The PJ Tatler

Rep. Ryan Rips Obama for his Comment That ‘If You’ve Got a Business — You Didn’t Build That...'

Rep. Paul Ryan sat down with AEI’s Jim Pethokoukis and gave President Barack Obama a verbal tongue lashing for his recent comments about entrepreneurs.

Lest we forget, here’s what Obama said 2 days ago:


There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. 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.

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.

Ryan told Pethokoukis that he didn’t believe the president actually said those things at first. He thought that someone must “have been putting words in the president’s mouth.”

But in these extended excerpts, Ryan counters the president’s limited understanding of wealth creators in a “free community”:

Every now and then, he pierces the veil. He’s usually pretty coy about his ideology, but he lets the veil slip from time to time. … His straw man argument is this ridiculous caricature where he’s trying to say if you want any security in life, you stick with me. If you go with these Republicans, they’re going to feed you to the wolves because they believe in some Hobbesian state of nature, and it’s one or the other which is complete bunk, absolutely ridiculous. But it seems to be the only way he thinks he can make his case. He’s deluded himself into thinking that his so-called enemies are these crazy individualists who believe in some dog-eat-dog society when what he’s really doing is basically attacking people like entrepreneurs and stacking up a list of scapegoats to blame for his failures.

His comments seem to derive from a naive vision of a government-centered society and a government-directed economy. It stems from an idea that the nucleus of society and the economy is government not the people. … It is antithetical to the American idea. We believe in free communities, and this is a statist attack on free communities. … As all of his big government spending programs fail to restore jobs and growth, he seems to be retreating into a statist vision of government direction and control of a free society that looks backward to the failed ideologies of the 20th century.


Those of us who are conservative believe in government, we just believe government has limits. We want government to do what it does well and respect its limits so civil society and families can flourish on their own and do well and achieve their potential.

How does building roads and bridge justify Obamacare? If you like the GI Bill therefore we must go along with socialized medicine. It’s a strange leap that he takes. … To me it’s the laziest form of a debate to affix views to your opponent that they do not have so you can demonize them and defeat them and win the debate by default.


Ryan’s description of Obama’s strawman arguments about who is opposing him is spot on. In order for Obama’s policies to be seen as he sees them, one must create a bogeyman who believes in “social Darwinism” and is selfish, cruel and unwilling to pay their “fair share” in taxes. How much of it is deliberate obfuscation and how much is sincere doesn’t really matter. It is a community organizer’s view of economics and society — naive, ignorant, with a shallow understanding of rote generalizations about how wealth is created.

Rep. Ryan is apparently on Romney’s short list of Veep candidates. There are few people in elected office who speak so articulately and passionately about the free market and capitalism. There are also few people who understand our entitlement problem as well and are willing to offer solutions — controversial or otherwise.

Romney could do a lot worse if he chose Ryan as his running mate.

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