It’s time finally to step off the ledge, to dip the ol’ toe into the waters of the upcoming election and throw something out there for the sake of discussion. A number of controversies have cropped up recently involving the two candidates for President. Should Romney release more tax returns? What was his involvement in Bain between 1999 and 2002? And, how do you square his statements made under oath in 2002 versus those that are 180 degrees different but also made under oath in 2011? But, the point of this post is the latest controversy over President Obama’s alleged lack of understanding of what it means to be American.
In a speech earlier this week he attempted to point out that there is no business that exists without the help of others, including the infrastructure that doesn’t happen without government. Republicans have gone after him for not understanding what America is about. John Sununu stated “I wish this President would learn how to be an American.” And the Romney campaign and the SuperPACs lined up to assist are running ads everywhere focusing on this statement: “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
The only problem is that statement has been taken entirely out of context and any fair reading of the entire statement suggests something that is far different than what the campaigners and the ads suggest. Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan, here is the entire statement. The italics are the portions of the statement that were conveniently deleted by Mr. Romney and also not included in any of the ads:
“There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, 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 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.”
It isn’t necessarily a good idea to draw conclusions from ads and statements made in the heat of a campaign, however, the manner in which Republicans have gone after this comment is entirely consistent with a view that has been spouted here on EG Patch by conservatives and which essentially defines the difference between Democrats and Republicans today.
As I stated in my last post, I believe it takes a village to raise a child. I also believe it takes a village to make for a successful business. If there are no consumers for your business, you don’t survive, if there isn’t a community that can afford your product, you don’t survive. If there aren’t roads to bring customers to you, if there aren’t services to protect you against theft, fire, etc., your business doesn’t survive. Similarly, if there is too much poverty, too much need, too much desperate search for the means to survive, the “successful” will have to build their walls higher. Is that really a way to live?
On the other hand, based on the Republican response to President Obama’s statement and comments made here, it seems that Republicans believe that the only thing that matters is whether they personally have success. They don’t believe anybody else has contributed it and they certainly don’t believe they owe any of their success to anybody but themselves. They are in it for themselves and believe the only thing that matters is what they do. For themselves.
I commented to an acquaintance earlier this week that it will be very interesting, as the policies of the Republicans and corporate greed continue to destroy the middle class, what all of these business owners and corporations will do when there are no longer any consumers for their products. The path of conservatives and Republicans is a path towards destruction. Maybe not in this generation, but eventually. You can see it in the shrinking of the middle class as, over decades, corporate honchos have lost interest in caring for their workers and ensuring they share in the success of their employers. And the impacts of Republican policies – less and less tax revenue, fewer and fewer services, and higher and higher costs for the things the middle class depends on to achieve success. One example – the rise in the cost of a public university education as conservatives argue for less and less taxes at a time when the tax burden is lower than it has been in decades.
Here’s a little known fact: George Romney, Mitt’s father, while CEO of American Motors Company, made $200,000 a year and had an effective tax rate of 37%. His son, in the last year for which he has provided the information, made $22 million and had an effective tax rate of less than 15%. And, he wants more tax cuts for people like himself.
It’s fascinating watching this divergence of beliefs. What the President was saying is the most fundamental of things. To achieve success, you cannot do it alone. There are and always will be people who assist you along that path. And, the simple reality is this, your success is directly affected by the success of those around you. What can be more American than the idea that we are, or should be, in this together?
Here's a plea ... is there any way we can keep this debate civil?