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Putting ‘Context’ In Context: Obama’s ‘You Didn’t Build That’ Speech

The speech President Obama gave at a campaign stop in Roanoke, Va. on July 13 has become known as the "you didn't build that" speech. (AP)

The speech President Obama gave at a campaign stop in Roanoke, Va. on July 13 has become known as the “you didn’t build that” speech. (AP)

In a new campaign spot, President Obama says to the camera, “Those ads taking my words about small business out of context — they’re flat-out wrong.”

Was his remark, “you didn’t build that; somebody else made that happen,” taken out of context? Here is what he said:

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.

It’s true that some Romneyites would stoop to taking words out of context. They did that in their first ad attacking Obama, when they edited a sound-bite of Obama quoting John McCain to make it sound like it was Obama expressing his own view. I criticized that at the time, feeling that it was ominous for the 2012 race. And indeed, the presidential contest has remained at that level. Both sides rely on attack ads, rather than giving voters specific solutions and genuine hope.

Nonetheless, let’s consider the question of whether Obama’s “you didn’t build that” remarks were taken out of context. This issue might be significant because it could affect the outcome. Most conservatives think it reveals that the president is hostile to, or dangerously ignorant of, entrepreneurship – and they are motivated to work even harder to defeat him. Most liberals seem to think he was correct in what he said or is the victim of distortion by Republicans.

How do we judge what was said to decide whether it’s revealing or irrelevant? Well, if we were evaluating a provocative comment by a job applicant, we’d put that remark in context. Was it ironic because he smiled while saying it? Was it heartfelt because he raised his voice? Was it worrisome because it reinforced a weakness that he claimed he had overcome?

If you watch video of the Obama speech, you’ll see that he was clearly using resentment of successful entrepreneurs to rouse the audience. If it was not demagoguery, it was a great imitation.

And if you want to give him the benefit of the doubt and imagine that he made these comments off the cuff, you’d have to ignore the fact that the offensive part seemed to be plagiarizing what senate candidate Elizabeth Warren said in a much publicized talk. You can see the similarity in a new web video from Scott Brown’s campaign.

Notice the passionate delivery by Obama and Warren. Have you ever seen them more animated? No, they seem sincerely resentful of people who have succeeded in creating their own business. Does this indicate that the two liberal law professors believe that government knows best, and it’s important to denigrate those who would dare think they achieved something independently? You can draw your own conclusion by considering other kinds of context.

For example, there’s the context of history. In the Brown video, it begins with pro-business quotes from past Democratic presidents, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton. It reminds us that Democratic leaders once understood the wisdom of what the late senator Paul Tsongas famously said at the 1992 Democratic National Convention: “You cannot be pro-jobs and anti-business at the same time. You cannot love employment and hate employers.”

Now, to consider in context whether Obama meant to denigrate those who sacrifice to start and operate small businesses, ask yourself: During this recession has Obama been passionate and determined in encouraging small businesses to expand and create new jobs? Or did he put his faith in government stimulus, deficit-spending, regulations and the federal bureaucracy?

Obama has never started a business or managed one. Perhaps the closest he came was his decision to back Solyndra with half a billion in federal funds, which went bankrupt. With that lack of experience is it fair to say that he should have known better than to mock entrepreneurs?

Another way to give his remarks context is to consider this question: If Obama’s remarks were truthful and fair — that people shouldn’t think they are smarter or harder working because all individual success is really due to others — what would you have thought if Romney used the same logic in talking about, say, teachers? Imagine the outcry if Romney said this:

If teachers have been successful, 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 principal or school board president. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable school system that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in school buildings. If you’ve had higher graduation rates with your students — you didn’t do that. Somebody else made that happen. Parents and Sesame Street helped prepare those kids. PBS didn’t get invented on its own. Government funds made that happen.

Should a president of the United States denigrate individual achievement in any group — teachers, lawyers, inventors, sales people…?

When Obama went to the private Hollywood fundraiser hosted by George Clooney do you think he told the donors something like this?:

If you’ve been successful on screen, you didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was so talented. There are a lot of talented people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there’s a whole bunch of hardworking folks out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great agent or lawyer somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this fantasy world that we have allowed to continue. Somebody invested in roads and bridges for people to get to theaters. If you’ve got an Academy Award — you didn’t earn that. Somebody else made that happen.

Of course he wouldn’t say such a thing… because he doesn’t have such an animus toward them.

Obama and Warren can scold entrepreneurs for not being as virtuous and modest as liberal law professors, but is that what we need from public officials and candidates — mockery and scorn?

Voters have a new context forced on us in this election: a stagnant economy. If you believe that singling out entrepreneurs for criticism will help stimulate the economy, Obama’s speech should inspire you. If you believe he said it just to stimulate a crowd, you might want him to admit that it was his mistake, not his opponent’s.

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  • Thomas

    Actors don’t become successful on their own, the producers, writers, cameramen, and co-actors help them to make a successful movie.
    It’s the same thing for teachers, as even the best teachers have students that do not succeed. This is because they are helped by parents who raise their kids correctly, by principals who set the right rules in school so as to create a good working environment.
    It’s the same thing with entrepreneurs. When you live in a society, you need to interact with other people, and you can never succeed on your own. Somebody payed for your education, somebody made sure you were protected from crime etc etc
    Of course, individual qualities are responsible for a large deal of your succes, but they are never the only factor in play. Contradicting this would come down to saying that Africa is poor because nobody there is willing to work for a living. As if the environment in which you live doesn’t have any influence on your life…

