The left-leaning friend I refer to as Paul in our long-running debate sent me an email explaining that the “ObamaPhone” lady whose video graced my last post did not, in fact, receive an “ObamaPhone.”  Here are some quotes from a Wall Street Journal article Paul linked:

The Obamaphone Lady, who as far as we know hasn’t been otherwise identified, is a middle-aged black woman with a loud, gravelly voice. She exuberantly explains why she supports President Obama’s re-election: “Everybody in Cleveland [unintelligible] minority got Obama phone! Keep Obama in president, you know? He gave us a phone!”

She turns out to be propagating an urban legend, one we’d previously heard from conservative friends. The “phone” part is true. There is a federally mandated, state-administered program known as Lifeline that subsidizes telephone service for low-income subscribers. But the “Obama” part is imagined. As Snopes.com explains, Lifeline dates back to the 1980s, and the Dayton Daily News reported in August that Ohio expanded it in 2008 to include cellphones.

A federally mandated program to provide phones … glad to see the federal government sticking to its Constitutional limits.

The rest of the WSJ article deals with allegations that the video is racist … so I guess if you point a camera at a minority and the resulting video doesn’t create a positive image, that’s racist now.

Anyway, I told Paul the point here is that the lady obviously thinks she got an ObamaPhone and was offering that up as a reason to vote for him.  So the “give me free stuff!” mentality is still part of the reason Obama won.

Last night I caught a couple of minutes of Bill O’Reilly asking a female Obama supporter why Obama did so well among single women.  (Romney won among married women.)  The supporter denied that the “give me free stuff!” attitude had much of anything to do with it.   When O’Reilly pressed her for another explanation, she mentioned that women care deeply about the (free) birth control issue, that many single moms are struggling and appreciate the expansion in food stamps, etc.

In other words, “We want free stuff!”

In an election-night Facebook exchange with another liberal pal (who also lives in California, a state that’s gone broke by following liberal economic theories), I made a crack about “you didn’t build that.”  The liberal pal immediately accused me of taking that quote out of context – which has pretty much been the standard liberal explanation for the now-famous line.  I told him I’d seen and read the remark in its full context, which only made it worse.

See what you think.  Here’s the whole thing in context, courtesy of PolitiFact (bold emphasis mine):

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.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the G.I. Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President — because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.

So, how should an entrepreneur who built a business interpret this speech?  Let’s look at some key lines.

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.

Okay … if you’re successful, it’s not because you’re smart and it’s not because you worked hard.  We know this because lots of smart and hard-working people aren’t so successful.  So I guess that just leaves dumb luck as the deciding factor – or as John Kerry and other Democrats like to put it, the wealthy are the “winners of life’s lottery.”  (Kerry became wealthy by marrying the widows of smart, hard-working men who made huge fortunes before dying, so the label actually fits in his case.)

I’ll agree with the president to a point:  being smart and hard-working isn’t all it takes to become rich.  It also takes guts. That’s because rich people (by the government’s definition of “rich” anyway) tend to get that way by starting their own businesses.  Lots of lots of smart, hard-working people have no desire to start a business.  They’re happy to work for a salary and let someone else deal with payrolls, taxes, regulations, etc.  – and that’s fine.  Not everyone is cut out to be a business owner.

The people who do start businesses, however, often put their life’s savings at risk to do so.  That’s exactly what my father did.  For many years while working in sales for NCR, he saved like a madman.  He and my mom rarely went out for dinner.  They didn’t buy expensive cars or take expensive vacations.  My dad loved golf, but didn’t join the local country club.   Then in his mid-30s, my dad risked everything he’d saved to become a business owner.

That’s what separates smart, hard-working, “rich” business owners from smart, hard-working people who prefer a salary:  the willingness to take risks, delay gratification while saving capital, and be ultimately responsible for a venture’s success or failure.  They didn’t develop those traits because of good teachers and government-built roads and bridges.

Moving on to more context:

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.

And every kid in your class had the same great teacher.  So why did you end up rich and the other kids didn’t?  Oh, I forgot– dumb luck!

Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.

Yes, this unbelievable system was created by people who believed in individual liberty and considered government a necessary evil at best.  And I love that “allowed you to thrive” line.  The same liberal pal who told me I was quoting Obama out of context once angrily told me that it’s okay for the government to levy high taxes on the rich because “we let people become rich in this country.”

