Posts tagged “success”

You Didn't Build That

July 18, 2012   9:19 pm

I enjoy economics. I’ve enjoyed studying theory, debating with others, and when I had to choose an elective for my degree a few years ago, my economics class was among my favorites. I also enjoy how sound economic policy squares with my world and political views; it’s quite the harmonious union. The run-up to the presidential election every four years, though, is a painful time for those of us who have looked at the numbers and believe that the free market gives the best possible outcome. There are always the fringe or down-ballot candidates, like Fauxcahontas of the North, who are way out in left field. Over this past weekend, though, this lunacy came out right at the top of the ticket.

The transcript for the video clip is below; if you want to watch it for yourself, you can see it in this article. (I tried to embed it, but I couldn’t make it look right.)

We created a lot of millionaires; and, you know, there a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me - "cause they want to give something back. They know they didn’t… 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, “Wow, 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 hard-workin’ 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 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.

Let’s get the “you didn’t build that” thing out of the way up front. There is a case to be made that the “that” refers to the roads and bridges, not to the business that was build. Neither reading of it changes what I believe is the real issue with these words, though if “that” is the business, it only confirms my analysis. And, although it is tempting to go to snark with this (“We created a lot of millionaires.” Yeah, but you started with billionaires!), that won’t be productive; I’ll try to keep that to a minimum.

We will start with the millionaire line, though. Who is the royal “we” he is talking about? His administration? America? From his other speeches, and the context later in this one, he is likely referring to the government. So, the government created millionaires? If we take that at face value, and your net worth is less than a million dollars, why didn’t the government pick you to be a millionaire? This illustrates the lack of substance in that statement. America, as a nation, has seen many people attain a net worth of one million dollars or more; but, to say she created it is a different thing altogether. It was definitely not the government who created them!

But, this flows into the point of the speech. American government, by creating roads and bridges, maintaining an educational system, and developing technology, created the environment in which such success could occur. On this point, I agree. Building out infrastructure led to expansion of our nation, and as families are spread across the nation, and commerce is transacted around the globe, infrastructure needs to be maintained and upgraded. Where the government has a vested interest in that infrastructure, they should be involved at the appropriate level.

Where this goes astray is the next logical step people like our 44th President want to take from that. The next step - well, it’s right there in his speech, that horrid phrase “give back.” (I’ve written about that before, though I don’t think I’ve dedicated an entire post to it. Great, another post for the draft pile.) Implicit in that phrase is that the entity that should “give back” did not earn or deserve what they have acquired, or that they got it for free. That’s not the way businesses work (which he would know had he ever… aw, darn, that snark is hard to hold back). Business owners:

Now, if we look at that list, it backs up the “you didn’t get there by yourself” line. Who all do we see in that list above? Employees, designers, architects, lawyers, accountants, human resources, communications, logistics, and investors would be a quick list. These are the people who “gave you some help.” But, did they give you the help? Very few people involved gave their help. The materials were not given, they were purchased; employees did not volunteer, they were paid; communications and logistics didn’t “spot” the business free service, they charged this business their going rate for those services.

No, I am not picking at words - this phrase was chosen precisely because of its meaning. If a business owner does all of the above, and ends up with less than $250,000, they won’t raise the liberal’s ire. However, if they end up with $10M, they must have ripped off someone to get that, so we get this “give back” nonsense. Never mind that they contracted with each employee or service provider for a price agreeable to them, and they contracted with their customer to provide the good or service at a price that was agreeable to them. Never mind, too, that they were the last to get paid; before they saw any money, they took care of the government (taxes), then employees (payroll), then contracted costs (business-to-business, professional support, etc.), and then maintaining inventory/training (keeping the business sustainable).

“But what about teachers? Don’t they count?” Well, what about them? They contracted with the government or a private institution to teach for a given amount of money. Teachers don’t work for free either; just because their paycheck comes from the government doesn’t make their efforts any more or less valuable.

At various points in my educational career, I had to study different companies. I also worked to type others’ research papers at one point, and got to see a lot more interesting things about many different companies. Nearly all large companies have benefits like continuing education or charitable contributions (including skimming off the top for United Way). They offer matching retirement account contributions. They sponsor volunteer events in the community. When you look at the owners of these companies, you find contributions to charities, churches, and foundations. If that isn’t “giving back,” what is it? (As an aside, I much prefer the phrase “pass it on;” it’s a conduit, not the Dead Sea.)