    • Johanna

      [Individual achievers] don’t become successful on their own, the [individual achievers], [individual achievers], [individual achievers], and [individual achievers] [help / don't help] them to make a successful movie [or a complete flop, or no movie at all.]It’s the same thing for [individual achievers], as even the [best / worst] [individual achievers] have [individual achievers] that [do / do not] succeed [or fail.]It’s the same thing for [individual achievers], as even the worst [individual achievers] have [individual achievers] that do succeed.This is because [individual achievers] are [helped / hindered] by [individual achievers] who raise their [individual achievers] [correctly / incorrectly], by [individual achievers] who set the [right / wrong] rules in school so as to create a [good / bad] [working / failing] environment.It’s the same thing with [Individual achievers]. When you live in a [group of individual achievers], you need to interact with other [individual achievers], and you can never [succeed / fail] on your own. [Individual achievers] [payed [sic] / didn’t pay] for your education, [Individual achievers] made sure you were protected from [or victimized by] crime etc etcOf course, individual qualities are responsible for a large deal of your succes [sic], but they are never the only factor in play. Contradicting this would come down to saying that Africa is poor because [Individual achievers] there [are] willing to [forcibly take from others] for a living. As if the [way] in which you live doesn’t have any influence on your life…

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Astby/100002254447316 Brian Astby

      Which one of those helpers you mention were not paid for by tax money?

  • Duke

    It is clear from the video – but not from the text – that the President was referring to roads and bridges and the infrastructure and systems that support all our businesses.  Your article does not really put the quote in context, it just pretends to….

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Astby/100002254447316 Brian Astby

      If it was clear, then why does Clyde refer to ‘That ‘Roads and Bridges’” instead of “Those ‘Roads and Bridges’”

      • Prey

        I thought “that” referred to the American system as a whole.  He was talking about how we have created the system.  Then he used the example of roads and bridges.  Then he commented on business owners not building “that”.

        • Sean Daly

           Exactly!!!  Thank you!  Even Jon Stewart didn’t figure THAT out.  :-)

          Clearly the word “that” referred to the American system.  Of course we wish Obama had said “Those of you who built a business didn’t have to build that entire American system to go with it, and for that it would be nice if you stopped doing everything in your power to avoid paying the same fair share of taxes that everyone else does”  or something like that. :-)

          The reason he is so energetic in making the point is because it is an extremely patriotic point to make.  We who have been successful owe a large part of our success to this country and the hard work of the generations that came before us and built the infrastructure.  And it’s not too much to ask to invest a little bit of our success back into continuing to provide an infrastructure to the generations to follow.

          If you don’t believe there is a minimal amount of tax we should all pay to keep this country from crumbling apart, road by road, bridge by bridge, what the heck kind of American are you???

  • Mannap70

    Thomas, you’re an idiot.

  • http://www.innovativedisruption.com thinkdisruptive

    Great article, but I don’t think it takes even this level of analysis to understand how negative this speech was and how much it betrays the real attitudes and antipathy that Obama and his administration has toward business. Would Clinton or Kennedy or any other celebrated democrats have even imagined this was a realistic or smart thing to say? Or even the “great society” president, LBJ? If you simply listen to the tone of what he says, you know this is a core belief, right to the bone.

    It is insulting to anyone who has ever started or thought about starting a business. It is insulting to those who have invested in businesses, or been part of a founding team or the core group of employees who helped build a business from nothing. It is insulting to core American beliefs about what it means to take responsibility and succeed.

    We all know that success is built on the efforts of many people. No successful entrepreneur hoards the credit. We live in a society which is completely interdependent. But that doesn’t mean that building a business isn’t an extraordinary act worthy of respect, accolades and monetary reward.

    When Obama says you didn’t built that, it can only come from ignorance, disdain and resentment of success. If “you didn’t build that”, whose idea and vision was the foundation for it? Who took the risk and invested their life-savings? Who recruited the right partners to help launch? Who designed the business model, skipped paychecks to ensure payroll for the employees could be made, risked their house and lived on ramen noodles to get past the early years? Who sweated their mistakes and failures, persevering through sleepless nights for the chance to double-down and do better the next time? Who invested 60-100 hour weeks routinely to “not build that”? Who eventually figured out how to make it all work, deliver value to customers, and create profits and jobs that didn’t exist before the business was formed?

    Even failed businesses deserve more credit and respect than Obama affords them. They represent a dream, an investment, hard work and extraordinary effort, learning, and yes, jobs. They represent our belief in progress, in taking chances to better our lives and those of people around us. They represent the nobility of believing so much in an idea that you’re willing to risk everything and work harder than you ever have to try to make it a reality.

    I can’t imagine a more negative set of words, a more disrespectful tone, or more disparaging attack on the American dream than this speech from our president of “hope”. It is disgusting. Is it the keynote to his personal failure to inspire, and to get government out of the way? To prolonging recession, housing market failure and job losses for years longer than necessary?

    Obama needs the very entrepreneurs he attacks to put in super-human effort to get our economy back on track. He needs them to invest in growth and new jobs. He needs self-reliance from those who’ve lost their jobs, have been failed by government and left to their own to go out and start businesses to feed themselves. Unfortunately, he believes that “government built that”.

    I’m neither republican nor democrat. There is much to dislike in the social conservative’s desire to regulate how I live my life and butt into my business. But, if we give this guy 4 more years, I have to believe that Americans have collectively lost their minds.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Astby/100002254447316 Brian Astby

    If you’ve been on welfare, 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, I must too smart to have to work.
    There are a lot of lazy and stupid people out there.
    It must be because I haven’t worked hard like everybody else.
    Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of nonworking people out there.
    If you were successful at getting on welfare, some government bureaucrat along the line gave you some help.
    There was a great teacher somewhere in your life who was paid for by someone’s tax money.
    Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system of welfare that we have that allowed you to ride for free.
    Somebody paid taxes to build roads and bridges.
    If you’ve got welfare you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

  • Guilfoyle20

    You are completely off base to see resentment of successful entrepreneurs in Obama’s demeanor.  He is making the point that no one achieves anything in a vacuum - you see resentment because you have a completely closed mind that sees everything Mr. Obama says or does in the most negative light.  Be honest with yourself and with your readers.  First, you conveniently omit Obama’s summary sentence where he says “The point is’… it clearly states his point, and upon hearing it a reasonable person would realize that there was no insult intended in his earlier remarks.  Second, your counterargument about teachers misses the mark - it is not insulting to teachers because of course they know that they are not solely responsible for the success or failure of their students.  Have you never attended a parent-teacher conference?  Watch Stephen Colbert’s analysis of this in his July 25th show.  He has illustrated the deliberatly mis-understood tempest in a teapot brilliantly, as usual.

