Obama: 'If you have a business, you didn't build that.'

This is unbelievable. Go to about 50 seconds into the video to see President Barack Obama–who has successfully avoided being in business for most of his life–throw dirt on folks who worked to create their own business.

He’s not telling us anything new when he says that we all owe others for helping us out.

But Obama’s premise is that unless you support his extravagant government spending and intrusive government policies, then you are not recognizing the you relied on other people for their help. Indeed, government helped, but Obama stretches the logic into an attack on those who think that government spending, borrowing and taxing policies should be more reasonable.

More politics of envy.

More interesting is the defensive mode that Obama’s apologists have entered. “It’s taken out of context.” (No, considering the larger context, the sentiment exactly describes Obama’s mindset.) “Obama is right because it’s true that those nasty conservatives think they are entirely responsible for their successes.”” (No, to say that Obama is giving the government too much credit for individual success is not the same as denying that government had anything to do with it through, for example, the provision of infrastructure. By the way, small businesses already have paid their fair share to build that infrastructure. On what grounds should they pay more?)

Here is the text:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I am always struck by people who think, “It must be because I was just so smart.” There are a lot of smart people out there. “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. If you are 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 did not build that–somebody else made that happen. The Internet did not get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off of the Internet. The point is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.


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  • Clearly, he was referring to the roads and bridges and other parts of the American infrastructure, not the businesses people run.

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    Sorry, Jimmy, but it's clearly the other way around. Diagram this sentence: "If you’ve got a business, you did not build that–somebody else made that happen." The "you did not build that" modifies "If you've got a business." It does not modify the previous sentence that refers to "road and bridges."

    Now it's possible that Obama got his syntax mixed-up, something that President Eisenhower used to do--and got ridiculed mightily for it. Accept the argument that Obama didn't mean it, he just misspoke. That's something that I acknowledge in my Tribune column today. If so, it could be argued that we should "quote what he meant, not what he said"--something that Richard J. Daley's press secretary Earl Bush is credited with saying.

    Or it could be that the remark did give us a look into his world view. If it didn't, he needs to go back to his teleprompter. If you put the quote in the context of all the other things he has said during his public life, I think he means what he said.

  • And you're being hypocritical. If the economy that is puttering along is the president's fault, then Obama's premise is correct-- business is helped/assisted by government and other individuals and institutions.

    So which is it? Are businesses (and businessmen and women) built completely independent of the government or do government policies create an atmosphere which allows for business to thrive or fold?

    You can't have it both ways.

  • In reply to Brian C. Thomas:

    I have often said--whether it has been Bush in office or Obama--that too much political credit or blame is laid on the president. One man, even with all of the White House powers, is not able to turn around the aircraft carrier of the national and world economy. Too much emphasis during the campaign is placed on "job creation." Things like uncertainty are are as much or bigger influences. However, the damage that one person can do--by creating uncertainty and throwing excessive road blocks into growth--is greater.

  • I'm not a big fan of Obama by any stretch, and like to keep the man honest, but let's at least be honest with this speech. He is clearly saying all those around us, especially folks like those that build roads for trucks to drive on and buildings for office space ALSO contributed to your success. You didn't do it alone. http://pwnedby.me/?p=146

  • In reply to ThePWNER:

    PWNER, see my response above to Jimmy. I would like to emphasize that I'm not criticizing the president for saying we should acknowledge and thank those that have helped us through life. And that we should play it forward (that's kind of the idea that we shouldn't be spending our grandchildren into debt). But, do we have to accept his premise that playing it forward means that our thanks has to be expressed through government and supporting the programs that Obama favors? Of course not. We have so many ways in America to play it forward without becoming so obsequious to government.

    And it's not like small business isn't paying for those roads and bridges through what might be the world's most progressive tax system. It's not like someone ordered up roads and bridges without all of us paying for them.

  • In reply to ThePWNER:

    Well right, but you pay for all that stuff, roads, schools etc, just like you pay for salaries for your own employees, office rent, or raw materials.

    Since we have already paid for roads (many times over in the case of Chicago Tollways) why do the road builders etc deserve anymore credit than say...the plumber who installs your sink?

    It is just Obama beating up on business, something he knows very little about.


  • Obama must have misspoken for his statement is wrong. We do need to credit people for inspiration, love, and support we all have a long list of thank you cards to write but businesses are built on the backs of American workers who had and have self-motivation and determination to achieve their goals. No one in this country can actually give another self-motivation and determination, you may have the best of society around you and if you are not self-determined you are going nowhere, it must be instilled in your heart and mind by your own will to achieve greatness because greatness is not given. The roads and infrastructure he speaks of is also built by the hard working American business class that pay taxes to have the local (state, county, city) build and maintain the “roads and bridges”. The main reason roads exist is for producer, self-motivated business owner, and consumer, in some circumstances another self-motivated business owner, use otherwise the government could not even boast of its “roads and bridges”. Therefore the money comes from the people who have earned the right to have their OWN business rise and sometimes fall on the roads built by the money of the community. In conclusion the Americans of this great country build business not the federal government and it is the American business men and women that start the business from their own ambitions to produce a good for the community.

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    In reply to PhysAssist13:

    Any one with any gray matter between his or her earsa know what Mr. Obama was saying. Not that you did not build YOUR busness, That Tax Payer dollrs made it possible, for you to get your good and get them to market and the ater required, the energy, the information Hwy. Get real Teapublicans and QUIT turning things The PRESIDENT say and makeing them a Lie. Stupid Teapublicans Brains are not your stroung suite!!!

  • In reply to Gerry Owens:

    Gerry, I get it when Obama says at the end (read the above quote): " The point is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."

    Only a fool would disagree with that. Yet, you need to read the entire quote within the context of his speech and his often repeated view of the relationship between government and the individual. I disagree with the president because initiative and creativity starts with the individual and too often is stymied by government. And Obama fails to want to strengthen those society-building institutions in-between the government and individuals--from the family, businesses (yes big corporations), religious institutions and so forth. The choice is not between the individual and government--between radical individualism and central authority.

    By the way, perhaps the president misspoke, but if you read one of my responses above you'll see that if you diagram the "you-didn't-do-that" sentence, the "you didn't do that" modifies "business."

    Also by the way, we could get more down if we'd put aside the name-calling for a while.

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