Who Built That?

By: hawkgrrrl
August 21, 2012

“If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

The implications of this little dust-up over a few little words is the crux of this election’s economic debate and perhaps the key differentiator between the two candidates.  Does it take a village to be successful or not?  How do we compensate the village for its support?  Do all business people merely stand on the shoulders of the community to create whatever they create?

I recently read a New Republic article that shed some light on this debate:

. . . in the original Obama speech . . . the list of helpers is artificially restricted to agents and achievements of the government. Obama talks of roads, bridges, the G.I. Bill, fire services, and the Internet. (Even within these examples he exaggerates the role of government. Fire services are often volunteers in the U.S. And while writing I heard Rush Limbaugh, drawing on Gordon Crovitz’s WSJ article, establish persuasively that it was corporate and individual innovators who put together the Internet from the disparate technical advances of government agencies that would otherwise have been devoted to much less important tasks.)

Fair enough so far.  Obama was primarily talking about the contributions that government makes to communities and thereby to citizens, including those that start up businesses.

The President’s speech specifically mentioned safety, education, transportation and the internet as enablers of business, all of which are things that our federal taxes go to support.  Of every dollar we pay in federal taxes, 1.3 cents goes to education, 2 cents to transportation, and one fifth of one cent to the national science foundation.  The department of defense garners nearly 19 cents of every federal tax dollar!  But safety initiatives that benefit small businesses directly (fire departments and police) are handled through state taxes and in the case of fire departments are staffed by volunteers.  And many businesses have to make significant investments in their own security departments or fireproofing because the safety provided by government is not sufficient to protect their investment.

But anyone who has built a business has relied for help far beyond government: on his workers, his investors, his suppliers, his banker, his neighbors (in bad times), and local branches of groups such as the Rotary, the Jaycees, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Junior League. The market, civil society, and government all play their part in making a business possible. But government is probably the least helpful of the three; its help comes at a heavy price in taxes and burdensome regulation; and its importance in helping businesses to succeed is trivial in comparison to the efforts of the actual business owner.

Another fair point.  Small business owners don’t necessarily see government as the enabler of their business success.  Government also inhibits them through licensing, taxation and regulation.  So, is government a “good parent” that develops educated and innovative citizens with access to an amazing infrastructure who then go out and build businesses?  Fifty percent of small businesses fail in the first year.  Is that the mark of a good support system?  Is the failure the fault of those small businesses themselves?  I would theorize those failures can be attributed to a variety of factors, just as the successes can.

Every U.S. citizen has government as a potential business partner, but somehow businesses do not spring out of the ground unless some individual or a few partners put in the “sweat equity” to start and sustain them.

While government maintains the infrastructure (roads, water, safety, legal system, anti-corruption) that makes us a first world rather than a third world country, government’s role remains mostly in the background.  The idea, the financial risk and the “sweat equity” is all up to the small business owner.  While we’re cherry picking contributors, small business couldn’t exist if our planet were in Mars’ orbit.  It’s similar to saying that someone only got ahead because of luck or because God gave them daily breath.

This difference of opinion was mostly about small businesses.  What about those of us who work at large corporations?  Many of these corporations were founded over a hundred years ago and have continued to evolve over time.  Government does still matter in terms of regulations to protect workers’ rights, to foster healthy trade agreements with other nations, and to prevent public endangerment.  Government’s involvement comes at a high price in taxes and the cost of inefficiency.

Often governmental involvement creates an unwarranted advantage or disadvantage to a specific industry or corporation.  When we talk about banks that were too big to fail, the failure was one of corporate greed, but also one of poor regulations.  Back to the government as parent analogy, sometimes a parent is too strict or arbitrary, and sometimes a parent is too permissive.  Does government really want to claim responsibility for building that?  Should government get equal credit for the failures as the successes?

Businesses are created when someone identifies a demand and has a fresh idea to create a supply to meet that demand; then they have to knuckle down and make it happen.  Who is paying for the business’s success?  Ultimately, customers.  Who benefits from it?  Ideally both the business owner and those that buy the product.  Whose idea is it?  The owner.  Who does the work?  Initially the owner, and eventually the workers they hire through the jobs they create.

Why does Obama overstate the role of government in small business success?  It’s simple.  To a hammer, everything is a nail.  Yes, infrastructure separates us from third world countries in terms of access to electricity, roads, clean drinking water, an educated workforce (if one is needed).  But, none of us built that.  We inherited it from our hard-working forebears.


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43 Responses to Who Built That?

  1. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 21, 2012 at 5:59 AM

    Regulation enables trust which makes markets work. Markets create prosperity. The size of markets has a huge impact on the ability of a person to make lots of money, as does its shape.

    Pop stars in the US make more than pop stars in Greece. Bigger market here.

    But pop stars in Russia make less than Greece it seems. More likely to go to jail.

    Lots of issues. Bottom line: it takes both. Disbelieve? Go to Albania.

