an informal, intermittent and generally irregular platform from which to publicize my insights -- political, social and cultural -- which otherwise wouldn't get heard. not that anyone will notice them here.
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.
Here’s fact number one: The passage “…you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen…” refers not to the business “you” built, but to the “…great teacher somewhere in your life…this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive…” and “…roads and bridges…[that] “Somebody invested in…” and finally “…the internet…” at least partially created by “…government research…” Again, it’s a fact that the passage in question refers to communally funded and built facilities that all of us depend on for our livelihood and well being.
Fact number 2: Back in September of 2011, Massachusetts senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren had already made a notable speech saying very much the same thing:
There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there - good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory... Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea - God Bless! Keep a Big Hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
Actually, fact number two is really a couple facts rolled into one: fact, Elizabeth Warren said very much the same thing, and two, each of the assertions made in the passage is a fact of life. Bridges and roads, police and fire protection, trained and educated work forces; these are all things paid for out of the common weal. Yes, the businessman pays a portion of those taxes but so do the rest of us. It’s part of the community in which we all live. Together.
But lest this appear too one-sided, Mitt Romney’s speechto the Olympian athletes at the 2002 games in Utah had something very similar to say about our interdependence:
You Olympians, however, know you didn't get here solely on your own power. For most of you, loving parents, sisters or brothers, encouraged your hopes, coaches guided, communities built venues in order to organize competitions. All Olympians stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them. We’ve already cheered the Olympians, let’s also cheer the parents, coaches, and communities.
And by now, everyone has heard his more recent words reacting to the President’s speech:
[President Obama] describes people who we care very deeply about, who make a difference in our lives, Schoolteachers, firefighters, people who build roads. We need those things. We value schoolteachers, firefighters, people who build roads. You really couldn't have a business if you didn't have those things. We pay for those things. The taxpayers pay for government.
The portion of the speech right after this segment is an attempt to paint Mr. Obama into a different corner by ascribing a different meaning to the President’s words, but the fact here is that both men said the same thing:
President Obama: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.
Mitt Romney: “You Olympians, however, know you didn't get here solely on your own power. For most of you, loving parents, sisters or brothers, encouraged your hopes, coaches guided…”
President Obama: “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges.”
Mitt Romney: “We value schoolteachers, firefighters, people who build roads. You really couldn't have a business if you didn't have those things.”
Spin all you like, both men said the same thing, both believe in the same sense of community. I’m sure I’ll hear all about how the President has “demonized success and successful people.” He has demonized no one. He applauds success and hard work the same as Mitt Romney does. When you put their words side by side it’s objectively demonstrable that they both believe in the same work ethic that generates wealth and security in an American system that is exceptional in its opportunities for achievement and reward. It’s also objectively demonstrable through side-by-side comparison of those same exact words that both men are appealing to the common bond between us as members of a community. None of this is to say that individual success
is necessarily "communally brought about," it's just that nobody creates
anything in a vacuum. We're all responsible
for our individual choices and their consequences, but with that in mind, try building that successful plumbing business in
Somalia where the last thing you have to worry about is government
regulation or taxation.
The image of either candidate as a threat to this system and community is in the subjective eye or judgment of the observer. And it is demonstrably false in that same side-by-side comparison of their exact words. Instead of characterizing the other candidate as an ominous threat out to destroy our way of life maybe we should be asking who’s profiting from our being at each others' throats over such an utterly fictitious distortion?