you didn’t build that.

So the President gave a speech in which he used a modified form of Elizabeth Warren’s claims that “nobody builds a business alone”:

“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,” he said.

That one ticked me off when it made the rounds with my liberal friends on Facebook, but I held my tongue then. This time I feel compelled to add my two inflation-adjusted coppers.

Nobody who has any understanding about economics, taxation, and all the bureaucratic red tape choking business startups would ever make such a brain-dead claim. It sounds good on the surface to people with a particular mindset—that greedy plutocrats are helping themselves to public resources to build their own profit factories on the backs of everyone else—but it’s a load of bullshit, and it has nothing to do with the way things actually work in real life.

Let’s say Bob wants to build and open a restaurant, Bob’s Fried Opossum House. He has to first buy a plot of land. That means Bob is paying the real estate broker and the tax man. Then he needs all the necessary permissions and impact studies and health and safety and zoning inspections that come with building anything commercial anywhere, which means more fees and taxes to his local and state governments.

Once Bob has the red tape straightened out, he pays an architect to come up with a building design. Then he has to get that approved, which means more taxes and fees. Then Bob hires a construction company to put the thing together for him, a paving company to make a parking lot, an HVAC contractor to put in heat and air, another contractor to take care of the plumbing and sewage…you get the idea. Before the first bit of concrete is even poured, Bob has written out a lot of checks to a lot of people, and they all got to eat and pay their own taxes and mortgages from Bob’s business endeavor, all without assuming the risk that he has on his shoulders now.

Once the business is standing, Bob has to hire people to work for him. That means more paychecks, and more taxes: Bob’s share of his employees’ Social Security, Medicare, and so on. (Also their share plus their state and Federal income taxes, because they’re paying those out of the wages they got from Bob.)

By the time Bob’s Fried Opossum House finally opens its doors, a whole lot of people have gotten paid by Bob, and he has written a lot of tax and fee checks to government at all levels. Oh, and don’t forget that as a business owner, Bob gets to pre-pay his taxes on his expected income every quarter—something that should be a familiar to writers, a lot of whom file their freelance and fiction writing income taxes in the same fashion. And all the while, Bob has been working 100-hour weeks for a year and a half to get his Fried Opossum House off the ground.

Nobody builds a business alone, that’s true. But Bob didn’t make all those people work for free, and he didn’t make use of public resources without writing hefty tax checks for the privilege. Bob paid everyone, including his local, state, and federal government, before he even got to make his first dollar of profits. And Bob carries all the risk here. If his business tanks, his contractors aren’t going to return the money he gave them for their work, his employees aren’t going to give back their wages, and the government isn’t going to return the taxes and fees he paid. So why is it OK that when he’s successful enough to make a profit, some populist asshole politicians can stand up and say that “he hasn’t paid his fair share to society yet”?

There’s another thing that bothers me about the notion that just because Bob had his stuff delivered over a public road, and because Bob has hired publically-educated people for his business, that that somehow means that Bob owes society now. Like I said, Bob paid for the privilege—and suggesting that it’s not really his achievement because he used a resource which he’s been forced to subsidize all your life with taxes is tantamount to claiming that all business endeavors are therefore really a public accomplishment.

I think the only people who can say nonsense like that are those who have never started or run a business on their own, people who have eaten at the public trough all their lives and never had to deal with all the financial risk and the soul-crushing bureaucratic bullshit that comes with working for yourself.

25 thoughts on “you didn’t build that.

  1. I was going to write something up about this, but I just shared your post instead. You make a much better argument than I was going to, which was basically just the word “fuck” strung together a few hundred times (just like it sounded in my head).

    You know, I’m thinking ole’ BarryO is sensing his political mortality here. He’s generally careful to not actually come out and say how bloody-fucking liberal he is, all the while being the ultra-liberal most of us expected. For him to be dropping bombs like this, it’s really starting to look like the left is getting their version of ZOMGTEHGAYZBORTIONZ!! on. This year is going to suck. I’m glad I have Netflix.

