President Barack Obama’s campaign trail declaration — “You didn’t build that!” — reveals as much about Obama’s view of the role of government as did his candid 2008 explanation to Joe the Plumber that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”
That moment of truth in Ohio four years ago accurately forecast a presidency obsessed with the quest to impose its interpretation of economic justice on the American system. It explains why after four years of failure, Obama is still trying to revive a moribund economy by taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor, after laundering it through an exploding federal bureaucracy.
Likewise, the startling announcement to business owners last week that their success stems not from their own sweat, skill and sacrifice, but rather from the benevolence of Big Daddy government predicts Obama’s second-term agenda. And that will be to complete the subjugation of the private marketplace to federal regulators and tax agents.
When I heard the president’s quote — “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen” — I thought immediately of my friend Cindy Pasky, one of the hardest working people I know. Pasky, founder of Detroit’s Strategic Staffing Solutions, started with nothing, not even a college degree, and built her IT business into an international powerhouse. She still works more hours in a week than most people do in a month.
So I called Cindy and asked, if she didn’t build her business, who did?
“When you start a business, nobody gives you anything,” she said. “You have got to be all-in yourself. Entrepreneurs rise or fall on their own abilities and hard work.”
What about Obama’s claim that the infrastructure government puts in place and the support it gives to businesses make successful entrepreneurs possible?
“The government gives you nothing,” Pasky said. “The only gift you get is opportunity, and how you use it is up to you.”
She attributes Obama’s remarks to naivete about how jobs are created and private business works.
I think the roots run deeper, to Obama’s fundamental view of the relationship between government and the people.
The Framers crafted a government empowered by and accountable to the governed. The “you didn’t build that” comment springs from a president who believes government empowers the people, doling out both riches and rights.
A president who sees the nation in these terms is comfortable spreading the wealth around, even if it means confiscating what you worked so hard to attain. Getting the chicken or egg question correct is vital. If you believe that individual initiative and a successful private sector allow government to provide services, you advocate a much different set of policies than if you believe, as the president does, that the government makes all things possible.
This election is about more than fixing the economy or choosing between a stuffy millionaire and a cool cat who smooches his wife on the Kiss-Cam.
We will decide whether to keep trudging down the road to serfdom that Hayek warned of, or whether we make a U-turn back to an understanding that individuals build things themselves, and have a right to keep what they build.