Enough Already with the “You Didn’t Build That” Pseudoknowledge

It’s been done to death and it’s just not a good line of attack:

  • Ellen

    Actually, I think it’s an excellent line of attack. Most small business owners – and I have several in my family – don’t nuance the phrase to death like the pundits do. They see it for what it really is – an expression of the true contempt this president feels for them.

    • Jamie R

      I don’t think it’s fair to call small business owners stupid and illiterate. They don’t have to nuance the phrase to death, they just have to read the surrounding paragraphs.

      • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

        Some of those small business owners build roads and bridges. They understand exactly who builds the infrastructure and it is largely the private sector for a public sector paymaster who decides the routes, oversees contract compliance, and works a bit on R&D.

        The guy with a shovel, even on Army Corps of Engineers projects, is generally getting a private paycheck. And these projects are supposed to be for everybody with everybody paying their fair share, and without any special rights accumulated because one uses them. Now President Obama is breaking that old understanding and claiming credit. Shame on him.

        • Jamie R

          Ok, fair enough. It is clearly wrong for the government to take credit for Corps of Engineers projects. Obviously, private companies with government contracts are the real source of infrastructure, so there’s really no role for government at all.

          • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

            The level of indirection necessary for government to claim credit for its role in infrastructure is very little different than the mocked businessman. Both remark “I paid for that”. The first does it as a literal contract check, the latter does it in his taxes. Why is one justified and the other is not?

  • http://agapas.me Bob LeBlanc

    Well, then there was the pseudoknowledge that Dan Quayle couldn’t spell potato. But then there wasn’t a “bipartisan” Jon Stewart trying to make sure that the true story came out. Oh, gee, a member of the liberal media is crying that a story has spun out of its control.

    In the grand tradition of “honest” American politics, I expect the Romney campaign to milk this for all it’s worth. It’s gained traction in social media, where people honesty believe that Obama thinks that the government generates wealth as opposed to the small businessman who drives the economy.

    • Franciscan

      I think you’re on the mark with this, Bob. The remark by Obama has been over-simplified and blown out of proportion to make a useful sound bite, but there is still considerable “there” there, imo. And the liberals in the media (who comprise the vast majority of the media, according to polls) aren’t happy about that and they’re into full-out damage-control mode. They know this issue has gained traction.

      I think the problem with what Obama said was a bit more complex than what would fit into a neat sound bite – but it was still a problem. The problem, imo, is two-fold.

      First, President Obama was playing the politics of division again. He likes to talk about “us” vs. the individual pretty much only when he wants “us” (read: those who already pay little to nothing in federal income taxes) to force certain other individuals (read: business owners) to pay more taxes to the government. As such, his statement still exposes the same sort of problem that exposed when he blurted out to Joe the Plumber that he was in favor of “spreading the wealth around.”

      Second, President Obama’s comments underscore the common liberal error that’s in violation of the Catholic principle of subsidiarity. According to President Obama – if you own a business, you have a lot of other people to thank for that…AND SO….you need to give the *government* more of your money so they can spend it for you. The president was certainly *not* arguing for businessmen to donate more to *charity*. As liberals commonly do, when they think “share”, they automatically think “government.”

      So, has the quote been misused somewhat? Sure. It’s not quite honest (although I don’t buy that the president was solely referring to roads and bridges with “you didn’t build that”) and it would be better to present the problem more fully and honestly. But, at least in today’s 20 second sound-bite world, I think it’s close enough to the actual problem that I don’t think it calls for a denouncement and belabored segment like what Stewart did, at all (ah, but he’s just a *comedian*! Right!). Yes, as almost always happens, when you exaggerate something, others will take the exaggeration and exaggerate it even further. But give me a break; the problem with how the Romney campaign has used the President Obama’s statement is small potatoes. I still have a much bigger problem with what President Obama actually said – even in full context.

      • Jamie R

        Where is he talking about forcing other people to give the government more money? If Obama and congress do nothing, taxes go up on everyone for 2013. If Obama gets his wish, taxes on the first $250,000 of income won’t go up. The speech is about lowering taxes, and even though people with a personal income of more than $250,000 will pay more in 2013 than they did in 2012, they’ll still pay less under Obama’s plan than if Obama does nothing.

        At any rate, even you see what the actual problem is – the causal link between “you didn’t build that [alone]” and raising the rate on the top brackets from about 35% to about 38%. Honest Republicans would, and should, attack that causal link and have a grown-up discussion about tax policy. Instead, as pointed out by Stewart, Republicans in separate speeches can make almost exactly the same points, can’t find anyone who actually did build their business alone, and still attack what Obama said.

        • Franciscan

          “Where is he talking about forcing other people to give the government more money?”

          1) That was the over-arching context of his remarks. Before his “you didn’t build that” comment, he said, “what we then do is ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more …There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me, because they want to give something back. ”

          He wasn’t talking about having people give more to Catholic charity. He was talking about taxing people more.

          2) Re: your comment about tax cut vs. tax increase: Politician (liberals, in particular) have a funny way of distorting our language when they talk about taxes and spending. If one wants to merely slow the rate of *growth* (which is still increasing spending), pols describe it as a “cut”. They typically do this for one of two reasons: a) it makes it sound as if they’re serious about controlling spending or b) they want to demonize someone who *is* trying to control spending by making them look like they’re hurting people with “cuts”. Here’s an interesting article on how they distort matters on tax increases: http://www.pekintimes.com/opinions/x661515352/Olar-Fiscal-jeers-from-the-peanut-gallery?zc_p=0

          (Relevant quote from the article):

          When we translate “allow tax cuts to expire” into English, we get, “drastically raise your income tax rate.” By the same token, “extending similar cuts” means “not raising your income tax rate.”