Interesting logic.  If I become rich, it means I developed a product or service that other people were willing to buy.  Since my liberal pal didn’t step in and prevent us from making a voluntary exchange that had nothing whatsoever to do with him — thus “allowing” me to become rich — he’s now entitled to confiscate a big share of my income.  Right.  Since this was supposed to be a free country, that’s as logical as saying that since I allow him to speak and breathe, I can take half of his paycheck.

Somebody invested in roads and bridges.

Ah, I see.  If the government builds bridges and roads – legitimate functions of government – that means pretty much everything government does today is okay … bailouts, stimulus packages, Cash For Clunkers, a giant welfare/entitlement system, huge deficits, etc.  Makes sense.

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.

I don’t care how much context you put around it, If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen says it all.

But to continue:

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

Right.  Which is why fighting fires is a legitimate function of government – fire departments are also municipal, not federal.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the G.I. Bill. That’s how we created the middle class.

Mr. President, “we” (by which you of course mean “the government”) didn’t create the middle class.  The middle class was created by entrepreneurs who found ways to make ordinary laborers so fabulously productive, they could trade their labor for a comfortable living.  Since wages are a function of productivity and productivity is a function of capital investment, the more capital the government confiscates and spends, the lower our future productivity and resulting wages will be.

That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President — because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.

We didn’t end up $16 trillion in debt (with many more trillions in debts to come) because of bridges, dams and the internet, so sure, Mr. President, let’s do those things together.  But you still haven’t explained how other people built my father’s business — or mine.  I seem to recall spending a helluva lot of evenings and weekends developing my software product, and since I taught myself programming by reading books, there wasn’t even a great teacher involved.

Here’s the only honest interpretation of that speech, context or no context:  You’re not really responsible for your success – the government is.  So if you become successful, it’s okay for us to take a huge share of your income.

If any of my liberal pals can explain how I’ve misinterpreted this in-context speech, I’m all ears.

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16 Responses to “Some Post-Election Quibbles With Liberal Pals”
  1. TonyNZ says:

    It’s called leveraging with your money, and it is risky.

    That’s what irks me off about these “bailouts”

    There is no such thing as zero risk.

    If I put money into a high risk investment with a 15% return and 20% chance I’ll lose my money, that’s my choice.

    If I put money into a medium risk investment with an 8% return an 2% chance I’ll lose my money, that’s my choice.

    If I put money into a low risk investment with a 3% return and a 0.1% chance I’ll lose my money, that’s my choice. But if that investment goes belly-up then that’s not a reason for the government to swoop in to replace all my money.

    That’s where the Republicans shoot themselves in the foot in my opinion. No business should be subsidised by the taxpayer. Life owes nobody a living and you can choose what to do with your money (or could until the federal government started controlling the money supply).

    The other thing that these people don’t see about business owners is the 120 hour work weeks sometimes just to keep the business ticking over. Salaried people can lose their jobs, owners can lose everything. Owners also chose to put themselves in that position.

    The main reason I do what I do is to provide the best possible start for my children. If they then go into a world that has all their advantage confiscated from them because “someone helped them along the way” then I would be pretty damned pissed.

    Here’s what else they don’t see: during the early 1980s recession, my dad paid himself a dollar per year salary for three years and floated the business out of his savings. I came home from college one night to find him sitting alone in the family room, half into a bottle of scotch, staring off into space. I asked what was wrong. He said he wasn’t sure he could keep the business going much longer and wasn’t sure what he’d do if it went belly-up.

    His employees never knew about that. He didn’t let any of them go during the recession. They got paid, he didn’t. He survived and later thrived, but only because he’d been smart enough to save during the good years. I hear people attribute what he built — and kept afloat during bad times — to luck or government roads and teachers, I want to punch them out. They have no friggin’ clue.

    • TonyNZ says:

      Of the people I know that are in or have been in business, that sort of point has been reached in more cases than not.

      You can pretty much count on it.

  2. Chris says:

    Very interesting and very true, I wonder is Obama also realised that He (the US Government) did build that (the internet). If we are going to go there, the groundwork was actually done 20 years eariler by British scientist Donald Davies. So really the only reason anyone in the world can do anything at all (via the internet) is because of a British scientist, I suppose we could take it further, go back to Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, the inventer of the wheel, and the one who discovered fire, they actually should be entitled to a share of amazon’s profit don’t you think?

    If Obama could tax them retroactively, he probably would.

  3. Bruce says:

    Part of the problem for people that think all businesses should share the wealth, is that most of the larger successful businesses do.