  • Lowtech

    We put too much stock in what all these pundits say. This era of technology IMHO is what is killing interest in elections. There are too many unimportant people from both sides parsing out words and trying to spin them instead of letting the candidates do the real work of telling us why we should elect them over the other choice. 

  • Duke Briscoe

    Todd Domke makes a poor effort at giving the context.  He cuts the context at 3 sentences after the ”didn’t build that” phrase.  If you go four sentences later than the “didn’t build that” phrase, Obama says “The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”  I think Domke must have made that choice intentionally.  Maybe Domke’s brain understands Obama in this way but I think the majority of Democrats know that Obama supports personal achievement and effort.  Going back to the tax rates of the 1990s is hardly some kind of change to communism.  Imagine going back to the tax rates during the Reagan administration!!  Domke’s column contributes little to true understanding, other than perhaps to understand that Domke is a political operative paid to spread this distortion.  He probably even believes it but that hardly makes it true or helpful to America.

  • J__o__h__n

    I think most teachers realize that they don’t educate in a vacuum and that any success they have educating students is due to the community as a whole. Perhaps a better argument would be to mention the role that businesses that pay taxes (assuming they don’t weasel out of them) and hire people who pay taxes support the schools instead of a silly word replacement.

    Also, have you ever noticed that the Academy award winners tend to have such a long list of other people to that that they have to have the band cut them off? How many winners get up there and say I earned this alone?

    • jourtegrity

      John, I think you missed the points he was making in the commentary. Yes, you’re right, teachers understand that they don’t educate in a vacuum, that others deserve credit too — but the point made in the commentary is that if Romney made such remarks about teachers it would have created an outcry because it would have been seen by Obama supporters as derogatory of teachers who aspire to do great work. And what you say about Hollywood is also correct, but you’re missing the point made in the commentary — Obama would never had something like this about actors at the George Clooney fundraiser because he doesn’t have an animus against actors. So when you consider both points, you see Obama’s speech in proper context: he was indeed knocking entrepreneurs who dare to take pride in their achievements. 

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_R22TZMIOOKE2XFMXGCHJI77SUE Christie Jones

        Unfortunately, the word that applies to what you wrote would undoubtedly not make it past any moderating software–but I’m sure you can figure it out for yourself.

  • X-Ray

    It would seem that President Obama has a tenuous grip on understanding how a
    capitalistic business system operates.

  • Gina Stafford

    I hope Obama keeps talking without the teleprompter, as he is showing his true colors!  He resents America’s greatness and small businesses and everything that makes us exceptional.  If there is any question about his remarks being taken out of context, all one has to do is listen to what he says and HOW HE SAYS IT.  There is no back pedaling on this one, Obama!  And furthermore, all those roads and bridges he goes on and on about were built with tax dollars, which come from all the small businesses he resents so much!

    • Dezeray1

      “He resents America’s greatness and small businesses and everything that makes us exceptional. ”
      He resents is so much that he ran for President. Let me guess… to destroy it from within. I mean really, you may disagree with his point of view, but this statement is so absurd. Yet this very ridiculous sentiment is repeated over and over until the little people believe it. 

  • jspenceone

    I owned and managed a media/advertising business for 24 years, competition for business was intense, and we fought other firms every year.  The most difficult competition came from various government bodies.  IRS, State, County, and City.  Each demanded their pound of flesh, and required reporting so voluminous that it was the third most expensive element of business behind saleries and healthcare.  Audits of our methods of billing were scrutenized by the IRS and they attempted to impose rules that would have driven us from business . . . Yes, I built it and the goverment at every level did not help,”

    • Duke Briscoe

      So get government to re-examine specific burdens or reporting.  Obama administration is doing that; I think Democrats are very open to looking at specifics.  What percentage of your revenues was spent on reporting and compliance?  My family’s small business (likely smaller than yours) spent about 5% on such compliance (rough guess, it could be less) and none of the forms I was filling out seemed unreasonable, although it was a burden.  Maybe we could simplify this whole political @^#$fest by getting rid of corporate income taxes and just tax the income going to individuals (progressive tax rates and more estate taxes).  Still have local property taxes for corporate property, plus there would still be various government monitoring reports to fill out, but maybe we could cut down on all the tax avoidance behavior and tax accountant expenses.

  • Eli Brown

    He just left out one word: “You didn’t create that *yourself*.”  I’m sure it was intended.

    You have misunderstood, ironically, the context:
    The animus is not toward entrepreneurs, but toward a conservative attitude that government has no role in the economy, and toward the self-righteous attitude of the “self-made” who do not acknowledge the contributions of their communities.

    Obama is not dissing or dismissing entrepreneurs.  He pointed out in the past that small businesses create the most jobs.  The ACA was designed to help small business deal with rising health care costs and make it less risky for people to start companies by divorcing their healthcare from their employment.

  • SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR!

    Couple of points – Love the supporters who insist the details of Obama’s speech are “technically” correct.  A little bit like telling an over weight person they’re fat instead of “Wow, you’ve lost weight!”

    I have been in business for over 35 years.  When really busy, many nights I got a few hours sleep on a cot in my office.  I thought I was alone.  But, I must have missed the government employee who helped me sooo much…
    In any case, this speech came from the “PRESIDENT” and I’m a fast learner.
    So, when my granddaughter beamed that she got a 100% on her school test, I quickly and loudly proclaimed in front of her and all our family that SHE IS NOT SO SMART AND THAT HER 100% WOULD NOT EVEN BE POSSIBLE WITHOUT A PIECE OF PAPER AND A PENCIL!!

