President Obama has taken a lot of heat from the Romney campaign and its conservative allies for his “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that” comment two weeks ago in Roanoke, Va. The presumptive Republican nominee cut a commercial in which a New Hampshire small-business owner took exception to the president’s words. “My father’s hands didn’t build this company? My hands didn’t build this company?” Jack Gilchrist, owner of Gilchrist Metal Fabricating Company, asks resentfully. “Through hard work and a little bit of luck, we built this business. Why are you demonizing us for it?”
But now comes reporting from the field that makes Mr. Gilchrist’s indignation about Mr. Obama’s remarks seem a bit hypocritical.
Mr. Obama was not suggesting that people like the Gilchrists did not create their businesses, only that they had some help in the effort. Here is exactly what he 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.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.
You can watch the entire speech here or read it here and judge for yourself.
Based on the Romney commercial, it might sound as if Mr. Gilchrist is one of those Ayn Rand-styled individualists who don’t actually need all of the things that many others rely on government for. Except that it turns out he’s not. On Monday, The New Hampshire Union-Leader reported that Mr. Gilchrist had received a lot of government help over the years: $800,000 in tax-exempt bonds from the state of New Hampshire, a nearly $500,000 loan guaranteed by the Small Business Administration, federally financed trade adjustment assistance and even nearly $90,000 in military contracts since 2008.
Read more: New York Times