The Phony Battle over the Self-Made Man

Party politics give us a false choice about the roots of success

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Brooks Kraft / Corbis for TIME

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event in Leesburg, Va., on Aug. 2, 2012

The so-called self-made man has become a political lightning rod. This has been made starkly clear in recent weeks by the reactions to President Obama’s much dissected “you didn’t build that” line. What Obama said was: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help … 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.” Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts candidate for U.S. Senate, first voiced this theme in a video that went viral, arguing that the success of any entrepreneur is made possible by the roads, schools and police that generations of ordinary citizens have paid for. (“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own,” was her memorable line.)

(MORE: Liu: Rich-People Problems? The Summer of Elite Discontent)

But Romney’s allies have spun Obama’s “you didn’t build that” clause to mean “business owners shouldn’t get credit for building their own businesses,” and they’ve shamelessly attacked Obama as an un-American collectivist. And so in the echo chamber of partisan politics, we are left with a false choice: either recognize that no one does it alone or celebrate heroic entrepreneurs. Those who emphasize infrastructure — not just roads but also the rule of law and common institutions — are called dangerous socialists. Those who preach “free enterprise” — individual liberty and ingenuity, the power of the market to reward the best people — are delusional apologists for the already powerful.

But common sense tells us that America’s greatness is the product of both collective and individual endeavor. It also tells us things are starkly out of balance. Over the past 30 years, as the very idea of government has come under constant attack and as market thinking has crept into every crevice of our lives, selfish individualism has become the norm.

(MORE: Liu: An Argument for More Self-Government)

If we truly care about being the country that yields the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, we have to address today’s severe income inequality and restore a healthier balance. This isn’t charity; it’s competitiveness. To put it in Olympic terms, it’s boosting the ranks of talented players for our team.

Ultimately, we have to break out of false choices about the roots of success. What’s ironic about the Obama-Romney argument is that each proves the other’s point. Obama, who ascended with no family connections or wealth, is testament to the importance of personal drive and effort. Romney, son of a CEO and governor, is proof that context matters and that inherited advantages are self-reinforcing.

Both Romney and Obama downplay these essential truths. Maybe Obama should take a little more credit, to assuage those who wonder whether he sufficiently values individual initiative. And maybe Romney should take a little less, to acknowledge that few people start where he did. Then maybe we can get on with making sure that more Americans, in this time of shrinking opportunity, can actually make it.

MORE: Charles Murray: The New Upper Class and the Real Reason We Dislike Them

57 comments
Talendria
Talendria

In order to understand the debate, you need to look at the context.  The American workforce has degenerated.  It's too easy to qualify for permanent disability.  The government is actively encouraging people to accept welfare benefits.  People who are still working often have a "can't do" attitude which results in poor quality products and services.  While I agree with Obama's thesis which is essentially that no man is an island, that's not the message Americans need to hear right now.  Americans need to start working as though their lives depended on it, because the government safety net is developing some very large holes.

The Wall
The Wall

Or you could be Wisconsin's Fraud Senator Ron Johnson and have you father-in-law wholly fund your "self made man" fallacy and buy the republicans another election.

Jack Deal
Jack Deal

politicians aren't self made...they're politicians....

ProwdLiberal
ProwdLiberal

"Obama, who ascended with no family connections or wealth, is testament to the importance of personal drive and effort. Romney, son of a CEO and governor, is proof that context matters and that inherited advantages are self-reinforcing."

Excellent Point! This says it all about who is better for the country.

Darrel K.Ratliff
Darrel K.Ratliff

While i didnt build the infrastructure or even the building my shop is in I have done my part to pay my share of the debts to the government at all three levels  when I earned more i paid more Now as an ESRD patient enrolled in Medicare I do my best to pay all i can towards life and living and am deciding If  I can afford to get a kidney transplant and what I will have to do to do so  what i may be able to do to survive money wise If  I do  since id have to give up the type work i do  to do it and  take disability since id be on anti rejection meds and could not work in the dust and other work hazards that are in my current work If  Republicans win   I may as well order a head stone and prepare to leave  this world With Ryans budget as a chief anti right to life via the Right side of the Republicans that want to end Medicare  for us and lower the surplus populations   (ghee  scrooge  where did you get that idea)

Grizzledveteran
Grizzledveteran

You miss an important point in comparing the Romney and Obama backgrounds.  Many, if not most of those who rise from humble origins recognize and value the "collective" contributions to their success.  Many of those who have it all to begin with see little value in the contributions of the "collective" and tend to attribute their successes to their individual achievements. 

