The teleprompter must have been out of commission when President Obama, speaking off the cuff, stuck his foot in his mouth at a campaign rally in Roanoke, Va., last Friday. You know someone is in trouble when his flacks, in damage-control mode, are forced to explain “what the president meant to say.” Despite the best efforts by campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt to recast Obama’s remarks, he said what he said.
“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 hell they did! You made it happen. It’s true that no man is an island and, of course, government is a factor. If it weren’t for the U.S. military in World War II, we might all be speaking German or Japanese now. And, yes, there’s infrastructure paid for with taxes, and a legal system to enforce contracts. Although there were many kids in that great teacher’s classroom, you may be the only entrepreneur who emerged, the one with the inspiration and talent to build your own business; to risk a second mortgage on your home for startup capital; to work countless hours to get it off the ground; to run the obstacle course of government bureaucrats to get the required permits and licenses; and to take the job home with you every night.
What Obama called our “unbelievable American system” was founded on individual liberty, private enterprise and limited government. That was the engine that propelled our economy to world dominance from the 19th century industrial revolution onward. Government was miniscule then by today’s standards. Even by the roaring 1920s, federal outlays were a mere 3 percent of economic output. Today, big government has grown to 25 percent of GDP and we’re deeply in debt.