    To their shareholders.

    My brother in law thinks that every dime that a company makes is going into the back pocket of the president or CEO of the company.

    Those shareholders are often pension funds. People who want to beat up on big business are essentially rooting to beat up on other people’s retirement accounts.

    • Bruce says:

      Ha! My BIL is a retired Illinois school teacher whose pension is severely underfunded. Maybe the fund had invested in GM and got shafted with the rest of the bond holders? He is a big pro union guy because of his teachers union affiliation and believes that the taxes in Illinois need to be raised (even more) to cover his pension…because, get this, it was guaranteed to him!!!!

      Of course he buys Kias instead of GM because of price.

      If only those of who don’t work for government had guaranteed pensions …

      My liberal pal Paul thinks the fact that most teachers and professors are liberals proves that liberals are smarter than conservatives. I think it proves that people whose paychecks depend on taxes are more likely to be liberals. As I told him, if we put a computer programmer or an engineer up against a professor of literature or history in an IQ test, I’m betting on the tech-heads every time.

  4. Elenor says:

    {sigh} Same here, like your dad (but with higher taxes). In the first big recession of my life (2001? 2002? whenever that was…), my late husband kept his (sole) employee (massively overpaid by local standards and the work he did, but he’d been with the biz for 20 years through the thin times too; he was almost family) on his high salary, and WE went without salary for two years; living off our savings — and beyond — because the company was not bringing in the money to support both families. When our savings ran out and we’d gone as far as we could without jeopardizing our living, he finally had to let the fellow go. Eight years on, my husband would still tear up over that choice. (We, personally, went $45,000 in debt to keep him on; and that took years to pay off; in fact, I’m still paying on it, in essence; we never quite got back to full operation; but no regrets because he was almost family. (I make high-ticket devices for the manufacturing realm.)

    As a business owner — hell, as an American MANUFACTURING BUSINESS owner, one of too few left! — I am gambling with everything I have. I took over the company when my husband died in 2011. If I don’t guess everything right, if I misjudge something (or god help me, don’t know about something) — the whole house of cards could come crashing down and I’ll lose it all: house, biz, savings, assets. Yes I’m “protected” (legally) by a LLC, but without my only income, without this biz continuing on — I can’t pay for anything anyway!

    And then I had a +#%@)& kidney stone, which threw me some $8,000 backwards. No insurance, of course, I can’t afford any. I’m a veteran, and while I did finally manage (appeal, appeal, appeal) to get accepted into the VA Healthcare system, I’m in class 8D: no health care for me! And ObamaCare is looming and there’s no way I can afford to buy insurance (are they kidding?!), so I’ll be payin’ that penalt… er … “tax” out of the biz that I’m still trying to get back on its feet.

    And Georgia ran out of Federal money for unemployment payments … so they (once again) raised the unemployment tax on my company: I have to PAY more (in MY name, for “MY” unemployment benefits), but I cannot draw it ever. Biz owners can’t draw their unemployment “benefits,” even if the biz fails. That money goes to someone else! No help for me!

    I tried to re-fi (the mortgage is still in my husband’s name, although I inherited the house) and was turned down: too new an employment history. (I worked IN the company for nearly 14 years; only began to run it when my husband died last year.) But the folks who quit payin’ their mortgages? No problem for them! “The govt is here to help!” I am not upside-down on “my” mortgage — and now that Obama has expanded HARP, I might be able to re-fi that way — but not if it whacks my credit score, because I’m still paying off the credit card debts I am left with after Michael’s death. And the credit card companies can (legally, dammnit!) raise my interest rates to the sky, even if THEY are not involved or affected!

    But… illegals and the poor can go to the ER and walk away from their bills! The hospital is harassing me (although they did give me a payment plan, as did the radiologist, as did the ER physician {eye roll}) because they know *I* will pay. (I can’t not pay them: I have a business and a house to protect!)

    Well anyway, there’s no point in whining… Tom, you always make me smile with your clear-eyed views (and your games with Jimmie and Christine; congrats, you champion you!). I am that rare-bird: a woman-owned, veteran-owned, American manufacturing small business owner… (Turns out the woman- and veteran-thing don’t help much, actually. {sigh} So much for MY “protected class” status.) I’m not dead yet, my company is not dead yet (it’s just “playing one” in this economy), and i have no choice but to keep doing what I’m doing.