MikeH
MikeH

 Well, if you were given government money to go to school, it makes sense to recognize that. I acknowledge the role of others, of course. Anyone does. No one has a problem with that.

And if Mr. Obama had confined himself to simply honoring those things, this would not be happening. The problem is that Obama tears down the efforts of people with his statements.

As Romney said, "If you attack success, you get less success." Mr. Obama has attacked and is continuing to attack success with his demagoguery, and therefore we have had less success.

ProwdLiberal
ProwdLiberal

"The problem is that Obama tears down the efforts of people with his statements."

Not true. The whole conversation started when Romney said, he built businesses and so he created jobs. Obama said, you don't do it alone, there was always someone who helped you along the way. Anyone who built a business knows that you might take the initiative to start a business but it takes the team to build one.

RDelPilar
RDelPilar

 Politics has become since President Obama took office a negative necessity that makes most of us sick and angry.  It isn't the President's fault but the lack of team players in politics is obvious.  The USA cannot become strong again if we have team players who can't sacrifice certain views or opinions for the common good of the whole team USA.  If negative people want to call this socialist than its also true that all our families are built on these socialist views.  A good solid family will have members that sacrifice for the good of the family.  In unity there is strengh.

Unnamed1
Unnamed1

Obama's mom's parents were people of substance. They lived on Mercer Island, WA, just outside of Seattle.  The same place Bill Russel lives...check their biography.

MikeH
MikeH

Phony? Out of context? That's belied by the RNC running a 60-second ad that shows the complete -- and uncut -- context, including the contemptuous putdown you pointedly avoided quoting:

 "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."

Titled "The More Context You Get, the Worse It Sounds" that ad completely capitalizes your disingenuous out-of-context claim.

msmischief
msmischief

 Bet you pay as little taxes as possible -- and drive on highways and interstates.

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

I loved this piece and I could not agree more. Romney was a son of privilege, and I do not care the story that he shares about starting Bain from scratch. Most millionaires start their children with a few discrete millions and Romney did benefit tremendously from his Fathers largesse.

As for Obama, he made it through the ranks but even he has to admit that he had help along the way. I do not know if anyone has children that look as though they are of different races (Black and White), but all I can tell you is that the darker or browner your skin, the more you need open minded folks willing to assist you on your ascent to the top. Obama, got help from open minded folks who probably believed in a meritocracy, and saw the potential in our leader. These people guided, directed and helped Obama. He too was helped by people. 

Both men were helped to varying degrees by people, government and the system.

A free enterprise enabled Romney trade in whatever manner he deemed fit, and allowed him to take his profits elsewhere and pay as little tax on the gains he made on American soil. Romney's actions were legal but not moral. That's my view. I think corporations and leaders should be moral even if they lose a few millions.

Only thing that irks me are not the misrepresentations in the Romney "You did not build this" ads but the fact that people are willing to run with a mere sound bite from the whole speech. And many cannot put the president's statement into context of the overall message he was delivering on that day. 

As a nation, have we all decided that thinking is too hard?  Why on earth would people believe that a presidential candidate like Obama would make such a remark in a vacuum.   How could anyone believe that Obama could have made that sort of asinine and foolish declaration. The answer is simple, he did not make the "you did not build it statement in the manner it is being portrayed, he was completely taken out of context!

Great article though!

http://blackrepublicanandmywor...          

Palerider1957
Palerider1957

Once again Time plays monkey to the Obama Administration Organ Grinder.

There seems to be some GLARING OMISSIONS, Time. But not unexpected considering the publisher.

And who payed for a lot of those roads and bridges?

Who necessitated the need for highways and interstates?

BUSINESS!

Stop giving cover and lying for Obama, just once.

He said what he said, and Romney rightly repeated it. I heard the speech, and got the same thing, as did millions of other Americans.

Those of us who have the ability of rational, independent, critical thought will never be fooled by this, so this must be meant for the liberals.