          It used to be that Congress would vote to increase taxes, but now Congress passes laws that will automatically raise our taxes at some date safely in the future. Then as the date draws uncomfortably near, Congress reschedules the date of the automatic tax increase. That way Congress gets to debate whether or not to “allow tax cuts to expire,” when it’s really a debate about whether or not to raise taxes. This Orwellian obfuscation apparently fools Associated Press writers and others in the media. How many voters does it fool?” (End of quote from article)

          3) Regarding Republicans saying the same thing that Obama said, you’d have to show me that. The examples I’ve seen to date aren’t the same thing at all. For example, some harped on Mitt Romney’s comments when he headed the Olympics, when he noted how all Olympic athletes have been helped by others along the way. But what Romney *didn’t do* was to then go on and suggest that the Olympic Committee should have the power to force Olympic athletes with more medals to share a certain percentage of their medals with those who had fewer. I think that would have been an apples to apples comparison to what President Obama said.

          • Jamie R

            1 & 2. If it’s an Orwellian obfuscation now, it was an Orwellian obfuscation a decade ago when Republicans passed the temporary Bush tax cuts, which, apparently, were actually tax increases. It’s not Barack Obama’s fault that George Bush and a Republican congress passed tax increases that were set to be effective in a future administration.

            3. See, that’s the point you’d make if you were honest. You’d attack the logical connection between “you didn’t build that [alone]” and only lowering taxes on the lower brackets. There’s really no direct link between something as basic and inarguable as “you didn’t build that [alone]” and setting the top rates at 39% instead of 35%, just like there’s no direct connection between the principle of noncontradiction and what I ate for lunch.

            • Franciscan

              You seem to assume I’m a Republican shilling for Republicans, Jamie. I’m not.

              I’m also not interested in wasting my time arguing for the sake of argument. Sorry.

              • Jamie R

                You’re also not interested in arguing for any reason at all, since you’re making the absurd, dishonest claim that there’s something problematic with what Barack Obama said in his speech. That’s not arguing. That’s lying.

                • Jamie R

                  (With the exception, that the link between “you didn’t build that [alone]” and a specific marginal tax rate is weak or non-existent. The whole speech isn’t unproblematic. But “you didn’t build that” is unproblematic, and you even acknowledged that the real problem is the link Obama made, and you’re still insisting that attacking the inarguably true “you didn’t build that [alone]” is okay.)

      • Ted Seeber

        When did “Small Business Owner” suddenly equal “Libertarian Scrooge”?

  • Dan C

    The Republicans are worshipping themselves with this line of attack. This is godlessness.

    All that is good which comes from me is not from me but from God. Sometimes God expresses His direct assistance in supernatural ways. Sometimes, usually, it is through the direct, usual expression of God, which is the community. Yes, and the government represents the community.

    I thank my public school teachers in my prayers and in my words on a routine basis. I have high school teachers and elementary school teachers who are the wonderful source of many of my accomplishments.

    No, I didn’t do it myself. Not even close.

    • http://mondayevening.wordpress.com/ Marcel

      “…the direct, usual expression of God, which is the community. Yes, and the government represents the community.”

      Follow through with it: and Obama represents the government.

      • Rosemarie

        +J.M.J+

        So the government represents the direct, usual expression of God by which He assists and provides everything for us? Does this line of “reasoning” make the US gov’t tantamount to Divine Providence?

        • Ted Seeber

          No, just a servant thereof- like it was supposed to be from the beginning. Ever read the Declaration of Independence?

          • Rosemarie

            +J.M.J+

            Yeah, I’ve read the Declaration of Independence. It pretty clearly puts forth the argument that government can and does sometimes *fail* to faithfully “represent” the community by whose consent it governs.

    • Michelle

      Dan C., you would have a valid point if this were a spiritual discussion, but it’s not. I am a Christian and a business owner, and I fully acknowledge that everything that comes to me comes from God (and He has been FAR more generous than I deserve); however, to speak of it that way in this discussion would be outside the scope of this issue. The issue is whether the government is responsible for the success I have enjoyed. It’s a secular political issue and saying that I built my business, NOT the government, has nothing whatsoever to do with self-worship.

      • Ted Seeber

        Michelle, why the cognitive disconnect between the business world and the spiritual world? Or between God and Government for that matter? I think you’ve taken separation of church and state way too far when you create separation of business and church.

        • Michelle

          Ted Seeber, it’s not that I have made a cognitive disconnect between the business world and the spiritual world. All the aspects of my life are weaved together in a tapestry of God’s making and everything I have comes from Him. I’m just saying that people tend to address issues like this “you didn’t build that” thing off the cuff and from their most basic level.

          The president isn’t thinking on a spiritual level when he says that someone else built our businesses, he’s thinking on a political level, and he’s saying something that is very offensive to business owners. When you say something offensive, people give knee-jerk reactions first. I am sure that many people, if asked to explore the issues more deeply, would give God complete credit for their success. I don’t think the fact that’s it’s not the first thing out of their mouths means that people are worshiping themselves. I think Dan C. making this into a spiritual issue unnecessarily.

          I DID build my business insofar as I ALONE DID THE WORK God told me to do to get it done. The government had no hand in any of my accomplishments, and that is the central point. Nothing about that indicates self-worship.

      • Dan C

        I am and have been a small business owner. Much of my success is do to individuals who were in my community and performed important functions through public entities. I thank God for this help.

  • http://www.wanderingheretic.com Caine

    I think so much of Obama’s problems could have been avoided by just adding “alone” to the end of his statement. It would fit the context better and basically be a unarguable comment. That fact that this got by all the speech writers and TelePrompTer people may mean that they really meant what WAS said. In that case, the reaction, which was yours at first too Mark, was the accurate one and is fair game for political advantage.

    • Dave G.