It is class warfare. By definition, the middle class is in the middle. They are employees, not owners. They get a paycheck. They volunteer at their school, their church, or other civic organizations. They go on vacations every so often, and they have fun playing with their kids. They are not being ripped off; they are living a comfortable life (particularly when contrasted with the rest of the world) because of the fruits of their labor. But, to hear this speech, you’d think our country was filled with a bunch of greedy, evil business owners, ripping off the public to accumulate great wealth to their own exclusive use. (Yes, there have been those, and they have rightly come to legal, and sometimes even physical, consequences. The presence of abusers does not nullify the principle.)

Sure, there are a lot of hard-working people; not nearly as many as there used to be, but they are there. However, if you work really hard at an unsuccessful venture, you are not going to be more successful; you may delay the failure of the effort, but it will come around. No one on the right is saying that people aren’t working hard; it is the left who are saying that those who are successful did not.

Now, let’s take a look at that famous line - “you didn’t build that.” If the “that” is the business - well, I think the above pretty much covers that. If the “that” is the roads and bridges, though, then yes, he’s probably right. However, did the bridge cause the business owner to succeed? If so, then what about the guy living under the bridge - did the bridge cause him to fail? If the bridge has some magical economic power, we must recognize that its power affects different people in different ways. Government is no less infallible than business (in fact, it’s usually more fallibl… sit down, snark boy); if government is to be credited with all these “millionaires we created,” it must be blamed for those below the poverty line. The only time it’s blamed for that is when there’s a Republican in the White House, though.

The Internet - ah yes, that powerful conduit that enables greater middle-class rip-offs than ever before. The Internet was developed by DARPA. Care to venture a guess as to what the D in that acronym stands for? Defense. Yes, the Internet grew out of a defense research project. Just as NASA isn’t all about space, defense isn’t just about guns and bombs. The very department that Obama wants to gut is the one that gave us the Internet. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

So - if you built a business, you didn’t build it on your own; but, that doesn’t mean you ripped off those who helped you build it. Rather, your building of a business created a better life for those helped you build it. Maybe our next president will understand that; hopefully it won’t take him 4 years to get here.

The Cain Train - All Aboard!

September 29, 2011   1:31 pm

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I support Herman Cain as the Republican nominee for president in 2012. With his recent victory in a Florida straw poll and passing both Rick Perry and Mitt Romney in a recent Zogby poll, he’s certainly on the rise, and going to be a player in this Republican primary season. However, if you watch the news or listen to the traditional pundits, you’d think that this is a 2-man race between Romney and Perry!

Herman Cain and his wife, smiling and embracing while both looking at the camera

The Cain Administration filled the role
of First Lady 43 years ago

There have been some other “flashes” in the primary season so far, but each of them occurred after the candidate announced. Cain was one of the first declared candidates, and every time he talks, his numbers go up. One of the complaints many of us had in 2008 was that we felt that John McCain was selected by the media rather than elected by the people. “He’s electable,” they said, “unlike these other guys…” To an extent, this is the prevailing narrative surrounding Perry and Romney; the former isn’t electable, while the latter is.

The media doesn’t want to acknowledge Cain, because he causes some problems in their view of the way politics in America works. (If the name wasn’t already taken, maybe we’d call them “inconvenient truths”…) Let’s take a look at these; rather than liabilities, these are strengths that will not only force conversation on these issues, but areas in which he resonates with the average American.

1. He’s black

As a Democrat, this is a plus; as a Republican, this must mean that there’s something wrong! (Yet we’re the ones who are called racists - go figure.) Republicans have been pilloried as racists (or worse) for not supporting various Democrat candidates over the years - Jesse Jackson, Geraldine Ferraro, Barack Obama - with claims that we didn’t support them because they were black or female. Why the “impartial” media amplifies these ridiculous claim is probably a bigger topic than we have time for here, but they are willing accomplices in painting the party of Lincoln as racists. Only in the affirmative-action-addled mind is one’s race or gender a plus (if you’re a minority) or minus (if you’re a white male).