Romney did NOT take Obama's quote out of context, he just emphasized a part of what Obama said, and the rest of America heard him say.

Most of us have learned to speak Obama-speak. He has a habit of hiding what he truly means in his words. And we get it, even if Liberals don't.

When Obama said he was going to change America, everybody was lead to believe that he meant change Washington. He even said so. He also promised "the most ethical, most transparent government" ever. He has even bragged about how "transparent" his government is. In fact, his words, "We have put in place the toughest ethics laws, and the toughest transparency regulations since the founding of this nation."

So, we were slightly misdirected with his "hope and change" comment.

When he said change, he meant change from a Constitutional Republic, to a socialist serf state to the authority of the "World Government", ie, the UN.

He sure changed the way our government works, for sure. No longer do we need a Congress. Obama can't wait for the Congress, no, he rules by Executive Order. Congress rejects a bill you want, like the Dream Act? Congress rejects it three times, and you do it anyway by Executive Order.

So, you must look very closely at what Obama says. Learn to read between the lines to get to the true meaning. Deception is high art with this Administration.

And Time plays right along. Got that tin cup out Time?

ProwdLiberal
ProwdLiberal

"Learn to read between the lines to get to the true meaning"

All paranoid schizophrenics excel at this skill. 

"When he said change, he meant change from a Constitutional Republic, to a socialist serf state to the authority of the "World Government", ie, the UN."

LOL!

Did you see your psychiatrist lately?

Don't forget your medication.

Jardin J
Jardin J

Actually, home owners paid for the majority of infrastructure through property taxes. 

And the president was absolutely correct, people who are successful did not do it alone, and it is their duty to contribute to the success of the children who come after them. And it should not be optional, and out of the goodness of their hearts. We should all pay the same percentage of our income as an investment into our future; no loopholes, no breaks, no allowances. If that's socialism, then bring it on.

Molly_Rn
Molly_Rn

The interstate highway is federally funded as are the airports and ports are a mix.

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

 Wow, Palerider, you are really fired up. Socialist, world government? Jeesh. What is this, the end of the world.

Your remarks are very exaggerated and extreme. They do not have a modicum of truth. Here, take off that huge aluminum cap. Obama is not going to take your brain, and he is not an alien, I promise.

Communist?? Do you know we have a Constitution and one of the best systems of Checks and balances in our system. You are describing some made up Far Right doomsday scenario.  Your descriptions do not mirror reality AT ALL

 

Flash1259
Flash1259

Maybe those screaming socialists , should move to  the USSR   or China  both are SOCIALISTS STATES both are communist

Molly_Rn
Molly_Rn

Flash1259 this is more crazy talk.

Flash1259
Flash1259

The whole point was you won't experience a true socialized country unless you have been to either of those 2 countries (Russia / China). whenever the republicans scream socialism they show their ignorance by using that word as a derogatory statement not to point out socialism

ProwdLiberal
ProwdLiberal

Which rock have been living under?

You think USSR is still around?

You are living in 1950s man.

Too much listening to right-wing redneck radio and Faux TV.

Jardin J
Jardin J

Maybe all those screaming homophobes should move to Sudan or Ethiopia where its ILLEGAL TO BE GAY.

But we don't put people out who disagree with us. It's part of our democracy, in case you forgot. 

Molly_Rn
Molly_Rn

So I guess you never drive on highways and interstates? Maybe business owes us taxpayers a hell of a lot of money for providing them with roads, bridges, airports, ports, etc. Most of those businesses pay as little taxes as possible and the really big ones often pay nothing at all. You are the one who has swallowed the BS from Romney, the man who has some tax paying issues. Your hero paid less % on his income than most of the rest of the 99%. And what is he hiding in the tax returns he won't release?

Palerider1957
Palerider1957

 Molly_Rn, put down the kool-aid, and step back. You believe AMNY lies put out by the MSM and Demon-rats, don't you?

Have you EVER checked for yourself to see where most of the Revenue for the government comes from? It is obvious that you never have. You spout the MSM liberal/socialist/Marxist/Demon-rat talking points.

But the "talking points" are bereft of facts.

You see, it is people like you that say the same thing about the "rich", they don't pay their taxes or their "fair Share". So, let's take a little look-see, shall we?!