      That’s probably closer to the truth. It’s like when Romney had all those gaffes where he acted as if he was out of touch with the common person. True, most were ‘out of context’, but many agreed that it simply could be a case of Romney being who Romney is. Same here. Because Obama emphasized over and over and over and over again (including context) the ‘you didn’t build that’ (without the ‘alone’), and yet didn’t come close to the same emphasis on the other side of the equation (‘but you did do thus and such’), and as you point out how many speech writers did that pass, suggests while it may not say as much as the GOP is trying to make it say, it says more than the Obama team probably cares to admit.

      Oh, and that Jon Stewart says it’s time to move on is, in itself, enough for me to give this a second look.

  • quasimodo

    Gee, Dan. Hyperbole much?
    The point is the contempt with which Obama holds those who complain about the ever increasing burden of damaging regulations (as opposed to prudent regulation) and the economically stifling burden of taxes. The class conflict rhetoric that gushes from Obama and his supporters put the lie to Stewart and his “context” defense. Class conflict is Obama’s raison d’être and his context.

  • Dan C

    I thank God for the regulations that would prevent and punish the offenders who dumped and polluted lakes and streams in my youth so that they were unswimmable (the 1970′s). I wish that regulations existed separating banking and investing functions. I am glad accounting regulations exist and hold accountants more responsible for the activities and audits they perform. Several health care systems, all routinely passing audits, went bankrupt or nearly went bankrupt 15 years ago, destroying much because of Enron-like malfeasance and the “asleep at the switch” accountants. Regulations prevent the damage that business and businessmen do to communities.

    I like safety regs over the bad old days of a company infirmary to do surgeries on the industrial accidents.

    And I actually re-read my comment and struggle to see hyperbole. The only possible line is the “Republicans are worshipping themselves.” which is the truth when one fails to acknowledge the God from which all success comes.

  • Dan C

    Small business owners do not fail because of government regulations. That’s untrue. They fail because of poor planning. They fail because the business’s didn’t plan well enough, have enough resources to support it before it became profitable, or, since many small businesses are family operations, fell apart in the divorce.

    This is why small businesses fail. Because of the businessmen. Not excessive regulations.

    • Dave G.

      Or it could be both, don’t you think that’s an option. That perhaps, maybe just once, a business owner failed because of something the government did?

      • Forrest Cavalier

        Dan, Is ‘fail’ really your measure of goodness?

        If you aren’t a small business-owner, don’t conjecture. If you care, let me tell you a story.

        This small business owner was given the choice to convert to a corporation or go out of business. The choice was required because of the IRS ‘cracking down’ on statutory employees, which means they were strong-arming corporations about back taxes of independent contractors. Our clients are very ethical, but it was necessary for our clients to cease outsourcing to us unless we were incorporated.

        5 months later, we almost have paid back the startup, lawyer, accounting, and legal fees, and we might actually draw a paycheck this month! Praise God!

        But you know, God wouldn’t have to work so hard if the laws and government weren’t making it so hard.

        Small business owners do not hire employees because of bad government regulations. We may not be able to apprentice our children in our business because of bad government regulations.

        • julian

          Forrest, hats off to you brother. Keep at it.

      • Ted Seeber

        I only know of one- and “Government” in that case meant “a fully debated vote of the people which caused an imposition of a sales tax for the first time ever in Oregon that meant that when we should have been an S-Corporation, we had filed incorporation incorrectly as a C-Corporation and were lumped in with a bunch of millionaires, thus the additional taxes caused us to go out of business”.

  • Dan C

    As did Caesar.

    But in a complex, multi-layered series of governments, my small township’s government affects me most.

  • ivan_the_mad

    Whatever. Obama and the lefty supercommunitarian ideology is a heresy. So is the right/libertarian radical individualism (although I still <3 Ron Paul). Being heresies, they are distorted truths, and that might be best to bear in mind for the discussion. It reminds me of something Chesterton wrote, the quote which I can't find, but runs something like "they both miss the point, but from two different directions".

    • Mark Shea

      It’s in What’s Wrong with the World. I have no problem with pointing out that Obama expands solidarity to a heresy just as Ryan expands subsidiarity to a heresy. But the endless braying on this quote and the obvious dishonesty of the editing job behind it just makes the right look dishonest. There’s a kind of schoolyard mob mentality behind it that is dead opposite from serious political discourse. It’s getting embarrassing to watch.

      • ivan_the_mad

        Indeed. And argh. I was trying to reply to quasimodo.

      • ivan_the_mad

        And thanks for placing the quote. I hope Ahlquist and the ACS get the Quotemeister service back up soon. (What’s Wrong with the World was the first book of GKC’s that I read, which somebody thrust upon me to correct my erroneous belief that Distrubitism is just socialism at heart).

        • Mark Shea

          “The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.”

          • ivan_the_mad

            And as you know, consistently expounding Church teaching is the surest and quickest way to earn the ire of both.

  • Franciscan

    The remark by Obama has been over-simplified and blown out of proportion to make a useful sound bite, but there is still considerable “there” there, imo. And the liberals in the media (who comprise the vast majority of the media, according to polls) aren’t happy about that and they’re into full-out damage-control mode. They know this issue has gained traction.

    I think the problem with what Obama said was a bit more complex than what would fit into a neat sound bite – but it was still a problem. The problem, imo, is two-fold.

    First, President Obama was playing the politics of division again. He likes to talk about “us” vs. the individual pretty much only when he wants “us” (read: those who already pay little to nothing in federal income taxes) to force certain other individuals (read: business owners) to pay more taxes to the government. As such, his statement still exposes the same sort of problem that exposed when he blurted out to Joe the Plumber that he was in favor of “spreading the wealth around.”

    Second, President Obama’s comments underscore the common liberal error that’s in violation of the Catholic principle of subsidiarity. According to President Obama – if you own a business, you have a lot of other people to thank for that…AND SO….you need to give the *government* more of your money so they can spend it for you. The president was certainly *not* arguing for businessmen to donate more to *charity*. As liberals commonly do, when they think “share”, they automatically think “government.”