    • Greenlm

      I don’t think supporters are picking technicalities. The speach is pretty clear when listened to in it’s entirety.

      Yes you worked hard to build a business, but you didn’t build the roads that deliver your supplies, or install the towers and wires that bring you electricity or install phone lines. I think where he gaffed was saying “you didn’t build THAT” instead of “You didn’t build THEM” meaning the infrastructure that makes business run, that is what taxes go to provide. They provide infrastructure so that people like you or I can go out and start a business.

      The problem in this country is not the small businesses, it is the large corporations that DON”T pay taxes (like Bank of America that hides profits in foreign accounts) and help pay back all of the infrastructure that is provided by your city, state, and federal government.

      • http://www.facebook.com/kkorenthal Kevin D. Korenthal

        In fact Greenlm, the business owners did build those roads. Since business owners are often referred to as the 1% and it is that 1% that pays something like 70% of the total federal tax burden, that business owner did build that road. At least to the degree that they can be compared to anyone in the bottom 50% of wage-earners which pay no federal income tax (FICA) at all.

        • http://www.facebook.com/kkorenthal Kevin D. Korenthal

          …and General Electric that received millions in Green Energy tax subsidies to build solar panels in China and who did not pay dollar in federal tax in 2010.

    • LP

      might not have been possible without supportive parents emphasizing importance of education, property taxes collected from yourself and your neighbors to fund the school system and curricula, and let’s not forget the effective teacher. That is the point, your daughter would not even know how to read if it weren’t for other people helping here and yes, even the government!

  • Mnastri1

    Clearly the “you didn’t build that” he is referring to the “unbelievable American system” with teachers and mentors and  support systems and roads and infrastructures that allow all businesses to thrive.  No single business or individual thrives or survives outside the system.  

    A real entrepreneur recognizes those who nourished, taught, inspired, mentored and supported them along the way.  Only Donald Trump did it entirely on his own.

  • Sean McElroy

    The Romney quote of the Obama speech is clearly taken out of context with respect to the original speech which you rightly supply here.  But then you introduce two fictional rewordings of the speech to back your questionable assertion that Obama didn’t mean what he clearly said since by changing the words all of a sudden it sounds like Obama doesn’t even support his own agenda.  Domke, why not just do the old fashioned drinking game trick and add the words “in bed” at the end of every line in his speech it would have the same meaning – which is, just to make absolutely clear, no meaning at all aside from some sad joke.

    • Confused

      ??
      HUH?

  • Ljcapshaw

    I think you are RIGHT ON with this article.  Very accurate.  I am so tired of  Obama encouraging dependence on the government.  Amazes me how many people do not see right through him! 

  • Jourtegrity

    I’ve looked at the video again and I have to say, despite all the commenters trying to defend President Obama’s” true support” of business/entrepreneurs, the mocking smile and snarky delivery really make that hard to swallow.  That context, more than any other context mentioned is the most telling.

  • Bruiser

    I think you are full of bullsh**.   Obama simply pointed out that if you think you are wealthy simply because you are smart or hardworking or both then what about all the smart and/or hardworking people who are not wealthy.   There are a lot of very hard working single mothers who work two or three part time jobs with no benefits who work much harder than most millionaires.  Give me a break with this Puritan work ethic reverse logic.

    I guess Obama didn’t talk about actors because the pundits never say that higher taxes are going to hurt actors.  They always try to claim that higher taxes are bad for BUSINESS.  And more specifically, they like to claim that it’s bad for the small business owner, even though Congress niver really does that much for small businesses.   They preach concern for small business, but it’s also big business that gets most of the benefits.

    As far as actors (or rock stars) go, many would be the first to tell you that a great deal of luck was involved in the level of success that they enjoy.  They recognize that there are people just as or more talented than they who don’t enjoy the same amount of wealth or fame.   So the fact that they are wealthy does not prove that they are smarter or work harder than those who are not wealthy.   “I’m wealthy therefore I’m smart and hardworking, so that’s proof that I did it all myself.   And because I did it all myself I should get to keep it all and not pay taxes.”  If these millionaires and billionaires got where they are with just their smarts and hard work, then why do they feel they need to pay millions on propaganda and to lobby Congress to manipulate the system in their favor?

    And neither Obama nor Warren is saying that successful businessmen don’t deserve to be wealthy.  They are simply addressing those who need to get off their high horses and quit claiming that they got there ALL by themselves and don’t owe anybody anything at all.  Not all wealthy people think that they deserve a free ride as far as taxes are concerned.

    It’s almost comical that the Repubs have spent so much time on this one little paragraph in Obama’s speech – and especially that one little phrase.   It just goes to show that they have absolutely nothing of substance that they can come up with against him.  It’s so laughable to see you folks ranting about so little.

  • Mover

    Obama should be ashamed of himself. His speech denigrates the core of America, which is independence in thought, arttitude and accomplishment. It only serves to discourage initiative.  His speech should make him the “Master of The Obvious” and nothing more. Of course there are a combination of forces that effect success, but those are incidental to the prime mover of it all, which is independent effort, initiative and relentless drive in the face of any type of obstacles. His comparisons are as ludicrous as saying if there were no trees there would be no air so humans could not breathe and do anything. Wow what a revelation Barack!

    What his little speech has done, similar to all of his other rhetoric, is to devioously attempt to brainwash people into believing that the government should be relied upon for everything, including the creation of opportunity. It’s a good thing Edison, Einstein or the other brilliant people in the world did not waste time thinking that way.   Obama has never really created anything of value on his own, because he is incapable of doing so.  Instead he has fed off the system, because that is all he knows and can speak to. How sad for him and for America…

    Where is the delivery on all of his empty promises since he was elected?  Obama would do everyone a favor if he would encourage initiative and hire those who could help build America or stop talking, wasting time and making a fool of himself.

