obama’s) comments were if you start breaking them down—and how their very arrogance is concealed in the comments’ plainness.
“If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own,” the president told his audience. Really? No kidding? You mean man doesn’t operate in a vacuum? Okay, I’m reeling from shock already, but let’s go on…
I generally try to focus on just taking statements as they are, because extrapolating what someone really meant usually leads us to ascribing extremes—either our worst fears or our best hopes—to the words. If we do that here, we have the president of the United States saying that success doesn’t happen in a vacuum and there are smart and hard-working people beyond those at the top of the economic ladder.
The reason I have a problem with just taking these words at face value is that they are so mind-numbingly insipid that it defies belief that a president in the midst of a heated re-election campaign wasted energy in a public forum uttering them without having a deeper meaning.
Therefore we are left with just one conclusion—that Barack Obama believes a successful person owes him some kind of debt. Or at least his personal political agenda. Therein lays the supreme arrogance of his comments at Roanoke.
That deeper meaning includes not acknowledging that although businesses didn’t literally build and pave roads and bridges, they surely contributed their hard-earned money to those projects via revenue-created taxes. In this context, Flaherty’s comments ring true and Obama’s words reflect a thinly-veiled but deep-seeded anti-business and pro-government attitude (if you want to substitute “business” with “individual”, that works too).
In the end, I like Tom Crowe’s alternate version of Obama’s comments better:
Look, if you’ve got a job, you didn’t get that on your own. You didn’t get that 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. But good on you for putting your smarts to use and seeking out employment, contributing your intellectual gifts to some worthy endeavor. Or 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. And every one of them contributes to this great republic, whether they found the next Fortune 500 company or wait tables — there is no undignified labor, and every bit of it, done with pride and a desire to improve one’s lot in life and help other improve theirs, helps keep this nation the greatest on earth.
If you have a job, somebody along the line made that job possible by founding or expanding a business and eventually deciding it was time to hire. There was a great entrepreneur somewhere who took a risk, worked his or her tail off, and started a business. A whole lot of people founded and sustained this unbelievable American system that defends liberty and protects the individual rights, making it possible for the business that employs you to thrive. Somebody invested in factories and offices. If you’ve got a job — you didn’t create that, but you did make yourself available and made yourself worth hiring. Thank you! Somebody else made the job possible, but you, through your own efforts, made yourself a worthy hire, thus contributing positively to the company that hired you, helping further the amazing story of prosperity that this nation has long been known for.
Filed under: Uncategorized