    So, has the quote been misused somewhat? Sure. It’s not quite honest (although I don’t buy that the president was solely referring to roads and bridges with “you didn’t build that”) and it would be better to present the problem more fully and honestly. But, at least in today’s 20 second sound-bite world, I think it’s close enough to the actual problem that I don’t think it calls for a denouncement and belabored segment like what Stewart did, at all (ah, but he’s just a *comedian*! Right!). Yes, as almost always happens, when you exaggerate something, others will take the exaggeration and exaggerate it even further. But give me a break; the problem with how the Romney campaign has used the President Obama’s statement is small potatoes. I still have a much bigger problem with what President Obama actually said – even in full context.

    • Mark Shea

      If there is considerable There there then his opponents should be able to make that case without all the dishonest Pravda tactics.

      • Franciscan

        I wouldn’t lump all of President Obama’s opponents together. If you’re implying that the Romney himself and his campaign have been engaging in “dishonest Pravda tactics” I think that’s a worse exaggeration/distortion of the truth than what Romney and his campaign has done with Obama’s statement about “you didn’t build that.” IMO, at least in the political world (which admittedly isn’t saying much), the exaggeration/distortion Romney and his campaign have put forth in this instance is very mild. Other conservative opponents have voiced more thorough/accurate criticisms of what the president said. For instance: Brit Hume also make a more thorough commentary on Fox, here: http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/on-the-record/2012/07/18/has-obama-given-romney-new-voice And here’s another: http://triblive.com/opinion/2278804-74/obama-build-didn-romney-bridges-roads-business-campaign-saying-somebody

        I think this sound bite (at least as I have seen it presented by the Romney campaign) was close enough that it doesn’t strike me as nearly objectionable/unfair as scores of other political attacks I’ve seen over the years. For a political attack (yes, I know, that’s not saying all that much), this one was pretty mild in terms of dishonesty.

        Have other conservatives taken the initial exaggeration/distortion and gone even further with it, where it becomes silly? Yes. Certainly, the more it becomes distorted, the more problematic/dishonest it gets. Again, I don’t agree with this and I have no problem pointing out the exaggerations and distortions. In fact, I’ve done that myself in a few places, including your blog (on another post).

        But, imo, it’s still pretty small potatoes in the political world in terms of the “dishonesty scale”. In the political world, this grenade (“you didn’t build that”) that the Romney campaign launched landed close enough to “hit” the target, imo. And I think that’s a large part of why it’s gotten traction…and why liberals like Jon Stewart have gone into full-blown damage control mode.

  • julian

    I think you’re missing something here Mark. I’m a small business owner, and it did rub me the wrong way. Clearly, it was a tax speech aimed at reving up the base, with strawmen, good guys, bad guys and plenty of hyperbole. OK, fine. If you want fodder for complaining that political speech is generally pretty vapid, this was a good place to look. But here’s the thing, in making generalizations, folks like myself got swept in the bad guy category. I know, I know, the President only said “some people.” But seriously, I know of no business owner who has a problem with paying for public education, roads or fire departments. Not “some people”, none.

    And you know, it’s just not fun to be made into a straw man or caricature to get booed at by the base. Look, even Andrew Sullivan gets it: “But what was wrong about it, I realize upon reflection, was the tone. It was condescending; it was rhetorically hostile to an imaginary entrepreneur complaining about class warfare. And that rhetorical aggression effectively – and unnecessarily – alienates anyone who has ever built a business or made a success of herself. I doubt Obama would have used those words in a composed speech – the speechwriters and the president himself would have red-flagged the construction.” http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/07/obamas-biggest-blunder-yet.html

    Now, I generally like Jon Stewart, roll my eyes at FoxNews, abhor Libertarianism and I’m not really much of a Party guy of any sort, (although I guess I’m in the traditionalist set so I guess that makes me a little vulnerable to the right) . I would generally say that capitalists pose as much of a threat to small business owners as does Big Gov’ment, (probably more of a threat in a lot of cases actually). But see, as a Catholic employer who wants to adhere to my religion in everyday life, (including the group policy that I pay for), I’m already in the “unfair bad-guy” category with this President. The problem with this President is that he proves that he actually means what he says…on all the wrong things. So, you know as crass as the Republicans are, and as nauseating as Romney is to me, I’ve got no problem with them making a huge campaign issue out of “you didn’t build that.” “You didn’t build that” turns peoples stomachs, and you’d have to really wondered pretty far off to spout that one off. I mean, does the President really think that is an acceptable political leverage point? If so, someone ought to make some noise.

    • Mark Shea

      I think “fake but accurate” reportage is bad, even when conservatives do it.

      Dan Rather wanted to portray George W. Bush as a the chickenhawk scion of a rich family who did cushy pretend military service to burnish his resume. Fair enough. That’s what W was. He could have said that. But instead he chose to publish fraudulent evidence as fact to achieve that goal. The argument put forward at the time was that though the evidence was fraudulent, the point was still sound.

      Exactly the same argument is being put forward here. Is Obama a leftist who favors the power of the state over individuals and who uses that power to smash the individual in ways that are clearly immoral? Sure. But *this* is not the sound bite to show that. It is lazy, dumb, and dishonest for the Right to make their case this way. But then, the Right has foolishly battened on an utterly unprincipled, immoral, and intellectually vacuous weathervane as their standard bearer, so it’s not surprising that they think this cheap empty stunt constitutes devastating political discourse and no shallow demagoguery. Any political movement that can convince itself that Romney or Gingrich are the rightful heirs to Reagan is a movement that is pretty much bankrupt.

      That a president who is this weak cannot be seriously challenged in the field of ideas is a comment not on this president, but on the extreme intellectual poverty of the Thing that Used to be Conservatism.

      • Dave G.