The 1%er's you complain about, yoiu know, the top 10-20% of wage earners, well they pay 70% OF ALL INCOME TAX REVENUE, and the bottom 50% pay a whopping 2%.

http://ntu.org/tax-basics/who-...

There are more sites than this one, check it yourself.

Then their are the business taxes that pay for out roads and bridges.

Again, something you know nothing about, except for what the MSM and Demon-rats tell you. (How does it feel to be told what and how to think? To be lead around by your nose?)

Do you know about the fuel taxes companies pay, which are much more than you will ever know (I used to drive truck over the road, I know first had the taxes collected from trucking companies, and shippers and receivers, or, in a parlance you may understand better, businesses!

Business is what makes jobs available. Jobs mean income. Income mean income taxes, excise taxes, tariffs etc. Something way above your education to understand apparently.

No business, no job, no job, you don't eat, you don't do anything. Oh, wait, you are a liberal, you believe it's the government's job to take care of you.

So, maybe you should do some checking into things before spouting off the rhetoric you hear in the MSM and presenting it as fact.

Oh, but you are a liberal, I forgot, you have the government and MSM do your thinking for you. My bad.

http://www.theatlantic.com/bus...

The United States has the HIGHEST Corporate taxes IN THE WORLD!

http://www.usnews.com/opinion/...

What, you really thought YOUR $.12 a gallon fuel tax built the roads and bridges? You think it was your "income tax" that paid for all the roads and bridges.

Liberals, always over-estimating their contributions, and minimizing the contributions of others.

benjaminbaby
benjaminbaby

a study by the Organization for economic developement found that in developed countries  " taxation is most progressively distributed in the United States", ya Romney paid capital gain taxes on his income, earnings that had already been taxed at the corporate level at a world wide high of 35% thus the treasury recieved about 50% revenue on each dollar, guess thats not enough for you? my math isn't bad your logic just stinks, make up your mind weither I'm a parrot for the 1% or the 1%, sad to say you are probably going to vote for the current administration, if you like big government so much why don't you move to north korea there is a good example of economies run by politians 

benjaminbaby
benjaminbaby

so I guess that you pay more taxes than you owe? you are like a parrot for the liberals, the rich don't pay their fair share, what a load, we have the worlds most progessive tax system the richest 1% pay more than the bottom 90%, and yet thats not enough for you, look at the numbers increasing taxes on the wealthiest americans ( over 250,00) equates to a 6% solution to our current inbalance, where are you going to come up with the remaining 94%?

Flash1259
Flash1259

If you get an income tax check each year then YES  you did pay more than your fair share in taxes .

Molly_Rn
Molly_Rn

Funny how you ignore the fact that Romney paid a lower percentage on his earnings than most middle class people and yet he is a millionaire and hides his money off shore (off shore where Bain moved jobs) and will not share his tax returns. Our tax system is not the worlds most progressive system. I think 50 or 60% for the highest earners, which is a lot less than 90% under President Eisenhower, that horrible socialist! Your math is bad, just like your thinking. You are the parrot for the rich and have delusions of grandeur that you will be rich someday. Sad to say you are most likely part of the 99%.

monjenl
monjenl

This article makes an excellent point. Debate01, no one is going to demonize you unless you refuse to give back your fair share to the society that helped make it possible for you to succeed. If you think it's your right to take advantage of every tax loophole, stash money oversees, etc., a'la Romney, while the rest of the less fortunate in this country carry a larger proportion of paying for the things that make our society great, then that's where you'd be wrong. Sounds like you worked your butt off, so kudos to you. But don't pretend like you weren't at least a little bit lucky somewhere along the way. Whether it was good, supportive parents who instilled a strong work ethic in you and taught you how to manage your finances well, a peaceful, stable upbringing in a midwestern farming town, robust mental and physical health that never allowed ailments to stand in your way, or a combination of a number of things, you are a hard worker AND lucky. It's just some people never realize how lucky they are because they've never walked in the shoes of someone who's truly disadvantaged through no fault of their own. Those people are part of our society too, and it's up to us to care for them and provide them with opportunity and support to put them on even footing with you so they can succeed through hard work if they so choose.

