Who Built America?

Dear Commons Community,

The Republican convention yesterday featured Republican governors from key swing states who bashed  President Obama and urged voters to chose a new leader to restore confidence and hope.

The consistent message in all four speeches:   Mr. Obama has put forth policies encouraging Americans to rely on the government. The rhetoric reinforced the GOP’s theme this first full night of the convention: “We built it.”

The “we built it” theme is a reference to a remark President Obama made at a rally in Virginia last month where he said, “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help,” adding “you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” The comment appeared to reference roads and bridges, though Republicans have taken it to mean the president was saying people did not build their businesses.

In his column today, Nicholas Kristoph explores the “We built it” theme:

“Obama’s point about our shared undertaking or building was made by Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat running for Senate:

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody!” she said. “You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you all were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. …

“You built a factory, and it turned into something terrific or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

In short, taxes don’t just smother. They can also fuel growth — when they’re invested in highways or the Internet, in colleges or early childhood education.

Or for Romney himself. He built his Bain empire partly because he was smart and hard-working, but also because of a great education and because of tax breaks for debt financing. Tax loopholes helped him build his fortune, and other loopholes gave him the low tax rates to retain it.

If the Republican convention wishes to highlight and explain Romney’s success, it should have a moment of silence to honor our infernal tax code.

Who built this country? Entrepreneurs, yes. But so did schoolteachers and railway construction workers. Doctors and truckers. Scientists and soldiers. You didn’t build it, Mitt Romney — we all built it.”





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