President Obama has been struggling to attack Bain, outsourcing and off-shoring while struggling to preserve the notion that the rest of the economy, the “good” parts, he likes. It’s nonsense, of course, because Bain helped many “good” parts of the economy grow, survive and prosper. And aside from Big Labor, most people understand we must acclimate ourselves to a globalized market.
But when he delivered up his “you didn’t build that” (whether it was the infrastructure or the small business itself to which he was referring) he revealed a level of resentment toward the private sector that was startling, even to his critics. (And by the way, small-business people helped pay for that infrastructure.) On CNBC Romney argued:
“The context is worse than the quote. This is an ideology which says, hey, we’re all the same here. We ought to take from all and give to one another. And that achievement, individual initiative and risk-taking and success are not to be rewarded as they were in the past. It’s a very strange and in some respects, foreign to the American experience type of philosophy. We have always been a nation that has celebrated success of various kinds.”
What is more, the entities that embody those characteristics are really popular. Over the last 10 years Gallup has found that more Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the military than any other institution. Next is small business. In June 2012, 75 percent of Americans had a great deal or lot of confidence in small business. The presidency had thumbs up from only 37 percent. Newspapers had a mere 25 percent in their corner.
So when Obama went off on his “you’re not so smart and other people work hard, too” rant, you had to wonder what in the world he was doing, attacking entrepreneurs. He sure picked exactly the wrong symbol to lash out at.
Coming right after weeks of Bain attacks, his remarks suggested he has issues with wealth creation in general.
Moreover, Obama’s own vision of the economy is receiving a thumbs down: “A record number of Americans express skepticism about the activist role of government Obama espouses; 61% say the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. That’s the highest number since Gallup began asking the question in 1992.”
No wonder Romney isn’t letting go. Obama might want to talk Bain, but Romney is talking to and about small-business owners. Yesterday in California he was at it again at an event with small-business people:
Romney reminded people attending a fundraiser in Irvine earlier in the day about Obama’s “build that” comment about businesses, which the GOP candidate turned into a web video and later a television ad that was pulled after the shooting took place at a movie theater outside of Denver early Friday morning. . . .
The small business owners did most of the talking during the 45-minute discussion and Romney did not bring up president’s “build that” comment, but the message was clear. Above Romney, the eight men and two women was a new campaign sign that read, “We did build it!”
He’s seeking safety in numbers and associating himself with the popularity of small-business owners. (“As the group discussed how government regulation and intervention hurts their enterprises, Romney talked about the importance of keeping taxes low for small businesses.”) The optics can’t get much better than that.
How did Obama get so cross-wise with public opinion and wind up at odds with one of the most popular institutions in America? Well, he became convinced he had to personally destroy Romney. He thereby let the anti-business assaults become the campaign. Meanwhile, his affection for government become a chip on his shoulder, prompting him to dare those private-sector wise guys to deny the centrality of government in their success. Yikes.
The Obama people argue simultaneously that he was taken out of context and that his denigration of individual effort is still valid. (“You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something – there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.”) A more skilled politician like Bill Clinton could pull that off, but Obama? I doubt it.
He better hope undecided voters aren’t paying so much attention. Otherwise, his anti-business animus could well be his undoing.