Debate01
Debate01

If we could sit down and discuss what exactly IS a FAIR share it might be useful. If we could sit down and discuss  exactly what "Shared sacrifice" means and when did the sacrificing start counting and who is going to share, it might help. 50% of America legally does not pay any taxes... most of that resides in the 99%... is that "fair"... shouldn't everybody throw at least something in the kitty so they have skin in the game so they might be concerned about how THEIR money gets spent versus mine?  "... so they can succeed through hard work IF THEY SO CHOOSE"... so what are you saying ... if they don't choose to work hard and don't succeed... then what... is it still up to us to care and support them?  I pay a lot of taxes, I presume you do too and you take the freely available deductions just like I do... I don't have any overseas accounts or gimmicks-I'd be very happy with a flat tax, but I wouldn't be very happy with an 80% flat tax... what is my FAIR share and who gets to determine that.  I think we ought to means test Social Security, I think we ought to move the retirement age to the right,  intellectually I agree that I can pay something more in taxes, I don't agree that if I make less money someone somewhere is magically going to make more... because they can't do what I do. If  being lucky means being born into a poor family that taught me the value of a dollar, then I guess I was just luckier than most. Glad I didn't grow up rich!!  :)

monjenl
monjenl

Your fair share would be more than a person who makes less than you, but less than a person who makes more than you. The rest is all details. I'm not sure why you're confused about the concept of shared sacrifice. I think you're getting hung up in the details while I am talking about overarching concepts. Of course the largest majority of people who legally don't qualify to pay taxes are in the 99%, because that category would include the unemployed, disabled, elderly, and the poorest individuals in our country. That's as it should be. The strong take care of the weak...that's how an enlightened, civilized, advanced society operates. Winner take all is a barbaric and uncivilized concept. Does that 50% you're counting include all citizens by the way, including children? If you want to talk details, then at least include some in your own argument. And what I mean by "if they so choose" is exactly what you think I mean. Ultimately if a CAPABLE person is given an equal opportunity to succeed and they don't, then that's on them. We need a better system to parse that out, I admit, but that's common sense. And if you'd grown up rich, you'd have inherited your $$ by now and you'd never have to earn anything on your own merit, so you'd be even luckier then, actually. But that doesn't mean you didn't have any luck of your own to help you get where you are. There are many different kinds of luck.  

ChowT
ChowT

Goop arguments.

brianmc3113
brianmc3113

Two things .... the reason 49% of people are not paying taxes right now (it has not been the case up until the recession) is because 49% of the population is either at poverty level or close to it.  You fail to point out that 66% of businesses operating in this country do not pay taxes either, so how is that fair?  The biggest corporations making the most profit are not paying up, leaving the burden to fall on small businesses (which has been the case through the administrations of BOTH  political parties as well as the middle class making between $50,000 and $250,000.  American workers are more productive than they have ever been, yet the median income for those workers has not changed in 40 years.  So much for getting paid better for working harder.  The financial elite have been using the stock market as a personal casino for years now and finding new ways to embezzle (i.e. derivatives) and cook the books with impugnity because the departments in charge of oversight are weak and corrupt. 

NicHautamaki
NicHautamaki

"50% of America legally does not pay any taxes..."

How can you expect anyone to be willing to engage you in an honest debate about what is fair when your whole argument is based on a premise that is a complete lie.  You think income taxes are the only taxes in America?  You've never heard of sales taxes, property taxes, payroll taxes, and the long list of fees and tolls that everyone must pay regardless of their income level?  Seeing as how you're college educated and all I think you DO know about all those taxes that the poor pay as well as the rich, you just choose not to mention them because that would render your whole argument invalid.  Which makes you dishonest and not worth the time or the effort of an honest debate.  Sorry.

NicHautamaki
NicHautamaki

Debate01 I don't think you can separate taxes into national (income tax) vs local taxes when you take into consideration the fact that so few localities in America would be financially solvent without federal government bailouts.  If you reduce the amount of federal income then local taxes will necessarily have to go up, and most local taxes, like sales taxes, disproportionately affect the poor.  Even income tax, which is supposed to be progressive, also disproportionately affects the lower half of the middle class, and I'll explain why.

You have to divide a family unit's expenditures into necessary vs luxury spending.  Necessary spending is the bare minimum of spending needed to survive in the modern world, and to provide opportunities for your children to advance as well.  It includes things like basic housing, clothes, transportation, food,  insurance, education, and retirement savings/investments.  For most families, these expenditures are (depending where you live of course) around $20,000-50,000, which is right where the lower middle class sits as far as income goes.