    Besides, as your liberal friends know quite well: I’m an eeeeeeevil business owner who should be punis … er… taxed-to-the-max and should help everyone else first. (Funny how my bank accounts — and tax bills! — don’t reflect that!) {grumble grumble}

    I wish the best, Elenor. I hope all the sacrifices pay off and you actually get to keep some of the rewards.

  5. TonyNZ says:

    Apparently 1.6 + 1.1 = 4 now.

    What was that saying? “Learn math, it’s how you know when you’re being lied to.”

    Yup, that’s what my college physics professor told us.

    I love Obama’s comment about raising taxes on “the rich.” You see, the 50% of Americans who voted for him knew what they voting for, so he has approval. In other words, since millions of people whose taxes won’t be raised support taking more money from others, all is well.

    To paraphrase Churchill, democracy isn’t supposed to mean two foxes and a chicken vote on what to have for dinner.

    • TonyNZ says:

      Sorry to take an apparent monopoly on comments here, but I came across this video while, oddly enough, engaging in some heavy metal meditation and thought this the most appropriate place to share it.

      I wasn’t aware of the 57 states gaffe, though I must admit, I would know more about American politics than any of the people featured in this video.

      I’m sorry to say we’d probably receive similar answers from most of the electorate, regardless of party.

  6. Paul in MA says:

    I live in Massachusetts, which lately elected the well-heeled class warrior Elizabeth Warren (not with my vote!), who notoriously said very similar things in an angry speech before Obama said them at Roanoke.

    Suppose Obama’s “that” that you, some supplier of good, didn’t build, was intended to refer to the roads and bridges. (Ungrammatical number agreement, but let that pass.)

    Suppose they made your profits possible.

    Well still, so what? Why does this justify a special tax on you and your profits?

    Those who bought your product in uncoerced trade were beneficiaries too, of lower prices resulting from the easier transportation. Should they be taxed?

    Government maintenance of roads and bridges justifies tolls on the same, taxing the traffic, matching the costs as closely as possible to those who benefit. Let the truckers pay the tolls, let that be passed on in prices of the goods.

    Oh, I guess I just think too much to be a good Obama voter.

    If debates over the proper role of government ever boil down to roads and bridges, I’ll be delighted.

  7. Gerard says:

    My father was a business man for most of his life. Did a lot of work for charities and still does to a degree while he battles Alzheimers. He was also what Americans would define as a liberal (perhaps centrist on economics). Mum would work in the public service as a teacher to help mitigate the risk of business. She could have made alot more of herself I suspect if they wern’t burdened by bringing up us kids. Indeed now that she is living off her own retirement savings has gone into business and doing well as her retirement savings mitigate all risk.

    They are hard working people. I’m hard working – but they and I don’t have an issue with social security. I was on it for 6 weeks after Uni. The Government paid for half my degree. They even paid me $5k per year to study once I prooved I could earn $20k while studying. I now give back to society paying alot of tax from working 2 jobs. I got glandular fever which lasted 2 years with tonsils that were shot. For what ever reason wasn’t covered by our public health system so my parents paid 3k for a tonsillectomy – I worked to pay them back. Was kinda annoyed that my parents tax had been spent on your Iraq war so Howard could negotiate a free trade agreement with Bush Jnr. When it could have been spent on health or the environment.

    What s**ts me is people who stay on welfare all their life. Both the Left and right came up with good ideas here. The left said lets split up public housing from communes into isolated housing where they will have to be integrated with other people of society…. The right said once you are on it for a long time… you need to work for it. Both of these things worked.

    Im extremely worried about all this stuff thats going on the US. I can only fathom that unlike other free world countries you can’t afford socialized health care like other free world countries because your burdened by being a super power.

    Keating was on the news only yesterday publicly saying that we need to strategically do what is good for Australia. He was saying Indonesia, and China are going to increase their economic clout and we have to tailor our foreign policy accordingly…… As a X Prime minister he and immense presence – and Hillary Clinton of whom is here now shot back the next morning. She was pissed off!

    In the next 50 years the differences between trading and foreign policy with Indonesia and China is going to make embarrassing comments from Bush Jnr calling us his “Sherrif” (way to go dumb s**t) , and manipulation us into Iraq wars seem like nothing.

    I think Australia’s economic future will be OK… our luck and pragmatism seems to keep us in shape…. But I don’t want to see the US go down economically or as a super power. We share the same values and overall we are bloody good mates… We are all part of the free world. We are good people of whom share for the most part common values – our differences in firearms etc are negligible. Only the arrogant would say looking at our two countries which is the most “free”.