        In all fairness, I think part of the bankrupt nature of the political Right comes from the outright hostility of the press at this point. Not that the press hasn’t always gone after politicians, but now it’s obviously slanted and biased. We’re old enough to remember the media going after Carter because they thought he deserved it. Sure they went after Reagan. But that’s what the media did, and it could cross part lines.

        Today, when journalism is pretty much advocacy, it’s harder to get the message out if you don’t align with the national press corps. After all, it’s not easy to make a compelling case when most interviews start by assuming the other party is correct and it’s up to you to prove you don’t want to starve babies and crush a woman’s right to her body, that you don’t want to murder immigrants and that you don’t pine for the good old days of African Americans dangling from every tree.

        And lest fans of The Paul think he’s above it, no he isn’t. Paul gets a pass and somewhat ‘favored’ status due to his contempt for his own party. A Republican who says Republicans are dolts and morons? That’s a platinum card right there. But if we go back to when, for a brief few days, it looked like Paul might win Iowa, remember the reaming he got? So Rep. Paul, is it true you support Nazis? Huh? Do you? Huh? Huh? Do you support anti-Semitism? Do you? Huh? Huh? So much that he became visibly flustered and at one point got up and stormed off the set of an interview. And that was after only a few days of this, a treatment that most GOP candidates must endure from the moment they become a serious contender.

        That’s not to say the GOP hasn’t lost its wheels. But it is to say that as long as its candidates must endure this, as long as they must witness a candidate, no matter how inept, watch her children verbally gang raped by the media and pundits (when was the last time we saw President Obama’s children treated as such, even though he so often has them with him and uses them in speeches and appearances – or any Democrat for that matter?), we can expect the field of good candidates to be thin indeed. That’s just a guess on my part, but I’ll bet I’m not too far off the mark.

      • julian

        I’m about out-contexted on this whole issue because I’ve read the entire speech a few times to make sure I’m not reading something that’s not there. I still, say its a tax speech with typical political rah-rahs to rev the base, stocked with straw men and bad guys. The President’s selection of bad guys, is I believe, quite telling. Again, I’m no fan of Romney but in this case where is the dishonesty in criticizing this speech? Perhaps, the challenge is that they’re criticizing a speech that is what Joseph Pieper seems to have spoken directly to in “Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power.” In our political landscape the trick seems to be to get people on your side while saying absolutely nothing. If you’re oily its hard for criticisms to stick, because hey, what was really said? However, in this case , the President got careless and overshot it a little bit on the non-speak and left an opening for legitimate criticism. I agree that its baffling and frightening that a President this weak has no serious challengers and most times it seems like the Republican strategy is to try to get better at non-speak. I don’t think we can blame that on the Liberal Media – it’s the GOP’s own emptiness that is being exposed here. But in this one case, the Right isn’t over-reaching. The President said a bad thing to generalize a group of people, (business owners in this case) and that bad thing he said is also really out of alignment with reality on so many fronts. I’m sure the right will over-shoot it here, but I can’t say that I’ve seen them misrepresent the tone of the speech…you know given the whole context.

    • Ted Seeber

      Did it ever occur to you that it was *meant* to rub you the wrong way? Those who are comfortable never have any reason to convert- the last people to convert to Christianity in Pagan Rome were the government and the rich.

      • julian

        Ted, not sure I follow your point here, although I’m pretty sure I would contest your history on early converts. It was the foolish of the world from pretty much any “class.” Heck, you could argue that even St. Paul was from a governing class of sorts.

        • Ted Seeber

          The real millions though, of the early converts, were those attracted by the Eucharist- where the thirsty and the hungry drank and ate without price.

          But that is not entirely what I’m talking about. I’m really saying that those who have built for themselves lives of comfort, who are not bothered by their own personal sin (usually because they can’t even see it) have no reason to convert.

          Obama’s *entire intent* was to rub those who thought that they were owners rather than stewards (to paraphrase the parable of the talents) the wrong way- making the comfortable uncomfortable enough to convert.

  • quasimodo

    “Small business owners do not fail because of government regulations. That’s untrue. They fail because of poor planning. They fail because the business’s didn’t plan well enough, have enough resources to support it before it became profitable, or, since many small businesses are family operations, fell apart in the divorce.

    This is why small businesses fail. Because of the businessmen. Not excessive regulations.”

    Still an over simplification. Your analysis is most true for startups. I know very successful business owners who can grow, but refuse to work harder for no benefit…further growth means more for the government and its demands and too little for the ones taking the actual risk. Some are going Galt. Some are failing due to “lack of planning” because of the moving targets presented by Big Government. Some are will quit because their perfectly sensible business model is unworkable with ever increasing demands from Big Government for taxes, insurance, record keeping, etc., etc.

    • Ted Seeber

      And some succeed by finding a way to get government contracts, and manage their business and prices so that they are paid more than they are taxed.

  • Ted Seeber

    I think a few people in the discussion above, in their rush to attack Obama, have forgotten their Catholicism:
    This is from Pope Paul VI’s 1967 Encyclical, Populorum Progressio. Encyclicals, of course, are essentially authoritatively binding on those who wish to be practicing Catholics:

    “On the part of the rich man, it calls for great generosity, willing sacrifice and diligent effort. Each man must examine his conscience, which sounds a new call in our present times. Is he prepared to support, at his own expense, projects and undertakings designed to help the needy? Is he prepared to pay higher taxes so that public authorities may expand their efforts in the work of development? Is he prepared to pay more for imported goods, so that the foreign producer may make a fairer profit? Is he prepared to emigrate from his homeland if necessary and if he is young, in order to help the emerging nations?” ~ Populorum Progressio, Pope Paul VI

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_26031967_populorum_en.html

    The Catholic Church has also advocated for the use of taxes to assist the poor; this goes all the way back to the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament when God commanded Moses to make sure that the Israelite government had mandatory taxes that were to be used to help the poor – I will actually be making a Captain Catholic video on that in the future.

