What Obama really said about entrepreneurs

Lately right-wing pundits and the Romney campaign have been exercised about something said by Barack Obama in Virginia on Friday, specifically, the sentence highlighted below, which reads very different in isolation than it does in context:

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, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for president — because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.

You might not agree with me, but it seems pretty clear that the “that” Obama is talking about in the highlighted sentence is “this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.” In any case, his overall point is clear: Entrepreneurs build things, and more power to them, but in order for them to do it they need to live in a supportive society. That’s why there are so many more successful business people in the United States than in the Third World.

For more see this article at Talking Points Memo.

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What Obama really said about entrepreneurs — 2 Comments

  1. We have sense enough to read the whole thing – but it is STILL a stupid and very revealing comment. Government interference HAMPERS entrepreneurs – regulations, higher taxes, repetitive paperwork, a complicated system of taxation are BARRIERS to success. And DUH – yeah we have to have roads and bridges and infrastructure – but where in the HELL does Obama think the money for that comes from??? People and small business mostly. The man does not have ONE clue about how prosperity is created – not one. Nor does he understand AT ALL that it’s NOT THE GOVERNMENTS DAMN MONEY!!! He must the “government” is synonymous “Tooth Fairy” – government is a magic little pouch of endless cash for him to REDISTRIBUTE!!!! The man is an idiot – pure & simple – and without the MAGIC TELEPROMPTER it becomes blatantly obvious!

  2. As an investor and as co-owner of my own business who knows a number of other entrepreneurs and small business owners, this is a subject with which I have a fair amount of familiarity. In the U.S., I’m glad to say, government regulations are on the whole a relatively minor hindrance to business. In fact, almost all of the needless hindrance to small businesses comes from local governments. Our taxes are among the lowest in the developed world, and right now total tax collections are the smallest percentage of national income in about 60 years. Yes, infrastructure is ultimately funded through taxation, which is of course why we need taxation. Like most people I think the tax code is too complicated and too riddled with special breaks stuck in by lobbyists, but we really do need government and taxes to fund it. According to the Cato Institute — hardly a hotbed of liberalism — non-defense discretionary spending comes to just 17 percent of the federal budget. That is, highways, bridges and other infrastructure, plus law enforcement, the courts, scientific and medical research, national parks, farm programs, development of energy sources, education, air traffic control, and so on — everything that’s left over after take out defense and long-term commitments such as Social Security, Medicare, promised veteran’s benefits, servicing the national debt, and the like — accounts for only about 1/6 of federal spending.

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