The Romney campaign held another one of its “I Built This” events yesterday in Florida to draw public attention to Obama’s “didn’t build that” quote. One of the small business owners the Romney campaign showcased as an example of someone Obama had insulted was an owner of A.D. Morgan, a construction firm.
Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times did a little digging, however, and look what he found:
According to its website, A.D. Morgan — a construction firm — has received at least $150 million since 1999 for work on government buildings, prisons, schools and libraries. The figure represents only the total from the fraction of news releases that included a dollar figure. The company lists more than 130 projects that it has completed; nearly all of them are in the public sector.
As Adam Serwer remarked in another context, “Romney is having a hard time finding businesses that didn’t get any help from the government.” This example is particularly illustrative.
One of the owners of A.D. Morgan, Rebecca Smith, was unsparing in her criticism of Obama. “Our president seems to oppose the success of small business,” she said.
But what’s particularly notable is how Ms. Smith squared that criticism with the above facts when asked about them by the reporter:
“We benefit from the need for quality construction funded by taxpayer dollars,” Smith said.
Dave Weigel points out that this shows “people who work extraordinarily hard don’t want to think that the government’s helped them out.” I’d go a step further and point out that Ms. Smith’s own quote suggests that Obama is actually the one who is on her side. Obama believes that this kind of spending is a good idea because it creates work for companies like hers, at a time when demand is low and they are struggling. Romney doesn’t believe in increasing this kind of spending to accomplish this end. He wants to cut this kind of spending.
Yet somehow Romney is the one who is actually pulling for her success, while Obama is the one who is actively rooting for her to fail.
We can argue endlessly about that one line in Obama’s speech and what the larger context meant. But when you strip away all the noise, here’s what’s left behind: to argue that this kind of spending — and government in general — can help facilitate success does not degrade that success or demean the individual inititative and ingenuity that went into producing it. Romney needs to obscure this basic and obvious truth, which is why he and his surrogates continue to suggest Obama said that only government is responsible for your success, and you had nothing to do with it. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the entire argument being made right now by this major party presidential candidate is based on a complete fiction.