Luxury spending is spending on entertainment or higher-quality but not strictly necessary things; like a big house, luxury car, vacations, boats, jewellery, hobbies, etc.  Most middle class families also, of course, do some luxury spending, but it's normally much less than their necessary spending.  Many families also go into debt to fund more luxury spending than they ought to, based on their actual income, which is one of the main causes of the financial collapse.

So why is this relevant?  Because a family's actual necessary expenditures would not normally exceed $50,000 a year unless we're talking about a really large family living in the most expensive parts of America.  These necessary expenditures are essentially the same regardless of how rich you are.  The difference between rich and poor is only evident in luxury spending.  Whereas the poor and middle class expenditure ratio is usually something like 80-95% necessary, for the rich $50,000 may represent a tiny drop in the bucket of their yearly spending.  In other words, the rich can spend 99% or more of their money on pure luxury goods.

What does this imply for tax policy?  The rich, right now, have literally thousands of times the amount of money they actually NEED to survive and thrive, whereas the great majority of people have just enough to survive with only a few minor luxuries, if that.  For the rich, a luxury might be a 15 million dollar yacht (or a dressage horse).  For most, an equivalent luxury would be taking a week off work to go camping in a 200 dollar tent.  So that means that adding 15 million dollars worth of taxes on the rich would actually affect their lives about the same as adding less than 500 dollars of taxes on the lower middle class.

This is why a flat tax is so patently unfair even though at first glance it might look the fairest.  The problem is that we live in a world where 100 dollars is more valuable to most people than a million dollars is to the mega rich.  Look at Sheldon Adelson; here is a guy who blew over 20 million dollars in campaign contributions without blinking when most people, who probably care just as deeply about the issues as he does, would struggle to find room in their budgets for a 200 dollar donation.

So the real debate here should be: How rich ought any 1 family to be?  Especially when wealth buys you not only luxuries, but more importantly the power to rig the system so that your wealth is immune for generations upon generations?  How many mansions does 1 person need to own?  Do we really labor under the delusion that when Bill Gates set out to begin Microsoft, he would have changed his mind and decided to just push a broom around Walmart if someone told him 'Sorry, you can never have 50 billion dollars, the most any one person can make in this country is 100 million.' ?

The very rich do not need a billion dollars.  They do not need 100 million dollars either.  The most any family needs in order to live a life of fabulous luxury would be in the 20 million dollar range I believe.  What drives super-rich people to keep working hard making more money when they already have so much?  The love of doing what they do, of course, and perhaps, for some, the competition.  Increasing taxes on those people wouldn't change any of that one iota.  And don't tell me that the super rich are all going to move out of America and take their money elsewhere if taxes are raised.  Other countries, especially first world countries, tax the rich a lot more; America has a long long way to go before that becomes a realistic factor (and I doubt it ever will be given the multinational nature of the truly rich already).

I just surpassed Stuart Zechman for longest and most rambling post in Swampland, I want a cookie.

Debate01
Debate01

Nic, you are right. My mistake! I should have said federal income taxes to be clear.  Of course I presume we all pay city, state, locality, sales,  property, licensing, tags, and county taxes depending on the venue we live and work in.  I thought the national debate was about income tax, and whether it was fair, and my question was, what is a fair share.  Even so,  the fact that everybody does or even does not pay taxes below the federal income tax level shouldn't make that federal discussion invalid, should it? Also, I think ad hominem attacks don't advance the discussion much. I disagree with you, but am willing to learn and presume that you actually honestly believe what you say  

and would like to understand why. I'm not mad at you and am perplexed that you seem mad at me!  

Debate01
Debate01

Well... I sacrificed and saved, worked my way through college, scrimped the first ten years to get by...  and didn't buy the things that I would "liked to have had", didn't go on vacations that I would have liked to have gone on, worked very long hours to get ahead, sent my kids to college.. drive a ten-year old car, ... and I had enough money to start my own business when I retired from my first job. I have worked hard for 45 years to get where I am from a small town, small farm boy from Kansas. Everyone has the same roads, the same police forces, fire forces (which oh by the way I paid those taxes.. every year for 45 years)... why isn't everyone successful then? I didn't do it all by myself... but I resent being demonized because I worked hard on the same field that is available to everyone (even according to Obama!) and after years of hard work I am successful.