    Also, I would say that the Church would most definitely support a 70% tax rate on the wealthy. It’s clear that the Church supports a tax rate in which the wealthy pay higher taxes:

    “In a system of taxation based on justice and equity it is fundamental that the burdens be proportioned to the capacity of the people contributing.” ~ Pope John XXIII: Mater et Magistra

    Also, given that Pope John Paul II has stated that wealthy nations need to sacrifice their income so that poor nations might benefit, I would definitely say that a 70% tax rate would be acceptable for the 1% richest of the population in First World countries who have billions of dollars to their name:

    “The poor — be they individuals or nations — need to be provided with realistic opportunities. Creating such conditions calls for a concerted worldwide effort to promote development, an effort which also involves sacrificing the positions of income and of power enjoyed by the more developed economies. This may mean making important changes in established life-styles, in order to limit the waste of environmental and human resources, thus enabling every individual and all the peoples of the earth to have a sufficient share of those resources.”

    A couple of other Catholic quotes concerning the role of government in helping the poor:

    “The more that individuals are defenceless within a given society, the more they require the care and concern of others, and in particular the intervention of governmental authority.” ~ Pope John Paul II

    “When there is question of defending the rights of individuals, the defenceless and the poor have a claim to special consideration. The richer class has many ways of shielding itself, and stands less in need of help from the State; whereas the mass of the poor have no resources of their own to fall back on, and must chiefly depend on the assistance of the State.” ~ Pope Leo XIII

    • Ted Seeber

      Ok, I didn’t edit that enough. MOST of the above post should be credited to Tony DeGennaro, a young Catholic school teacher who has invented the “Captain Catholic” videos on YouTube, originally a neat sci-fi story arc about a superhero with “Sin Sense” whose main method of doing battle is to pray a rosary for his enemies and friends; who has now started a Facebook Page to promote his “Ask Captain Catholic” videos to combat Mr “Church Militant” Voris’s brand of libertarian Catholicism.

    • Franciscan

      “I would say that the Church would most definitely support a 70% tax rate on the wealthy.”

      I’m going to venture that “the Church” has never tried to set a figure on tax rates – and for good reason. She has no particular competence in economics. Just as she has no particular competence in physical sciences. Her competence and Divine Protection come in the areas of faith and morals.

      Whether or not we have a moral obligation to take care of the poor is not an open question. How best to do it, is.

      Assisting the poor does not necessarily imply economic redistribution. When the government too easily compels the “haves” to give to the “have-nots,” it can deprive the “have-nots” of the dignity of earning their daily bread and may also foster a sense of entitlement instead of independence and gratitude. It also robs the “haves” of an opportunity for merit by taking from them that which may have been more freely given in Christian charity.

      Such “merit” or “charity” typically involves a more direct, voluntary, and interpersonal engagement. Catholic social teaching has long insisted on the principle of subsidiarity, which provides that the larger political community should not substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility or individuals or local governing bodies. As the Catechism (no. 2431), quoting Pope Pius XI, teaches:

      “Another task of the state is that of overseeing and directing the exercise of human rights in the economic sector. However, primary responsibility in this area belongs not to the state but to individuals and to the various groups and associations which make up society.”

      The liberal model of government regularly runs rough-shod over the Catholic principle of subsidiarity – trusting the federal government to essentially take over charitable matters.

      Here’s another interesting article on this:

      http://thepalmhq.blogspot.com/2012/05/cant-public-radio-find-any-catholics.html

      • Ted Seeber

        ” She has no particular competence in economics. ”

        How come I only hear that from people who are trying desperately to deny what the Popes have written on the need for morality in economics?

        The liberal model of government ALSO includes the libertarian model of economics- which also has now sadly been proven to run roughshod over the poor.

        I’m not for the federal government being the only source of charity- but I have to admit that back in the 1950s, when the only loopholes to a 70% income tax were the payroll deduction and St. Katherine Drexel Philadelphia Nun’s Loophole, we had higher employment AND more people giving to charity to avoid the taxation that came from NOT having a high payroll and NOT giving to charity.

    • julian

      Wow! 70% Really? Gosh, that’s high. Where do you get that. Sure, a higher rate for the wealthy, (I don’t know many people who would contest that anyway), but 70%?

      “Is he prepared to pay higher taxes so that public authorities may expand their efforts in the work of development?” Of course the rich should pay a higher percent of taxes AND show generosity elsewhere. Nowhere in any of the quotes you reference does it imply 70% and NO WHERE does it say that generosity has to be 100% directed towards the government, (I don’t think you think that either). Still, let’s say you’re a rich guy that makes $250K/year and you get taxed 70%, well, now you have $75K left to pay bills and living expenses, AND give to anything related to a Church ministry that might be closer to what actually direct ministry. I don’t know about the good old 50′s but even with tax deductions its seems like anyone wanting to diligently tithe say, 10%, well is that going to be $25K or $7.5K? You get my point, 70% does not leave much left for giving to direct ministries. Giving is not taxes. Giving is voluntary and taxes are mandatory. You can have a generous attitude with both but that doesn’t mean they are the same thing. With all the stupid wasteful spending, (I know I know the Tea Partiers say that so much its sounds like a cliche but just go with me here for a minute), do you think a local parish and Catholic Homeless Shelter could make better use of that delta in allocation of income. Whatever, maybe you don’t actually think it ought to be 70% now. Still, there is something irksome about a guy implying that people need to be taxed more or they’re just selfish and conceited. Here is some more context from the speech, “If you continue their tax breaks, that costs a trillion dollars.”
      Actually, Mr President, if you go on with stupid wars with no clear objective for victory or resolution and new health care programs that are actually sweet heart deals for Big Pharma and massive corporate bail outs for the too-big-to-fails, (just like Bush) THAT cost trillions of dollars. You see, in business Mr. President, we don’t get to say that a decrease in revenues is the same as spending. When revenues DECREASE WE SPEND LESS, NOT MORE!!!

