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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Obama, So Worried About Businessmen Taking Too Much Credit



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“If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.”

Which successful person claims that?

Of course, you would have to look far and wide to find a successful person who had no individual initiative, drive, effort, smarts, determination to overcome adversity, the ability to solve problems as they arise . . . All of that is irreplaceable and nearly impossible to “outsource” to another person — and makes a much bigger factor than the roads and bridges built by (mostly state) governments. Everyone has access to those, but not everyone is successful; ergo, success is more than just a matter of access to government-supplied goods and services.

“I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I’m so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there.”

How many successful people aren’t smart in some way or fashion? Of course, we have a difficult time measuring “smart.” Would anyone argue that college dropouts Bill Gates, the late Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg aren’t smart? Restaurateurs, app developers, illustrators, engineers, performers, architects — all of them have some “smarts” in that they figured out how to best use their talents to create something that other people want.  They may or may not have high IQs or high SAT scores. But all of them came up with a good answer to a fundamental question in this economy: What good or service can I provide that other people will pay for?

Oh, and the shrugging off of smarts is kind of interesting to hear from a president of whom historians declared, shortly after his inauguration, “IQ is off the charts . . . He’s probably the smartest guy ever to become president.”

“It must be because I worked so hard. There are a whole bunch of hard-working people out there.”

Yes, and their inability to succeed as much as they wish is sad. But big efforts do not always yield big results, and no one ever said that working hard is sufficient. You could be the world’s finest maker of buggy whips and always give 110 percent effort, but if the automobile is replacing horses and buggies . . . you’re just not going to thrive.

And there are a lot of not-so-hard-working people out there who expect to be successful anyway.

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life!”

Okay, but why is that relevant to this year’s presidential election? Why is Obama attempting to hide the entirety of the federal government’s actions, laws, and spending behind our happy memories of our favorite teacher? What about all the lousy teachers? What about teachers at private schools? What about someone who taught us outside of a school, a first boss, a mentor, a co-worker, an employer who gave us a great opportunity? Why is the relentless advocate of ever-greater federal spending suggesting that every time someone has helped us in our lives, Washington deserves the credit?

“Somebody helped create this unbelievable American system that allowed you to thrive.”

One of the big arguments in this election, Mr. President, is the accusation that you’re changing and eroding “this unbelievable American system that allowed you to thrive.” That system included an ability to pursue one’s dreams, like a small business, without running afoul of a thousand different regulations at the federal, state, and local levels. (Some states and localities now require a license for fortune-telling, complete with a fee.) Some think that a system of businesses rising and falling based on their ability to bring quality goods and services to customers at a competitive price is being replaced with crony capitalism, where who a business knows in government is the preeminent factor in a business’ success.

“Somebody invested in roads and bridges . . .”

Yes, and everyone paid for it; by paying higher income taxes, higher property taxes, and higher sales taxes if they purchase more, the successful paid a higher share, in fact.

“If you have a successful business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

Here we have a president who sponsored high-profile legislation in the Illinois state senate but didn’t do much of the work; was elected to the U.S. Senate after both of his major rivals just happened to have their divorce records unsealed; a man who won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Performance; a man who irked U.S. Senate colleagues by taking credit for their efforts on tough legislation; a man declared one of the 25 Fittest Americans by Men’s Fitness magazine (while he was still smoking); a man who won the Nobel Peace Prize before he had completed one year in office; a man who accepted an award for government transparency in a ceremony that was closed to the press; a man whose staff wrote him into other presidents’ biographies on the White House web site; and a president who has irked members of the military by appearing to take too much credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden.

(Obama did turn down the King Charles II medal, which is awarded in “exceptional circumstances” to heads of state who have “made an outstanding contribution to furthering scientific research in their country.”)

And now he seems to be bothered by successful businessmen taking too much credit for the successful businesses they run.


Tags: Barack Obama


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