  • Willlbok

    Bull shit!!!! Grow up people. Find an issues that matters instead of childish playground bull shit.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/B5MEZ4OPLFGFFBZBBF7L6PUDKY Kalona

    I’m sorry. I just don’t get it. He DID say others help, but he ALSO said, “..You didn’t build that – someone else made that happen.” NO WHERE does he say after that statement that others HELPED. NO.  OTHERS did that FOR you.
    Look at it this way–many people work hard but don’t know how to choose good people for the job they must fill. Many people are smart,  but don’t know accounting or business practice well enough to make it a success. If you have a restaurant, YOU chose the employees–YOU trained them–YOU designed the menu–YOU ordered the food, decorations, chose the location, etc. etc. etc. YOU BUILT THAT BUSINESS. OTHERS that YOU chose helped, but YOU BUILT THAT BUSINESS– PERIOD!!

    • Guest

      You built that business by choosing the right employees who did all the work. So – wasn’t it the employees who built the business? this what I thought (hoped) Obama was trying to say at first. It would’ve been more accurate. “job creators” = labor exploiters.

      • Trevor Davison21

        They workers are not being exploited. They choose to apply for the job and agree to work for a certain wage. That means they get paid to do a job they sought out and agreed to. They can also quit that job at any time if they don’t like it. No one is forcing them to work at a job they don’t like and not get paid for. To say job creators= labor exploiters is flat out wrong.

      • Michael Banks

        They may have employees now, but many, many, many companies start out with little to no employees.  And any small business owner with a will to stay afloat will work from 6 in the morning to 9 at night. “Right employees?” Seriously?  If you think the only element of building a business is having the right employees, I dare you to do it.  And then tell me it was the employees that did all the work.

      • Pferro86

        They could have made it if they saved the money and did the planning that goes into making a buisness.
        Labor exploiter? You’re a retard. The buisness owner took the risk.
        He made a profit and the employees got a fair wage.
        Starting a buisness is a huge gamble. Sometimes it pays off.
        You’re as dumb as Obama!

  • Jeffrey Willis

    The problem is both those examples you gave about teachers and celebrities are just as correct as the original statement, if you think celebrities would have gotten those awards with the fans and the movie industry, I’d disagree, if you think teachers would have been as successful without the help of those tools and support systems, I’d disagree… did he use awkward grammar saying that instead of those things…. yes

    • Electro848

      I have to disagree…What people see is the successful part of person’s success. But before celebrities are winning awards and earning millin dollar salaries there is another another side. The side were they work SOOOO hard to improve their skills, market themselves, hustle without ANY HELP. They have to work hard to get any attention. And it’s not like the agents get you the job they just set up the opportunties that their talent had cultivated and it’s up to them to get the job. and it’s not like agents are helping them they are getting paid to do what they do. And you have to be a good and charismatic actor to get an audience to like you. So I disagree, just because someone provides you a hammer, wood and nails doesn’t mean you will build a great building. So tools don’t make you…If that was the case then everyone has had the same opportunties provided to them and there should be a lot more successful people.

  • Dhorn

    Excellent article.  Your style is very balanced; your analysis was fair and well-considered.  I think it’s a fair conclusion that President Obama not only doesn’t understand business, he has actual animosity toward it.

  • skeptical

    Putting it in context doesn’t make it look all that much better quite frankly.  The speech puts big government on a pedestal and devalues the merits of individual achievement.  That’s as un-American as a Soviet style work farm. 
    Those that I know that have done well did so often because they shunned free handouts, shunned the status quo, were smarter than everyone else, thought outside the box, were ambitious, had leadership qualities, and did it themselves.   THEY DID BUILD THAT.  Did others help? Of course, but more often than not government was obstructionist, not a collaborator in their success.

    Obama is a commie in sheep’s clothing.

  • chris

    I’m one who happens to agree with Obama.  Try making a business in a 3d world country where the roads are terrible, the crime is high due to a corrupt justice system, and education is bad.  Americans take their working system way too much for granted.

  • guest

    Everyone who starts a business needs support from community, and that doesn’t happen if that community can’t get to your place of business or can’t read, or doesn’t have income to buy your product or services.  Does it matter if the community is the block you live on or the city you live in, or the country you were born and raised in that gave you opportunity.  I agree with the President.  What I don’t believe in is someone who lost his father at an early age, but was well off enough to save the Social Security benefits, paid to him as surviving child, to use that money to pay for his college, ( Even if Ryan was a hot-shot in school), he didn’t get there on his own.  He used the government benefit to get him to where he is.  Yes, his father paid into it!  Just like I’ve paid into mine for 35 years and now my children, who are only 13 years away from retirement, have paid into theirs for all of these years.  But, now they are looking at a VOUCHER SYSTEM?  BULL!  He got his, he doesn’t care about yours!  Obama still cares about everyone in the middle, not just the rich that can make his pockets overflow.

    • guest 2

      I respectfully disagree….the government PAID for the roads….the government got it’s money from TAXPAYERS and BUSINESS OWNERS.  The asphalt was provided by a private company, the machines used to work on the roads were created by private companies, the paint was provided by private companies….THOSE private companies paid taxes to the government….obviously people need other people to succeed, but it’s the DRIVE within certain people to RISK their livelihoods, SACRIFICE their time and energy and sometimes HEALTH to provide services and products to their community.  I will say THANK YOU to the government for the ROADS when the government says THANK YOU to the money I gave to it in order to build roads.  If you honestly agree with this logic then take EVERY accomplishment you have ever achieved and realize that YOU didn’t do it!  I’ve been in both worlds…I worked for the government and I am currently an entrepreneur and I can tell you, the government runs it’s operations worse than any private company.

  • http://twitter.com/RandyBriest Randy Briest

    Do you have a link to, or know where I can watch the entire speech, unedited? I’d like to watch it myself before coming to a conclusion

  • Vicki Ferraro

    This speech still “smacks down” individual efforts and achievements.  The immature audience who does not think this is not a dangerous speech needs to do a little more studying, specifically the Communist Theory, which in itself is quite a fantasy, but when applied to a country, has always been disastrous for the citizens.