      You can be put off with the “you didn’t build that” speech, that doesn’t necessarily make one a shill for Acton Institute. I actually wish that the right was more open to some of the ideas that get promoted in what is called Distributism, (that way the GOP could actually call themselves conservative). However, trying to get folks compliant with regards to the President’s speech and telling them they didn’t hear something insulting and irritating when in fact they did, well, that probably is not the best way to get folks jacked up for the 21st Century realization of Rerum Novarum

      I wonder if there is a presumption somewhere that all business owners make a ton of money.

      Here is the thing too, it’s not bad Catholicism to

      • Ted Seeber

        The 70% actually came from a guy arguing AGAINST high taxes- because it was the income tax rate that John F. Kennedy *lowered* the top income tax rate to in his round of “trickle down economics” (in the 1950s, it was more like 93%-95%). I was arguing that it takes a high income tax rate, along with the common sense loopholes for payroll and the “Nun’s Loophole” for charity (named after the Philadelphia heiress, St. Katherine Drexel, whose father left her a trust fund earning $1000/day interest, but she choose a vow of poverty and lived on $5/day, giving away the other $995 EVERY DAY for the rest of her life- such a person should not owe any income taxes in anybody’s book) to create a middle class through charity and jobs. And in fact, the greatest expansion of any middle class the world has ever seen as a percentage of population- was the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, under >70% income taxes encouraging the rich to hire people and give away to charity instead of saving.

      • Ted Seeber

        If you have the Nun’s Loophole- that becomes “Give the 70% to the government or give the 70% to the Church” not “Give the 70% to the government then give the 10% to the church leaving you 20% to live on”. It actually results in more money for ministries, and less money for government- at least from the faithful. From the non-faithful who aren’t going to be generous anyway- it forces them to be generous through the government.

  • Ted Seeber

    Here’s my real response, and I’ll post it twice- I wrote it privately to one of my brother Knights who was complaining about a message I had forwarded from our State Pro-Life Chairman:

    And one more reply, but this is more private and comes from this blog posting:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2012/07/god-love-ross-douthat.html

    There is something to the argument that it is very hard for some of us in my generation particularly to look at the mess of broken homes, genocidal abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, and old people dying alone and in fear; and say that the sexual revolution actually accomplished any good at all.

    Likewise, just two blog postings on Mark Shea’s blog earlier:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2012/07/enough-already-with-the-you-didnt-build-that-pseudoknowledge.html

    There is also something to the argument that it is very hard for some of us in my generation particularly to look at the sky high corporate profits in the face of foreclosures, unemployment, underemployment and a general economic depression and say that the deregulation of global markets was a good thing.

    What do you call a civilization that has lost all ethics, morality, and values? BARBARIC!

    But that’s why I fight hard against my *real* impulse to use my position as Grand Knight as a bully pulpit for my personal political values. Coming from the State, or stuff that the Knights are already involved in, is fine. Me imposing my values upon my brothers in the John Clare council is NOT. Especially since, from my point of view, all I see is a civilization in unavoidable collapse- with our only real hope being mutual aid societies and monastic communities to defend and preserve the last vestiges of civilization and the cardinal virtues against the coming darkness.

  • David Davies

    Mark: “Dan Rather wanted to portray George W. Bush as a the chickenhawk scion of a rich family who did cushy pretend military service to burnish his resume. Fair enough. That’s what W was.”

    Really? Learning to fly military aircraft is ‘cushy pretend military service’? That is an insult to every man or woman in uniform who ever flew military aircraft. Was the service of female ferry pilots in WWII ‘cushy’? And you know, as a way to avoid being put into combat, signing up for the National Guard is really not your best option. If the President activates your unit, you are in. George W. Bush was a couple of signatures away from active duty in a war zone.

    • Mark Shea

      And conveniently never wound up there. Did others who volunteered or were drafted have rich family connections to pull strings for them and make sure they were always kept out of harm’s way or did they simply do as they were ordered? Trying to use other troops as human shields for the rich kid’s cushy assignment is not terribly persuasive. If you think the Bushies did not make extremely certain that W never had any risk of being in harm’s way I have a bridge to sell you.

      I’ll give him more credit, however, than Dick “Five Deferments/Other Priorities/Draft Dodger” Cheney, the Chickenhawk’s Chickenhawk, a man more odious Bill Clinton, which is saying a lot.

    • Mark Shea

      And, just by way of asking, did you burn with resentment over the mockery of Kerry’s military record in 2004? That dude actually went to Vietnam (not that he wasn’t an insufferable ass). But chickenhawks had no trouble making fun of his service record.

      • Franciscan

        A fair point, Mark.

      • David Davies

        Nah. I burned with contempt at Kerry’s portrayal of himself as a ‘hero’. I remembered his disgraceful and despicable performance at the ‘Winter Soldier’ hearings, not to mention his flat out lying about his service.

        As far as Bush joining TANG to stay out of the war with the certain knowledge (on his part) that someone was going to “…pull strings for them and make sure they were always kept out of harm’s way…” ……. You know that, HOW? I have often admired your writing. Should I now add to your talent in that the charism of ‘reading souls’ as well as minds? If you can’t do this, why does judgement fall so readily from your lips? Good grief Mark. Just flying a military jet is a threat to one’s life. It isn’t necessary to go to a war zone to die while doing it. I admire and think well of anyone who has the guts, skill and intelligence to do military flying. I also thank them for putting themselves in a position where they may have to go in harm’s way for the rest of us. It doesn’t matter if they never got shot at. They also serve who only stand and wait, as Milton put it.

