We Built It – With Your Money


Andrew Schriver, Apply Liberally

Yes, it’s true, Barack Obama did say the following words at a campaign stop in Roanoke, Virginia: “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” And my colleague who writes in this space when I don’t, Andrew Breland, is correct when he says that President Obama faced no criticism from the mainstream media for saying it. However, Breland (and the entire GOP) is missing the rest of the paragraph. This is where Obama very clearly explains that what he’s referring to are, in fact, things that small business owners tend not to build: roads, public schools, the Internet. If you want to read the whole thing, Google it, since apparently the good folks at the Republican National Convention can’t be bothered.

Quick to hone in on the one slightly self-damaging sentence in an entire paragraph about the nature of the American Dream and the proper role of government, the theme of the recent Republican National Convention in Tampa was “We Built It.” This is the same sort of passive-aggressive rebuke to something that wasn’t actually said that you may remember from your days in elementary school. Mitt Romney, too, was quick to jump on the President’s comments, with an ad featuring a selectively edited clip of the President’s words and several small business owners lecturing President Obama on how much hard work and sweat and tears they put into their businesses. Fine. I’m sure Romney’s got a point, right? I mean, regardless of what the President said, surely these people did all this on their own, building up strong American businesses without any hint of that Communist government handout nonsense, right?

Or maybe, as ABC News reported, the star of that Romney ad, Jack Gilchrist, received almost a million dollars in interest-free government loans to start his business. And maybe the arena that the Republican National Convention was held in was mostly financed by public funds. And maybe the GOP mantra of individualism above all is a solipsistic fantasy, and the “We Built It” theme is just one more in a series of increasingly glaring and darkly humorous Republican hypocrisies.

You see, I actually do agree with Breland about one thing – I would like the mainstream media to focus less on gaffes and more on the issues. If they did, we would be able to hear more about how Romney hasn’t actually held down a consistent policy position since he was in his Middle School Student Council. We could hear more about how Paul Ryan, the GOP nominee for Vice President, wrote to several Cabinet offices to request – nay, beg – stimulus money be delivered to his Congressional District. The letters are quite eloquent, with Mr. Ryan extolling the benefits of stimulus money and the jobs that could be created or saved with it. Astonishing! This from a man who lambasts the stimulus every chance he gets, who voted against it in Congress, who has called it “failed” and “socialist” and everything else. This from a man who told the Boston Globe he would not vote against something and “then write to the government to ask them to send us money.” Except that is precisely what he did – the ultimate in eating your cake and having it, too.

The GOP doesn’t hate government intervention. They’re perfectly willing to jump into your bedroom or your vagina or your country if you don’t follow their rules. And they’re perfectly willing to accept what they publicly deride as “big government” as long as it benefits their business or their campaign or their bank account. The GOP agenda is not, as most liberals claim, to simply destroy government’s beneficial programs. No, they’re smart guys – they’re going to take everything that isn’t tied down first. Only after they’ve got theirs will they burn the place down so no one else can get any.