  • Dc

    It’s not resentment of successful entrepreneurs.  It’s resentment of people who externalize their costs onto others but retain all of the upside for themselves.  (And I’m a 1%-er and a job creator — one of the four companies I have founded is now a mult-national public company.)

  • Lindsey Angel88

    Actually, I am a teacher. Your comment in jest about teachers makes some sense. None of us are able to be great on our own.

    • Joe B

      Sure you are. You can be a great teacher I can be a great business man or great construction worker or whatever. You take what you know and with a considerable amount of PERSONAL effort you refuse to accept the mediocre and eventually greatness will be the only remaining option. There is a degree of synergy where it stands out more when working side by side but everyone has the opportunity to be great in their own right just the same. But even to indulge your argument…the better the teacher, the better the student. If you suck then the students are doomed, unless they adapt and find a teacher that doesn’t suck. So what makes that great teacher great, how do you find them and how do you utilize that teacher’s greatness to make yourself even greater? “Education is the byproduct of overcoming the obstacle that is the teacher”

  • Joe

     Now see here. The guy worked (or someone did) the money earned and when the time came it was paid back to the respective beneficiary. Retirement plan, paycheck, life insurance, whatever it all pans out the same. Social Security is not some benevolent gift from the government. A portion of your paycheck Is taken from you set aside like retirement the difference is you need to be old or dead quick enough so you can claim it before the gvt finds a way to step in and spend it all. I am grateful for the education I was given by my teachers but I don’t owe them for that. Their services have already been bought and paid for. My obligation to them over. If I find a new way to apply what I learned and something is built or otherwise becomes of that…it IS mine. I did build that.  Steve Jobs didn’t sit down and discuss AC/DC theory or solid state devices with a kindergarten teacher before building his IPad. He didn’t go to college either. Does that mean he owed Houghton-Mifflin or some other publisher for the books he read? No. He bought those books or borrowed them from a library etc. Again, any services rendered were bought and paid for so while you can be grateful the good or service was available to you, nothing further is owed. The only people who make something Happen are the people hired to do that. Those people represent a culmination of different resources, experiences, and educational/cultural backgrounds that can only be found in that individual. Those are the people that built that. The teacher is still in the classroom. The teacher didn’t build anything. Their Job is to teach and prepare and that’s what they’re paid to do. Thanks. Money well spent. Satisfied customer. But you’re services are no longer required by me. Don’t worry, you’ll have another customer shoved through your front door soon enough…by the bus load. The people who help me do what I need to do, have all been compensated somewhere down the line. from the teacher, to the co-worker, to the employee, to the contractors and consultants. Either way, I built it and the government thinks my gratitude for my rights in this country is something I owe them for which is nonsense. they’re rights. Everything else they have to offer I’ve paid for time and again in taxes taken from me…most for things I don’t want or need and would better be used in material costs so I could build more

    • Jeffrey D.

       No, desperately poor people in third world countries helped Steve Jobs build that…the fact of the matter is that somewhere along the way, most of us “owe” some aspect of our success, usually in no small part,  to others. Most of the people that I know that have a large amount of money inherited it; they inherited their business, or a start, as well. Why do you think most Americans remain in the same economic social class they were born into? Our once great American sensibility have become a selfish and smug sense of entitlement. Tragic.

  • Rchasesr

    I do not know of anyone person who got rich with no help at all. Although I do not think the speech was a good idea what he sai was true. I do not hate him and quite a few people have a true hatred of him. I think that it blinds them.

  • OnTheWrite

    I remember a Twilight Zone episode about a guy who built an 3 man bomb-shelter in his basement to protect his family. He became the subject of neighborhood jokes and ridicule. Predictably there was a nuclear war warning,  people were told to seek shelter. The whole neighborhood descended on bomb-shelter doors demanding to be let in. The shelter could only  provide for one family. Just minutes before the bomb was to hit, the desperate neighbors tore the doors off and rousted the diligent neighbor and family out of the shelter, saying “what right do you have to live, while we die?”

    See, according to Obama and liberals, he didn’t build that.

    • Duke Briscoe

      I am inspired by your tale of mild mannered, ethical, rational Republicans who will hold a prayer vigil outside the bomb shelter.

      Comments on news sites are an amazing display of cognitive biases and the influence of biases on perception.

      • OnTheWrite

        I agree, it is amazing to view the various and predictable biases on parade. 

        I am glad to have inspired you to read my comment. Really I am.

  • ME24601

    You clearly have no idea what you’re talking about. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/barney.oran Oran Switzer

    I won’t scold you for being unfair, but it’s a little ridiculous to take this tone of “we’re going to look at the full context of the remark” and then proceed to cut it off right _BEFORE_ Obama says “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.”

  • rejecttyranny

    As a successful entrepreneur and former President and founder of a National Company I can tell you “I built that”.  This is not to suggest that I did not have good people who worked with me. I paid all of them.   This not what you said or believe but nice try at the clean-up effort.   I also paid exorbitant taxes to a government that squandered the loot and has the audacity to imply that I am un-patriotic because I am not paying my “fair share”.  The context of this speech is worse.  Liberals do not help themselves to bring up context in this speech.
    The year prior to selling my company I paid $2.36 million in taxes to this corrupt government.  My taxes helped pay to build the roads, bridges and pay the teachers.  I know what I am worth and it is measurable.  I am struck by the fact that 48% of our citizens pay NOTHING and even receive refunds for doing the same.  The ignorant speak of percentages while I speak in terms of dollars, my $2.36 million of them to their ZERO.  Oh, let’s not forget that they next want to have an opinion on how others should spend their earnings.
    In 2008 I saw this Marxist coming and knew his goal would be to destroy my financial life.  At 48 I made the conscious decision to divest and not participate in his corruption.  I made the right choice.  Now I sit on the sidelines because I will decide when to put myself into the game again; I am the player-coach.
    Mr. President,  I contribute, I succeed, and I have choices. 
    You did not count on that did you?  Neither do the sheeple who lap up your lies while they continue to excoriate the producers.  Mr. President, I have built far more than you.  Your biggest miscalculation has been the dis-respect you have shown me and the American people.  Because of your elitist attitude and your  dis-regard you have for the taxes I have paid to keep you in the life you have become accustomed to with no tangible accomplishments of your own,  I am showing you the door.  I am encouraging other Americans that believe in success to do the same. 
    Mr. President, I built that.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4HNHKBQF5UJCLNVPKGSIUZWYVU MarkS