        • Mark Shea

          Burn with contempt for Team That Guy, swell with teary empathy for Team My Guy. Very convincing. Ted Seeber’s got the number on this silly narrative.

          As I say, better than Dick Cheney’s odious self-serving cowardice and brutality.

          • David Davies

            Teary empathy? Hardly. I was never very Pro Bush. Either father or son. I’m a paleo-con, not a neo-con, and the Bushes were too squishy for me. A lot of the support I gave him (the son) was due to the very unfair attacks made against him, of which your suspicion of his motives is but a small part. I do my part to challenge false memes. Can ANYBODY direct me to the TEXT of anything George Bush said that was a ‘lie’?

            You know that three pilots from his squadron say that Bush inquired about transferring to the regular Air Force? As an F-102 pilot that could have got him sent to Europe or S.E. Asia. His commander advised him that he didn’t have enough flying hours, so he dropped it.

            And did you know that towards the end of his tour (1972) the Air Force was awash in pilots? They didn’t need him so they let him go. He flew, Ted, as much and as often as ordered. And again, Ted, flying interceptors is a very risky job. There is a reason that Naval Aviators (and I assume Air Force as well) have special ‘flight premiums’ on their life insurance policies.

            Military members from the other team deserving of praise? You bet. Senator McGovern flew bomber missions over Germany. I don’t agree with his politics, but I salute his courage. Unlike the self-aggrandizing John Kerry.

            Now, Mark, don’t you think that assuming that a person you don’t like has the worst possible motives is an action contrary to your obligation towards charity?

            • Mark Shea

              Fair enough. And I don’t mean to support Kerry, who I agree was utterly self-aggrandizing. I simply don’t believe that Bush was doing much besides burnishing the record for a future in politics–like Kerry.

              • David Davies

                Thank you for granting me my point. Considering George’s character at the time, I am not at all sure he was burnishing anything but whiskey bottles.

    • Ted Seeber

      To be fair- somebody dropping bombs from 30,000 feet against a country that doesn’t even have anti-aircraft weaponry is not the same as an infantry foot soldier facing a machine gun nest. And NEITHER ONE is equal to a man who signed up for two years of military “service” flying planes in the skies of Texas then took a leave of absence to stop doing that for 18 months while running the campaign of a family friend in Alabama- Then got an honorable discharge somehow?

      About the only thing less military but still warfare is our modern Obama-led military “pilots” sitting in an office in Langley, VA killing people in Pakistan.

      • David Davies

        The honorable discharge would be for honorable service, would it not? If the Military decides to let you go before your time is up, what is dishonorable about that?

        I somewhat agree with your take on remote death from Langley, though I don’t think a Predator strike is any different than a B-52 strike. I would prefer the situation that you may have heard about in the sf show ‘Firefly’: I would like my enemy to be awake, armed, and facing me.

  • Dave G.

    I can’t really judge anyone who served in any capacity, since I never did. I don’t think most in 2004 mocked Kerry because he served, they mocked him because he wrapped himself up in the flag of his service, when he soooooo famously came home and helped establish the narrative of “US Soldier: Kahn-like baby killer.” That was the difference there. As for Bush? Don’t know. I guess if there is proof all this happened, and not just connecting dots, then it probably wasn’t good. But then, again, I never served. That doesn’t mean I can’t have opinions about a host of issues involving the military, but it sure means I wade into looking down at the service of others with great fear and trembling.

  • Peggy R

    I don’t think I’ll try to respond to everything here, as interesting as it all is. The “You did not build that.” was not taken out of context or misunderstood. It rationally follows his previous statements via ABC (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/07/did-obama-say-if-youve-got-a-business-you-didnt-build-that/). He says you didn’t work harder, you’re not smarter. you have a business, you didn’t build that. He said some one else built your business. He doesn’t mean God. “That” cannot refer to the bridges and roads, which are plural. He meant to be demeaning and insulting to all who’ve worked hard to make something of themselves or something of their own. I don’t know any one who’d say they did it alone, but to say successful people don’t work hard or may not have special talents is insulting and quite incorrect. I just was at Wall Drug. The Catholic couple that started it and made a great success of it credit God, but would certainly be offended at the idea that they didn’t do anything special or work hard to make it happen.
    QUOTE BEGIN*****
    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.
    *****QUOTE END.

    • David Davies

      Obama does have a problem making subjects and pronouns agree in number. So he may have said ‘that’ when he should have said ‘those’. His statement is needlessly opaque. His communications and oratorical abilities are very much overrated.

    • Lloyd Petre

      Peggy, that quote can’t possibly be accurate or Mark would have noticed. After all, he were a English Major.

    • Ted Seeber

      I can’t say that anybody can work hard enough to be worth 425 other human beings. God’s a communist when it comes to time- we each get only 24 hours a day, no more, no less.

      • David Davies

        Ted, are you trying to make a p0int about income here? That we assume that somebody who makes 425 dollars is worth more the someone who makes 4.25? That would require that we measure people’s value in terms of their money. I don’t know anybody who believes that a ‘rich’ person is worth more than a ‘poor’ person. We are not equal to the sum of our possessions. Some people’s work is more valuable than other’s but that defines their contribution and not their value as persons.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    Great! The man has been a private citizen almost 4 yrs.and theres still guys lining up to lick shine his loafers.

    • David Davies

      Hello there Hezekiah. How does objecting to false and unfair slurs amount to lick-shining loafers?

  • Julian

    Michelle, don’t sweat it. If anyone wants to presume on your level of generosity and general openness to the Church’s teaching and the Holy Spirit’s leading on how you manage your fianances thats their issue, not yours.

  • David Davies

    If President Obama were trying to point out that no man is an island and that we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us then he did a really miserable job of expressing that thought. And that thought is one with which conservatives readily agree. It is not conservatives who are out to thoughtlessly discard the cultural capital we have inherited.


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