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

 No one but Romney in his fabricated misrepresented message is demonizing you. And if you allow the little sound byte that Romney is marketing, to cloud your mind, and not listen to the thrust and entirety of Obama's remarks, then you are doing yourself a great disservice. 

Obama DOES NOT demonize hard work in those remarks. You should not believe everything you hear from a candidate whose only campaign promise is that "I am not Obama".   

http://blackrepublicanandmywor...

Debate01
Debate01

Well, BL I have looked at the tape numerous times. The transcript is this:

"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 'cause 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, that -- 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. "

Later, in explaining himself the President said: 

 "Well, the problem is you left out the sentence that I made before. So what I said was, uh, together we build roads and we build bridges. And so if you've got a business, you didn't build that, meaning the roads and the bridges, not your business. And anybody who actually watched the tape knows that's what I was referring to. That's a point I've made millions of times and that's a point Mr. Romney has made as well. So this is just a bogus issue."  Really?! Couldn't he just say... "Hey, I screwed that up... in the enthusiasm of the moment I misspoke. I love entrepreneurship, I love innovators and I want to do everything possible to kick down the barriers so that anyone who wants to be successful and build a business can take a shot. Success involves hard work, sleepless nights, sacrifice and choices and that is what America was built on and that is what I want to encourage."

I voted for the guy once...  but...

   

Flash1259
Flash1259

Lets not forget the likes of FOX NEWS and Rush limpballs

max4374
max4374

 Nobody with sense is demonizing you, and certainly Obama didn't either.  No one said that if everything been equal, everyone succeeds equally or is expected to.  But given all the opportunities equally, which they certainly are not, without those opportunities, or infrastructure if you will, no one can succeed as easily.  You might have paid for those roads and that school with your taxes, but it took the organizing principle of the government to built them, AND the initiative of individuals, not to mention the efforts of people and governments before you even started on your road to success.  

And now that you are successful, what? Do you expect, because you are successful, to pay less taxes? To stifle the competitors coming up from the lower ranks? To minimize the collective organizing power of the government by making it more local, and therefore less powerful?

Do you want to play by the rules that made you successful? Fine.  Make taxation the same as of the period when you became successful.  Make schools as cheap as then.  Keep laws that kept banks from gambling with other peoples money.  Anything less, yes, it would be unfair.

Molly_Rn
Molly_Rn

But you didn't do that in a vacuum. There were schools, roads, police, fire, etc. that we all paid for together. Your college education wasn't just paid for by you, you couldn't support an entire institution.

benjaminbaby
benjaminbaby

you are wrong, we didn't all pay for it together, thats the problem, the half of us that pay all the taxes paid for it, the other half just went along for the free ride

Aaron
Aaron

Except for the fact, as has already been pointed out, that there's more to taxes than federal income taxes. The idea that "half of us pay all the taxes paid for it" is basically a false one, predicated on the idea that if you pay no federal income tax, because say you've retired and are spending down your savings, your effective tax rate drops to 0.

Compounding this is the fact that many things aren't paid for strictly by federal income taxes. Schools, police and fire, and local roads are not funded directly by the federal government. The local taxes that nearly everyone pays fund those.

While it's a nice talking point for stoking anger at the poverty-stricken and those who have put in their time, the idea that nearly half of eligable taxpayers pay nothing is a fallacy.

msmischief
msmischief

Those poor -- who are, incidentally in the 70 percentile world-wide at the very poorest -- are indeed getting a free ride.  They are getting what they have not paid for.

As for your "fair share" -- what is it?  300% of their income?  600%?  That's what it would take to cover what we are spending now with more taxes only from them -- the differences being whom you classify as wealthy.

Molly_Rn
Molly_Rn

Free ride?!? Well the people who were poor or didn't make enough money to pay taxes would give anything to have enough income to be a taxpayer. The only ones getting a free ride are the 1% better known as Mitt Romney and his minions who are experts at not paying their fair share. Romney wants a business tax deduction for his dressage horse that is his wife's "toy." Give me a break, the rich are the problem not the rest of us 99%.