Saturday, August 4, 2012

I did TOO build this Blog Post

Surely you've seen this photo by now. It's the latest in the back-and-forth between the liberals and conservatives over Obama's "You didn't build that" gaffe.

And it WAS a gaffe. Not that he didn't mean to say it, cause he did. But because he didn't make his actual message clear enough through the entire speech that it couldn't be edited and misinterpreted.
What he said, or meant to say, was that everyone, including business owners, benefits from the infrastructure set up by various facets of the government, and paid for with taxes. Roads, electricity, police and firemen, all the things pointed out in the photo. And that's entirely accurate.

His error was, as Daffy Duck described it, was "Pronoun Trouble". He talked about all the infrastructure, even casting the net so far as to include the support or inspiration of a teacher when you were young. He then said "So if you have a business, you didn't build that" - the "That" being the aforementioned infrastructure. And that made it too easy for his opponents to just grab that sentence and spin it as they have.

Elizabeth Warren made a similar speech some months back, and got the same message across FAR better than the President did. She made the point that a company benefits from the infrastructure that a functioning government creates and maintains, and as such, a company has a responsibility to pay taxes to contribute to both the upkeep and improvement of said infrastructure, both so it will be there for him, and the next generation.

And so we get signs like this across the country. And we get ads including businessmen talking about how DARE the President say he didn't build his company, only to have it revealed that said businesses accepted grants from the government to help their business along. And so there's lots of finger pointing and laughing.

The actual case, as it usually does, lies somewhere in the middle. A company IS built by the guy that starts it, and works at it, and puts in the hours. But it's built on the foundation set up by the government, and using tools and services it provides and maintains. On the conservative side, they're trying to spin that infrastructure as if it's just assumed; it just magically happened, and it provided no direct benefit at all. As a result, the responsibility to pay taxes (or certainly higher taxes) is fraudulent. And they're wrong. If that road, those power lines, the cell phone signal, the police patrols, etc weren't there, and they had to set them up themselves, starting a business would be an order of magnitude more difficult.

But on the liberal side, there are people trying to claim that it was far MORE of a player in the game than it was. Look at that photo again - SO many things are listed, it intends (as I perceive it) to get across the point that the business owner's contribution is almost ancillary. In short, even though such point was not the President's intent, his supporters feel the need to show that if he HAD meant that, he would STILL have been right.

There was a news puff piece on the Huff Post a week or two back where the President got booed for his choice in Girl Scout Cookies. A Girl Scout got on the mic at a Town Hall meeting and asked him his favorite type of GS Cookie. He went with Thin Mint, and one guy in the audience booed. Everybody laughed. It was funny. Nobody seriously tried to claim that the President was in some way evil for liking Thin Mint Cookies. But the writer saw the need to research the matter, and found poll data that showed that the Thin Mint cookie was the most popular. So even in a case like that, the need to support the President was unstoppable. I do not recall this much need to back a President, ever.

There's another very subtle things happening here. The Conservatives are arguing they made their business single-handed, the Liberals argue the Government had a far bigger hand than it deserves, but there's someone who DID have a far more direct hand in the business' success that isn't getting discussed at all.

The employees.

Hands up, who's surprised?

1 comment:

  1. Vinnie I've been tumbling over in my mind how best to answer this. For years I co-managed an APA dealing with politics and current events. I had hoped to create a sort of "salon" where different viewpoints could be discussed. But everything quickly fell into partisan lines, and no ground was gained or yielded on either side.

    And this was in the days before the Internet. Now the polarization of people has accelerated. Each side now has the power to produce statistics that will firmly back their point of view. Context has replaced facts, and people are no longer searching for truth as much as they are searching for people who agree with their beliefs. And if facts are no longer important, then vital elements (such as The Employees) are sacrificed in the blind rush to justify a particular political or social position. Even more tragic, I feel this situation will continue to grow . . . and the only cure will be the scars left by an event so catastrophic and traumatic that I shy away from contemplating what form it will take.