BY: Peter Kirsanow
“If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
Easily one of the most insulting phrases uttered by President Obama or any president, it denigrates individual American spirit, ambition,drive, skill and industriousness.
Most Americans know several people whose personal stories render Obama’s statement an embarrassment. A businessman I knew well came to America as a young adult after WWII, having escaped the Soviet NKVD. He arrived without a proverbial penny in his pocket. He took no financial assistance whatsoever from any state actor (admittedly, President Obama, he did walk on government pavement to look for a job) and was grateful to find a backbreaking job at a steel mill in Cleveland, Ohio. He worked double shifts, including weekends, and took no vacations for years until he had saved enough money to buy a tiny, decrepit, drive-in restaurant that he refurbished with his own hands. He did so without any SBA loans or any other form of government assistance.
His wife, son, and daughter all worked in the restaurant. The hours were long and business was painfully slow for years. When school wasn’t in session, the kids worked in the restaurant from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. When the place closed for the night, cleaning and maintenance took another hour. Then the family tallied receipts by hand (they couldn’t spare the expense of an adding machine) at the kitchen table for a while longer. Seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.
The man paid taxes for all of the infrastructure President Obama referred to in his Roanoke address. These things weren’t provided for free. And when business started to pick up he began to hire other employees — and paid taxes on them. He never sought assistance from any government agency, but was burdened by the mandates of a few .
He made payroll and paid all of his bills on time — sweating many an anxious deadline. Quitting his job at the steel mill had been a risk, one that could easily have been financially ruinous, one that some of his fellow steelworkers believed foolhardy.
The man was able to send his son to an Ivy League school without any government assistance. And the son’s graduation was one of the proudest days in the man’s harsh and strenuous life.
But here’s what President Obama doesn’t get: It wasn’t the infrastructure, or teachers, or government services — as essential as they may be — that made the man a modest success. After all, those things were provided (albeit in most cases of inferior quality) in the brutally repressive country from which he’d escaped. The Soviet Union had infrastructure and government programs galore, along with considerable misery and failure.
No, what permitted the man to become a success was the freedom afforded by the United States of America; the opportunity to use his native skills and determination — without undue government interference — to make a life for himself and his family. Were he alive today, he’d work furiously to ensure those freedoms aren’t eroded any further.