The media simply cannot abide a black man with a broad base of Republican support. I honestly believe that their minds are so steeped in their fantasy view of the world that they can’t wrap their minds around this. This is a plus for him; his story of challenge-to-success is both authentic and inspiring. There was great celebration around Obama’s election, which proved that racism was over; a week later, we started with the stories about how he was in danger because these racists wouldn’t accept a black president. There is no appeasing these race-accusers; refuting their claims via our actions is the only thing that will may silence them.

2. He’s successful

This blows up the media narrative as well. He isn’t a low-to-medium-performing “diversity” hire (hired solely for his skin color), he has used his own education and work ethic to rise to the top. Through his two turnaround-CEO roles and his leadership of the National Restaurant Association, he has shown that you can get tangible results if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and do some hard work. While our current president was fomenting and organizing rage against the establishment (you do know what a “community organizer” does, right?), Herman Cain was working hard, making his businesses profitable, and stimulating both the national economy and the personal economies of his company’s employees.

We should have known what we were in for, starting with the “present” votes in the Senate. Then, on to the ridiculously-named “Office of the President-Elect” (it’s called a “transition team”), the job-killing health insurance mandate, two stimulus plans (plus an attempted third in the name of jobs) - I’m hard-pressed to think of a single program that the current administration has attempted that has actually made things better. It’s time for a leader with proven results.

3. He’s electable

I think that the media doesn’t know what that word means. Bob Dole and John McCain? Electable. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush? Unelectable. Yeah, that must be in some AP style guide somewhere, that mandates the opposite use of that word. Maybe it’s like with your kids, where they don’t seem to hear the words “not” and “don’t,” choosing instead to do whatever it is you just prohibited.

This narrative on electability is just laughable. The media cannot see through their bias to understand what the average American actually wants. They want jobs. They want to be successful. They want to see their neighbors successful. They want to be able to make decisions for their family without the interference of a heavy-handed government. This is exactly what Herman Cain brings to the table, and stands in stark contrast to the current administration.

So - if you’re expecting the “news” to inform you on Herman Cain, you’re going to be waiting a while. If you think I’m off-base, research him and see for yourself. If you agree that the above sounds good, let’s get together and work to make sure that Cain’s success is so huge that even MSNBC can’t ignore it!

UPDATE: Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article called “Taking Cain Seriously.” It summarizes Cain’s qualifications quite nicely.

Happy Thanksgiving 2008

November 27, 2008   11:02 pm

Happy Thanksgiving to all who may pass this way.

Over at Taxes, Stupidity, and Death, there’s a post today called “Have Another Helping of Idiotic with That Turkey?” It’s a very good dissection of a Thanksgiving editorial, summed up by this quote.

Nearly everything Americans have to be thankful for has hurt someone else along the way.

This person clearly has Thanksgiving mixed up. Thanksgiving was (and is) a day to thank God for His providence, provision, and protection. Every one of us is alive and breathing in the freest country on the planet. Every one of us has probably eaten better today than a lot of families eat in a week. Every one of us are in a climate-controlled environment, and will likely sleep on a soft bed (until we get up before the sun to go snag those door-buster specials).

I know some of the things this person was talking about. Some of them were true, some were not, but yes, we as a nation have made some mistakes. Today, though, is not the day for a history lesson. “Oh, you’re happy? Let me see if I can change it.” It’s arrogant, condescending, and completely in bad taste. This guy reminds me of “Debbie Downer” from Saturday Night Live. In fact, there was actually a Debbie Downer skit about Thanksgiving.

My favorite exchange…

Horatio Sanz: Any of you think that the Pilgrims brought a bottle of Pinot Grigio to the first Thanksgiving?

Debbie Downer: I’ll tell you what the Pilgrims did bring - smallpox.

American success does not equal others’ failures. America’s formula for success is available to any nation to try - freedom, with the realization that everything is either directly from God or allowed by God. Not everything in life is enjoyable, or even good - that’s the nature of life. I, for one, am not going to let this “Debbie Downer” ruin my Thanksgiving. In fact, I truly feel sorry for someone for whom this sort of thing is what comes to mind when a holiday rolls around.