    Uncertain times lay ahead for everyone….. For all the legitimate criticism you can lay on the Chinese – they have mastered efficiency with big government. They are highly pragmatic. They also have a bad human rights record.

    Im legitimately concerned.

    I sincerely doubt the Chinese have mastered efficiency with big government. I think they’ve mastered pushing production at all costs (ignoring any and all safety or environmental impacts) and stealing designs and other intellectual property.

    • TonyNZ says:

      The conclusion that the Chinese are doing something right is based on the assumption that high-output and perpetual growth are good things.

      I don’t think I need to explain why infinite exponential growth in a finite world is idiocy.

      Whether one values freedom above output is another story.

      But because almost nobody in the common media is willing to have a serious discussion about the sustainability of the current economic dogma, we find that all leaders are, if not pandering, at least being affected by the Chinese economy.

    • ThornInYourSide says:

      Since when have you been in favor of any safety or environmental regulations, Tom? That’s not very Libertarian of you.

      What exactly are you referring to, here? Where were safety and environmental regulations brought up in this post?

      • ThornInYourSide says:

        I am exactly referring to your reply, Tom. Here, I copied and pasted it for you.

        “I think they’ve [the Chinese] mastered pushing production at all costs (ignoring any and all safety or environmental impacts) ”

        Sounds like a Libertarian’s dream- a system where business can ignore all those pesky safety and environmental issues. Regulation is the means by which those issues are enforced. Are you suggesting there is another way to address it? You think that a 100% unregulated marketplace for anyone with money and power is going to have a happy ending for anyone except the top 1% corporate elite?

        What is it with small-time “Libertarians” like you? You’re not connected to giant corporations, you have nothing but delusions of grandeur that you might become a millionaire someday if only Democrats and Liberals would just get out of your way.

        You keep on responding to my posts this way Tom, like a petulant child denying reality. Acting like you can’t read what was posted in the very blog we are discussing. It’s tiresome.

        No, that’s not a libertarian’s dream, but of course you don’t actually know what libertarians believe. You decided you know what libertarians believe without ever cracking a book on libertarian ideas. The best way to avoid environment destruction is through enforcement of property rights — i.e., you’re not allowed to pollute my property. The worst environment damage occurs in states where property is all owned by “the people” — which means the government, which means government officials can now get rich by taking bribes to allow pollution to occur. You can’t bribe me to pollute my own land, but you can bribe a government official to pollute “the people’s” land.

        You are also clueless about who actually supports the regulatory state: often, it’s big business. You probably don’t have the intellectual capacity to grasp this, but big businesses often love having the state erect barriers to competition from small businesses. Onerous regulations are a great barrier … the big businesses can afford the lawyers and accountants to navigate those barriers, while their smaller competition can’t. As for the 1% you don’t want to see get any richer, federal deficits make many of them filthy rich. The Fed prints a check based on nothing to cover the deficit, the check is deposited in a major bank, which can now call it an asset and write loans against it, then collect interest — for doing paperwork. So your beloved government spending makes filthy rich banking families even richer.

        • TonyNZ says:

          Last time I checked China was a communist state.

          So firstly, Tom was only citing his reasoning why China’s apparent prosperity was not due to big government and I don’t recall him saying we should shift to the Chinese model.

          Secondly and, perhaps, more importantly, the Chinese growth is from the government forcing it’s people to embark on a course of action that they wouldn’t otherwise (i.e. coercion). They are promised benefits if they comply and are punished if they do not. This is the opposite of libertarianism and, whilst it is not sufficient to say that this is proof that a libertarian government would reduce environmental impact, it certainly doesn’t show that libertarianism harms the environment.

          So if only big government in China was regulating big government in China to stop big Government in China from causing all the environmental and societal harm that big government in China is causing…China obviously needs a bigger government.

          There you go being logical. That won’t sink in with big-government leftists.

  8. ThornInYourSide says:

    2 months and no new blog posts? That’s kind of lazy.

    Since I’ve been working full-time, creating a web site for a client on the side and producing a follow-up to Fat Head, I don’t think laziness figures into it.

  9. Lance says:

    Tom, I love “Fat Head” and I’m deeply inspired to change my way of eating and dig deeper. I also love your political view point and your writing style. Kudos my friend!

    Thank you, Lance.

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