    I think the Romney camp did take this out of context, by carefully editing out the parts about the internet, bridges, teachers etc.  to make it look like the “you didn’t build that” was referring to the business rather than the infrastructure.  Still, I have to agree, the overall tone did sound condescending toward entrepreneurs, who really are the backbone of American greatness.  It does not sit well with me.  And this is coming from somebody who voted for Obama.

    Watching the convention, it looks like this is the main card they are going to play.   It may just pay off of them.

  • Professor Gordon Ourside

    Mr. rejectyrrany-
     
    Sure, you built your business, but what Obama actually said was you did it in a community where public moneys provided the roads and bridges for people to reach your place of business, the rights of way for telephone lines to reach your place of business, the nearby police station where public employees are paid to guard your place of business at night, if you’re in the oil business it’s the hundreds of billions spent every year on the Fifth Fleet to guard the Strait of Hormuz, if you have employees in any business requiring more than manual labor it’s the tax moneys spent on public schools to educate your employees, and I could go on.
     
    The point is that  the  word “that” in Obama’s speech clearly did not refer back your business, to anyone with even a minimal grasp of correct English usage, but to  the infrastructure built by our tax dollars, and you if fact didn’t build “that.” 
     
     If Obama had meant to say you didn’t build your business, correct usage would have been to say you didn’t build “it,” which is the correct pronoun to refer back to the immediate antecedent noun.  Since you apparently cannot grasp this basic principle of English grammar and usage,
    I can correctly surmise that if you have a high school dipoma, you didn’t really earn it -not that.

    • 1Gandydancer

      What Obama unquestionably said is that if you’re successful it’s not because you’re particularly smart or worked particularly hard. You’re simply wrong that his use of “that” rather than “it” is dispositive as to whether he was referring to “roads and bridges” or “a business” but the quibble is in any case unimportant – the roads and bridges are there for all the smart hard-workers, successful or not, and their existance cannot be the explanation of why a business gets built by one and not another. Obama ignores this elementary fact. “You didn’t build that” accurately summarizes his peevish, thoughtless and incoherent attempt to justify denying others credit for their successes.

      • William Carr

        And what you miss, of course, is that without those public assets, the “Entrepreneurs” that were, by luck, able to tap into a market that had real Demand behind it, wouldn’t have succeeded.

        Go build a store in the desert, miles from any road. Call us when you go broke.

  • Ladywyntre

    They are sincerely resentful of any entrepreneur who blindly believes that they did everything themselves despite the public services on which they rely.  And I am, too.

    I’m not resentful of entrepreneurs.  I’m resentful of arrogant entrepreneurs who think that their votes should count more, their money should be more protected, and they want more more more more more.

  • Antigone_n

    Government doesn’t build anything…taxpayers do! A teacher might inspire a student, but Individual drive and persistance contibute to success. Obamas comments sounded like class warfare, business owner vs workers.

    • William Carr

      Taxpayers didn’t head out with picks and shovels to build the Panama Canal or the InterState Highway System.

      The Government did that. And then the businesses that used those Government provided assets profited immensely.

      But you’re right, Class Warfare has been going on for 32 years now. The Rich against the Working Class, and the Rich are winning.

      It’s a pity you buy into the whole Ayn Rand crap.

  • jeez

    The examples are horrible.  Real accurate examples would be “Somebody invested in roads and bridges, if you’ve [insert unique descriptor nouns], you didn’t build that.”  if you’ve fixed a car, if you’ve built a house, if you’ve created a business, if you’ve-been-declaring-about-how-great-you-are-and-how-stupid-government-is, you didn’t build that.  Only people that have a point are construction workers.  Just read whole speech or at least look at other lines from speech, I can’t believe author wrote an article where he admits people are taking things out of context, but then goes ahead and takes it out of context anyway, tries to use the pitch of Obama’s voice as evidence that he hates entrepreneurs and is anti-business. Real quotes from same speech people happen to leave out ->  ”
    Our goal isn’t just to put people back to work — although that’s priority number one — it is to build an economy where that work pays off.  An economy where everyone, whether you are starting a business or punching a clock, can see your hard work and responsibility rewarded. ” ”
    So what I want to do is, I want to let every single person refinance their homes and save about $3,000 a year because you’ll spend that $3,000 on some of these stores right here in downtown.  You’ll help small businesses and large businesses grow because they’ll have more customers.  It will be good for you and it will be good for the economy. “

  • Sberg2

    All he was saying, in effect, was “It takes a village”. And, it does. 

  • Jeffguthrie

     Obama would not have said that about teachers and actors because teachers and actors don’t usually go around claiming absolute self-reliance. They tend to recognize the context in which their success occurs and (usually) give credit where credit is due. They recognize the interdependence of a modern economy and don’t try to shirk their duties–paying it forward, so to speak so that others also have opportunities to apply their hard work and become successful.
    However, we suffer no shortage of successful business people who insist that they got theirs through hard work (exclusively) and they don’t owe anybody anything. Obama was merely debunking the myth of John Galt–that society owes the entrepreneur everything, and the entrepreneur owes society nothing.
    A rising tide lifts all boats as many Republicans are fond of saying, but society has an interest in making sure everyone has access to a boat, and that one man’s pursuit of profit doesn’t result in damage to another man’s boat.   Every success story touted at the RNC last week had an element of government assistance–whether through the GI bill, a government contract, social security survivor’s benefits, etc. In most cases the assistance was overlooked while the speaker patted himself or herself on the back.
    Obama (and Warren) were targeting this particular type of misconeption–that we are all completely independent and self-reliant. Those who have been successful in business have already been rewarded with wealth. Do they also deserve that we worship them as gods?