  2. If that public road was instead owned by the local downtown business association, Bob would not have to worry about derelicts peeing on his front door … they can be trespassed and removed.

    And if his employees are all educated in private schools, they would probably be smarter, and less likely to be discipline problems.

    So, exactly how is public anything helping him?

  3. Great piece. It goes even deeper though — Bob probably has the money he needs to get the whole thing rolling out of his savings. Where’d that come from? Bob probably worked somewhere doing something productive for a long time PAYING TAXES THE WHOLE TIME on that income. And it was those taxes that bought and paid for the roads, schools, etc. And on that topic — what of all those who pay no taxes? How could Bob possibly owe them anything at all (even under the liberals’ twisted logic) since they had nothing to do with making the streets, providing education, etc etc?

  4. Yes, we are all dependent on the total system of society (public and private) to provide us a baseline to work on. Bob is going to have a much easier time making a profitable chain of gourmet Opossum restaurants here than he would have in the stone age, or in Somalia. But the system is going to start that restaurant for him, and the system isn’t going to give him his money back if it fails. That’s the difference.

    If I see farther it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants. But generally you have to climb up onto those shoulders yourself.

  5. Things like roads aren’t necessarily *built* by Gov.The-All-Powerful, but through it via Appropriations – which also includes a lot of free-riding crony-Socialism (Pelosi!), and crony-Capitalism (Murtha!) and just crony-Government folks who have nothing to do with anything but skim the money as it passes by – hey, maybe that’s where he get’s his inspiration.

  6. Another complex issue explained clearly and succintly. Actually Bob the restauranteur wouldn’t build the building, it would be Bob the Lessor, but the principle stands in perfect explanation. Thank you, Major Caudill!

    • @Windy Wilson: being a lessor or an owner would depend on how Bob’s business was set up. *Cha-ching!!* Fees to lawyers and accountants.

  7. The town my brother lives in has no bowling alley. Actually, it doesn’t even have a movie theater, or any other form of entertainment except bars and restaurants. The nearest bowling alley is 15 miles away. He wanted to open one, but when he tried, the city wanted $500,000 in impact fees. That is on top of licenses, property taxes, costs of construction, etc.
    Publix Supermarkets built a new grocery store in the same town, and was given a waiver on those fees. Government is very much for sale, deciding winners and losers, and the favors often go against the little guy.

  8. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen

    The only way in which this statement is even possibly true is that all successful businesses (well, ones that aren’t a complete political titsuck, like Solyndra) get to be successful by producing something that someone else wants, and them voluntarily buying it. So, no, a business doesn’t get built on its own, it gets built by trade.

    Fuck the president. Fuck him right in the ear.

  9. Reports have it that this speech was greeted with standing ovations. I think I have seen old grainy b&w movies of this kind of thing.

  10. Thanks for writing this!

    Our First Secretary, of the Union of United Soviet States, (of America) U.U.S.S.A… is letting his mask slip, or the special glasses are starting to work!!! (yes, a “They Live” Ref. LOL)

    When a commentator on “Hanity” last night said that this was indicative of Obama’s Socialist Agenda… the opposing liberal pundit barely bothered to disagree, Merely stating “Hurumph…that is how you will lose the election”. The left is not even bothering to hide or obfuscate anymore!

    Can we finally say it loud and clear…. one,two,three……. OBAMA “IS” A SOCIALIST!!! Say it once more, this time with feeling…. OBAMA “IS” A SOCIALIST!!! Now write that on your hand, tell a friend you heard it here first, and for God’s sake stop pretending the man is anything other then what he is…. to steal someone else’s thought…”The greatest antiseptic is sunlight”!!! Now explain to your slower friends what “Socialism” is, and why it is bad… Someone needs too!

  11. Imagine the brouhaha if Willard M. had said: “If you’ve got (welfare), you didn’t (earn) that. Somebody else made that happen.”

    The press would have a field day.

