The first night of the Republican National Convention was adorned with a simple and straightforward message: “We built it.”
As its inspiration, the Republican Party turned time and again to one sound bite from a speech that President Obama made in Roanoke, Va., in which he claims that “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” The message was drilled into the head of every viewer.
It sounds like a pretty damning assault on entrepreneurs, right? That small business you worked so hard to create? You didn’t build that! Somebody else did. It seems the socialist, business-hating Obama has finally shown his true colors.
Or maybe it’s a statement taken out of context. At least, if you’re an independent fact-checker like Politifact.org or Factcheck.org, you would make that claim.
Or if you’re anyone who attended that speech or watched it uncut and in its entirety, rather than the version only with that sound bite played over and over again in the convention and in Mitt Romney’s advertising, you would probably come to a similar conclusion. For context, here is what the president really said:
“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. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”
GPS was invented by the Department of Defense. The Internet was created by DARPA. Memory foam was created by NASA. All these things that were later turned into consumer goods were initially developed by the government.
Beyond that, the roads and bridges, the airports and rail lines â€” the things that allowed us to achieve and realize the true lengths of our innovation â€” somehow had government involved. The government plans our cities, arbitrates disputes between corporations, provides tax incentives and helps businesses thrive.
Can you imagine owning a modern business without the Internet? Without the Interstate Highway System? Without airports? Without the centrality that government provides, can business truly thrive? Without the protection of our military, can business have a safe environment to operate?
Yes. The blood, sweat and tears of entrepreneurs build businesses, but the government’s role is not moot. It is important. Even if Mitt Romney wins the presidency, I hope he will realize that cutting back government support and government projects will not create jobs. Government may not be working now, but that is why we must fix it so that it will help us move our country forward.
Fearing the government or blaming it for our problems is what causes the trust deficit that Jon Huntsman has discussed numerous times during his presidential run. We must trust our institutions of power. And we must engage them as citizens to find solutions for the problems our country faces. Not cower from them and pretend that the only way to economic prosperity is to remove government from the equation.
To do so would be foolish and dangerous for our country, and for the millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans looking for an honest day’s work.
Vijay Reddy is a College senior from Fayetteville, Ga.