    • Demkrzy

      Very well put.. The more i read articles like these i feel my head about to implode. This seems like another brainwashing piece for everyone to stay ignorant and give them a rightful cause to vote for someone tht doesnt deserve to run a donut shop, Romney. Every time i turn on the television and see the attacks against Obama and in the end make no sense just annoys me that somewhere out there someone is actually agreeing to all tht b.s. I admire people like u tht make sense.

    • William Carr

      Yeah, that was ironic. The GOP trotted out “Entrepreneurs” to prove their point, and it turned out every one of them had a government contract or guaranteed loan of some sort.

  • Jayhawker

    Government Shares Credit For Business?President Obama and others conclude that the government shares credit for my business success because of roads, and other infrastructure that the government built. It is my opinion that the government cannot seriously credit itself with my success by road building, unless they take credit for everything that happens on the roads. For example, while my business ships goods on the roads, those same roads that the government built are used for illicit activities, too, such as drug smuggling. Wouldn’t the government need to acknowledge responsibility for the bad things that happen on the roads also? In fact, the point is simple: the connection between construction of roads and my business success (or any illegal activity that occurs on the roads) is simply too remote to be relevant.

    • Pjackmack

      Suppose you had to chop down a trail to each of your customers to sell anything.  Wouldn’t you then be grateful for the roads already built?

    • William Carr

      Here’s a thought. Go start a business selling hats in the middle of the desert in Texas.

      People in Texas need hats, right? And real estate ten miles off the nearest road should be a lot cheaper.

      Drop $500K getting your new store set up, including your own water, power, sewage, etc.

      Call us in year and tell us how many millionaires dropped by with their helicopters to buy a hat.

  • Bookert

    His point was obvious: no man is an island. No one can build a business without having been been helped along at some point in their life by (for three examples) a teacher, a bunch of employees, or the government. Of course the business owner plays the major role, but they don’t do it alone. Obama wasn’t “singling out entrepreneurs for criticism”, he was merely pointing out to them the advantages and/or helping hands that are too easily taken for granted.

    • tribunalis

      “no man is an island”. Well he certainly failed to pass that through to that part of the american people that don´t follow the marxian collectivistic, semireligious and self-eradicating altruisms.

  • http://www.facebook.com/StrangeFlop Jeremy Wilson

    How about you put the ENTIRE speech here and not just the section you want people to read… don’t CLAIM you are putting in in context when you are doing everything in your power to keep context out of your article…

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2012/jul/18/context-obamas-you-didnt-build-comment/

    Excerpt from Obama’s Speech:

    “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.

    “So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you
    know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we
    funded the G.I. Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how
    we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we
    invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or
    fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m
    running for President — because I still believe in that idea. You’re
    not on your own, we’re in this together.”

  • William Carr

    Pitiful. You’re attacking “Invisible Obama”, just like Clint Eastwood.

    You project what you believe onto the real man, so you can attack the Straw Man.

    The REAL Obama gives a rousing speech to encourage people to work together and create great things; and you try to use it to divide people for your political purposes.

    • tribunalis

      Right and spot on. Obama is a Pusher of Collectivism and an eradicator of the Individual. Such people are also called marxists. From the earliest days of our planet, since its habitation by humans, the tribe and the clan and the priest class and the monarchy, all claiming divine right, have enforced the WE. Finally, the I, which was always there, emerged fully enough to overthrow the criminals and murderers who were restraining the individual. But now we are being pulled back into the primitive swamp (by Obama and his ilks) of the past, through the systematic application of a pseudo-philosophy called collectivism. The I is turning back into the WE. When the first creator invented the Wheel, the first second-hander invented altruism.

      Obama voiced a supreme and familiar Marxian contradiction. As any fool knows, the attribution of a creation is to the person who was its creator. Yet in Obama’s words, the visible became invisible. The person who did it didn’t do it, the person was missing in action, the person who painted the canvas didn’t paint the canvas. Instead, the prime mover was the public sector, the collective. The collective created the painting.

      Far from being a slip of the tongue, Obama’s remark was a battle flag raised in a night of the long knives. He is the latest in a line of demagogues who fully intend to reverse the course of history. That record shows us the heroic struggle to replace WE with I.

  • tribunalis

    (This is not a reply to William Carr. I posted it wrong. It´s a comment to Domke´s article.)
    Right and spot on. Obama is a Pusher of Collectivism and an eradicator of the Individual. Such people are also called marxists. From the earliest days of our planet, since its habitation by humans, the tribe and the clan and the priest class and the monarchy, all claiming divine right, have enforced the WE. Finally, the I, which was always there, emerged fully enough to overthrow the criminals and murderers who were restraining the individual. But now we are being pulled back into the primitive swamp (by Obama and his ilks) of the past, through the systematic application of a pseudo-philosophy called collectivism. The I is turning back into the WE. When the first creator invented the Wheel, the first second-hander invented altruism.

    Obama voiced a supreme and familiar Marxian contradiction. As any fool knows, the attribution of a creation is to the person who was its creator. Yet in Obama’s words, the visible became invisible. The person who did it didn’t do it, the person was missing in action, the person who painted the canvas didn’t paint the canvas. Instead, the prime mover was the public sector, the collective. The collective created the painting.

    Far from being a slip of the tongue, Obama’s remark was a battle flag raised in a night of the long knives. He is the latest in a line of demagogues who fully intend to reverse the course of history. That record shows us the heroic struggle to replace WE with I.

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