“If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” – Barack Obama
And the right goes insane. He’s the most anti-business president in history! Or something! But if you read his remarks in context it becomes clear that his meaning is other than what these two unscripted sentences alone would seem to imply. Really. Take a look.
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, when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.
(Emphasis my own.)
When we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. Radical, I know. And when he’s saying “you didn’t build that,” he’s quite obviously referring to the “roads and bridges” of the previous sentence. If you seriously don’t get that…well, no. I don’t even believe someone doesn’t get that.
But wait! The president is still awful and a communist! He doesn’t seem to realize that the business owner himself paid the taxes that built those roads in the first place! He doesn’t get it!
Or maybe it’s the right-wingers who don’t get it. Sure, the successful business owner paid taxes for the roads. (Well, some of them do.) But here’s the thing your’e forgetting: So did everyone else. It’s not that “you didnt build that”–it’s that you didn’t build it alone. We built that road together, through our taxes, through our government. And having done so we created an environment where business can thrive–your business, my business, everyone’s business. If you are successful in America, you owe a little of that success to other Americans. The ones who helped pay for the infrastructure in which your business could thrive.
And, importantly, if we forget that doing these kinds of things together is part of that recipe for success, then we risk having less success in the future. It is not only necessary that wealthy individuals and successful businesses pay taxes, it’s only right that they do so. Not to pay back the people who helped them. But to extend that nurturing environment forward so that the next hard working person with a big dream can be successful, too.
Anyone who reads the presidents remarks to mean something different is engaging in, shall we say, “motivated misunderstanding.” His meaning is obvious and factual on its face.