  12. I’ll agree with your post, except…I, for one, believe Zero knows exactly how business happens, and how things work. I believe he’s ginning up the “gimme” crowd and tarring business owners as the new “kulaks.”

    Of course, he could also be a clueless “marks-ist”. Not sure there’s a good alternative in those two choices.

    But anyway, this piece is an excellent post as an argument to the “gimme” crowd, unfortunately a good many of them likely think it was unfair Bob managed to save up enough to dream of the “Fried Possom Shack” anyways.

  13. I think I’ve seen the same old newsreels. Not just wild cheers. Lots of stiff waving with the right arms.

    • My God…. it really has come to THAT Point…. I have seen the old newsreals too….
      (as an aside my uncle has a war trophy nazi swastika flag that reportedly flew over the Reichstag… I have never felt such a personification of true evil as looking at that flag!) I am a history buff, and even I want to burn the damn thing! It defines the word malevolent!
      I am not a wierdo (I think) and have always laughed at the conspiracy nuts…. Of late…
      I am not laughing as loudly, or as much… maybe just a little nervous giggle…..
      If you can’t smell the evil…. you are likely not paying attention!

  14. I’ve referred a bunch of people to this post: most love it, the socialists hate it, and insist that ‘you just don’t understand that you can’t make it without-‘, etc. ad bullshit.

  15. Well said.

    Understandable by even the publicly educated masses that cheered the words Herr Zero uttered from the raised stage in front of them. I hope it was his ‘Joe the Plumber’ moment in this campaign and that it dogs him all the way out of the White House on Jan. 22nd, 2013.

  16. What about the guy who open’s Owen’s Fried Monkey Brains right across the street?
    Assuming nearly all factors (apart from the menu) are identical, who’s fault is it when owen tanks?
    Assuming, of course, that the Fried Monkey Brain market doesn’t just explode overnight turning him into an instant millionaire.
    He didn’t do it, so he can’t possibly be at fault, right?
    So it’s not fair for him to keep making payments for loans that he took out for his startup, right?
    Looks like everybody who’s ever failed at anything gets everything paid off by those who didn’t suck.

  17. Bravo! One of your finest.

    Greetings from the Free Republic of Tennessee. Hope you, the missus and the young’ns are well.

    …Mr. O

  18. I’d agree with all of the above, so long as you’re talking about the typical small business (which in your example you certainly are). And I do realize that small business provides a lot of the services we rely on, and jobs as well.

    But where I do think the lefties (or anti-corporatists, or pissed-off people generally) do have a point is when it comes to large corporations. I work for a company that own over half the hospitals in my state. When they want the government to pay for new and expanded infrastructure to pay for their business operations, or when they want to build a new hospital somewhere, they demand all kinds of breaks and freebies and grants – all on the basis that they are “an essential public service.”

    Then when they decide that it’s no longer profitable to deliver babies in such-and-such a town, and the women there will have to drive 60 miles to the nearest maternity hospital, all of the sudden they’re a private business which has the right to offer or discontinue services based solely on economics, just like any other business.

    Same thing with GM. Not so long ago, the people in charge of GM were making the case that no, they’re not in the car business, they’re a huge social services agency whose mission is to provide jobs, pensions, healthcarem and arts/humanities grants. And of course, as a community resource, they can’t be allowed to die out, but must be rescued by billions of taxpayer dollars.

    And don’t get me started on the gol-darned professional sports teams. Where in the capitalist model does it say that your place of business gets built on the taxpayers’ dime, and you get to collect all the revenues?

    So, yeah, as long as the business owner is fully subject to the risks and rewards of capitalism, and is bearing their own costs, I have no problem at all with capitalism. But that doesn’t seem to be the way “capitalsim” is practiced in the US any longer, at least not on the large scale.

    • What you describe is corporatism, which I oppose just as much. What we have in the United States isn’t capitalism anymore, it’s corporate cronyism, where the powerful corporations use the State for regulatory capture, taxpayer subsidies, and bailouts. That as much as anything else is a really good argument for reducing the power of the state over the economy, which is something I wish the 99-percenters would understand.