President Barack Obama has not made a secret of the fact that he believes government is the answer to almost any problem that could arise in a civilized society, even those problems that government has created.
The vague statements about “Hope” and “Change” that Obama made during his first Presidential run quickly made way for a bolder mantra that has evolved over the past three years to the point that each of his speeches nearly indicates dictation from a collectivist handbook.
Obama in 2009 told us that government was the only answer to the economic woes facing our Nation when he said during a speech at George Mason University: “Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy — where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs which leads to even less spending.”
At a commencement speech at the University of Michigan in 2010, the President told students: “Government is the police officers who are here protecting us and the service men and women who are defending us abroad. Government is the roads you drove in on and the speed limits that kept you safe. Government is what ensures that mines adhere to safety standards and that oil spills are cleaned up by the companies that caused them. Government is this extraordinary public university — a place that is doing life-saving research, catalyzing economic growth, and graduating students who will change the world around them in ways big and small.”
And in June, on the campaign trail, Obama said that Americans as a whole came to an understanding after World War II that government, not the market, should drive the economy in saying: “Yes, there have been fierce arguments throughout our history between both parties about the exact size and role of government — some honest disagreements. But in the decades after World War II, there was a general consensus that the market couldn’t solve all of our problems on its own.”
The President’s most recent government-is-the answer remarks represent more than rhetoric, they represent a chance to stand back and take a look at the things government has done. This is a time for all Americans to step back and take a look at just who did build this, and who is tearing it apart.
“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.”
Let’s examine Obama’s remarks.
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.”
The President isn’t a liar in this respect. No doubt, every successful person has had someone to look up to, a mentor or a source of encouragement. Perhaps someone who, as a young entrepreneur, endured the same struggles you were going through lent a hand or gave you some sound advice. Perhaps a teacher did push you a little harder and expect you to achieve a little more. Maybe your parents helped you get your business off the ground. Or business partners who shared your vision also shared your risk.
Where Obama loses his credibility is in inferring that the benevolence of the Federal government is responsible for the creation of any productive venture, for benevolence and government are mutually exclusive. A government cannot exist unless it is propped up by the productive members of the society it was created to serve. And in a free society, those producers would opt to take a reasonable loss on profits to pay for services that contribute to an environment healthy to business.
Ayn Rand writes in The Virtue of Selfishness:
In a fully free society, taxation—or, to be exact, payment for governmental services—would be voluntary. Since the proper services of a government—the police, the armed forces, the law courts—are demonstrably needed by individual citizens and affect their interests directly, the citizens would (and should) be willing to pay for such services, as they pay for insurance.
This brings us to vet another portion of Obama’s statement.
“Somebody invested in roads and bridges.”
Indeed. American producers invested in roads and bridges and continue to do so. Via the taxes they pay each and every day, commuters invest in roads and bridges. Any business that ships products or employs people who commute to work invests daily in roads and bridges. Any commuter who drives through a toll booth invests in roads and bridges. And it is safe to say, without those entrepreneurs who continue to produce, the investment would shrink substantially. Roads and bridges, you see, affect the interests of producers directly and, unlike welfare for the able but entitled class, are necessary for production to result in profit.
Unfortunately, the parasitic nature of government creates an environment in which the stewards of the investment are not held fully accountable for their actions. A 2010 report from the Public Interest Research Group tells how nearly half of the roadways throughout the Nation are in disrepair. Why? Because politicians dependent upon votes to continue receiving taxpayer-funded salaries get more publicity and more special interest kickbacks from new road ribbon cuttings than maintaining existing roadways. Government leads to American motorists’ having to travel a road pitted with potholes just so they can reach a bridge to nowhere.
In order to continue to understand the President’s faulty reasoning, let’s look at his older statements. When he discussed how regulations created by the benevolent government are keeping us all safe at the University of Michigan in 2010, he left a few things out.
Thanks to grants provided by the Federal government to the police who keep you safe, they are increasingly equipped with military-grade equipment that they are poorly trained to use. Many are becoming trigger-happy and careless; every day, news reports detail the frightening consequences.
The regulations that protect miners and other workers from unsafe conditions and the environment from unsafe practices by industry were once a shining example of how an industrialized society could remain both profitable and careful. But Obama neglects to mention how increasingly crippling regulations have eaten profits and created an environment in which running a business is nearly impossible.
The Environmental Protection Agency is doing its best to make American industry uncompetitive with unrealistic standards that only Federal rule makers could dream up.
The agents of the state running the Food and Drug Administration have entwined themselves so deeply with moneyed special interests that it is nearly impossible to discern where the agency ends and Big Agribusiness and Big Pharma begin. They serve these special interests by working to shut the doors of small alternative-health operations, natural-supplement providers and small food growers. Often, their goals are carried out by conducting raids and sending armed bureaucrats, not officers of the law, onto private property to threaten and intimidate small business owners who fail to adhere to insane demands.
The graduates of the public universities that Obama touted in that speech go to school with money received through taxpayer-funded Pell grants. If they are ineligible for the grants because they happen to have been born into a family that acquired wealth through years of hard work, they find a way to fund the education on their own. Their parents pay for it or their own hard work gains them a scholarship. Of course, if those are not options, the benevolent Federal government steps in and offers loans that never go away on terms that sound too good to be true. A slave class is now emerging as a result of the student loan option. Americans owe about $1 trillion in student loan debt, and the cost is growing daily. The figure that is dropping is the number of graduates finding jobs outside of the local burger shack.
And as the value of education drops, the price of a degree rises. The reason for this is simple economics, but you couldn’t learn it in most public university economics classes.
“If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
If you are a small-business owner, the truth is you did build your business. Nobody else made it happen. You built your business by jumping through hoops, taking risks, sacrificing family life and fun, losing it all and starting over, and constantly believing that you can be no other than the self-made man who keeps the gears of society in motion. You did this in spite, not because of, the corrupt, parasitic, ever-growing cancer that is the Federal government.
Unfortunately, along the way, you and the producers who came before you also made it possible for the criminals and wealth redistributors who have usurped what was meant to be a government of limited service to build something of their own by the sweat of your brow. They have now managed to create and enable an enormous dependent class; to transition your law enforcement from pro-community to parliamentary force; and to put in place crippling regulations, taxes and fines. And while you weren’t looking because you were building your business, “somebody else” was attaining every last resource they need to steal your profit and tie your hands.
You built it all — your business directly and their criminal empire indirectly — as they stole from and deceived you every step of the way. Now, it seems, it is time to evaluate success and decide which one must be torn down and re-structured from the bottom up. As an entrepreneur or a producer, there is no doubt you can tell which business model has failed.