Obama's America — & ours
“If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
Mitt Romney fell on this Barack Obama quote like an NFL lineman on an end zone fumble during the Super Bowl. And understandably so.
For this was no gaffe, said Romney. Obama believes that had not the government created the preconditions, none of us could succeed. We all depend on government. None of us can make it on our own.
Realizing that statement rubs against a deeply ingrained American belief — that the people built the nation — Obama and his acolytes are charging that Romney ripped his words out of context.
But Romney seems to have it right.
Obama's narrative does not tell us why some succeed and others fail. Does Obama understand America? For he surely does not seem to understand her history as once taught to every schoolchild.
From Jamestown in 1607 to Yorktown in 1781, there was no federal government. There was no United States. Yet generations of colonists had built forts, cleared lands, created farms, established workshops. Americans fed, clothed and housed themselves, creating one of the highest standards of living on Earth for 3 million people.
Was government indispensable to Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin, Robert Fulton's invention of the steam boat, Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone, Guglielmo Marconi's invention of the radio and Thomas Edison's invention of the light bulb?
Seeing government as antecedent to enterprise, Obama has it backward. In America, individuals, families and communities came first. Hardworking men and women built the society. Only after that did they send their best and brightest off to the House of Burgesses to discuss Colonial issues.
The Founding Fathers who created the U.S. government were deeply distrustful of the centralized power Obama seems to worship. They had had enough of the beneficent big government of George III. Obama notwithstanding, government does not create wealth. Government collects wealth, redistributes wealth, consumes wealth.
Even when government “builds” something like a Golden Gate Bridge, it does not really build it. It commissions it. Architects, engineers and construction companies build the bridge, not bureaucrats from HUD.
“Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it as a healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon,” said Winston Churchill.
Obama belongs to category two.
But perhaps he cannot be blamed for not understanding the real America. His mother and father, his role models like Frank Marshall Davis and Saul Alinsky, his neighbors like Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, all came out of the anti-capitalist left.
From academia to community organizing to an Illinois Legislature that milked so much money from the people the state may beat Jerry Brown's California into bankruptcy — Obama's life has been spent in tax-exempt, tax-subsidized and tax-supported institutions.
Yet this Obama-Romney collision frames the great issue of 2012.
Which is the true creator of wealth and engine of prosperity?
Is it, as Obama believes, government?
Or is it, as Romney believes, people and their institutions and businesses that, though carrying the immense burden of government that consumes 37 percent of the economy, employ six of seven Americans still working? That's the choice.
Pat Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”