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  2. Will on August 21, 2012 at 6:27 AM


    Great post and I would add we did not get 16 Trillion in general obligation debt (and an estimated 54 trillion in unfunded retirement) by providing fire, police and transportation. We are in hawk (no pun intended) due to massive entitlement program, debt service and military spending, with entitlements consuming 60 percent of the revenue collected.

    Anyone that was smart enough to follow your tax post and comments understands we cannot tax our way out of this mess, especially the tired, class envy plea to soak the rich.

    The solution. The only solution is to make massive cuts to entitlements. Either we have the courage to work together and cut them as painlessly as possible, or we continue on the current path of self destruction and WHEN the creditors say no more, we will be forced to make massive (at least 50 percent) cuts to those who depend on the government like they just had to in Greece.

    Of the two candidates that are running Romney is the only one willing to deal with reality. This is why I have donated to his campaign and this is why he will get my vote.

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  3. Jenn on August 21, 2012 at 6:36 AM

    I guess I don’t see it as just speaking of government infrastructure, but also the “little guy” too. We can’t be a society of nothing but independent CEOs- the vast majority of people in this country help build in much more subtle- but necessary- ways. I think Obama’s example of teachers is fantastic- we all benefited at some point because some noble soul decided to teach and change lives. When we lived on my husband’s teacher salary, we made just enough to not need any outside help, provided nothing big and unexpected went wrong. Then something big and unexpected went wrong, and we needed outside help.
    Now, we get to be on the contributing side: rather than needing aid, we can give it. But we would never have gotten here without parents who sacrificed, teachers who worked their butts off for little monetary reward, and yes, the people who currently run the infrastructure of our nation. And yes, we got here because of pell grants, tax returns, the bishop’s storehouse, loans from family… whether it’s the government, the church, or family, we definitely owe the world for helping us when we needed it, even if we worked our butts off and made good choices to get where we are (not to mention our cosmic good luck of being born into families where we could be well fed, well educated, and be provided with opportunities to get to where we are today).

    I’m very confused by your last paragraph. Yes, most of the infrastructure was set up by others, but it isn’t self-sustaining. Just because we “inherited” it doesn’t mean it doesn’t require people and money (and yes, government administration) to keep it running- people who often work less-than-fulfilling jobs and go unappreciated.

    I don’t think Obama is trying to claim equal credit for the building of a business. But I agree with him that none of us got where we are on our own- we are not independent islands, we all affect each other.

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  4. DeeAnn on August 21, 2012 at 7:28 AM

    Except that the government is putting less and less of that infrastructure in place because entitlement spending is so high. If you look at the budget, (See http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2013/assets/tables.pdf a go to table S-4) there is $2.1 TRILLION in entitlement spending (including medicare, social security and other entitlement programs)for 2012 and there was $2.5 trillion in tax receipts, leaving $400 million for military, infrastructure and other discretionary projects if one wants to balance the budget, which obviously will not happen. And now we have another huge entitlement, Obamacare, coming down the pike that will exceed cost estimates, as they always do. So what happens when the government “doesn’t” help you? Yes, taxes will have to go up, and if spending isn’t contained, they would have to go up by at least a third to balance the budget today.

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  5. Bonnie on August 21, 2012 at 8:09 AM

    Government works at the margins. It isn’t the driver of economies; it doesn’t control their growth or development; it can ONLY decide what we CANNOT do in terms of regulation. (I personally see government incentives also working at the margins – have you invested deeply in solar energy over the last decade?) This negative force is incredibly powerful, and incredibly necessary (as Stephen makes clear with a simple reference to another country.) Government provides roads and education and bureaucrats, all necessary to the management of the American enterprise, but of necessity the moon goddess of the pantheon.

    Welcome to being a stay-at-home Mom, Mr. Obama. What you do as a government is crucial, helpful, and protective at the margins. You are not the driver of the economic engine of the family but you can make a difference in how it runs. You set other priorities and discussions. Hopefully, you are working in tandem, in unity, with the economic driver of the nation. If you are truly sitting on the couch eating bon-bons, having lunch with other stay-at-home moms on Tuesdays to compare economies, and shopping for bling, you’re not exactly in a position to talk about the moralities of your marriage and your position within it.

    Ideally, government and business would work together and would not be crooked, either of them. But both government and business are individuals. As a biographical historian I see cultures shaped by people more often than people shaped by events. Individuals are the primary drivers (IMO) and cooperative individuals are the most powerful drivers. I don’t see Obama or big business cooperating very well, so I think the kids may have to stage a mutiny.

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  6. Cogs on August 21, 2012 at 8:14 AM

    It violates our American gospel of prosperity (of which certain strains of Mormon thought are subsets) admit that anybody but The Individual can be responsible for success. Not government, not society, certainly not luck or fortune –our gospel demands that we credit nothing but the Individual, or, if necessary, groups of Individuals (but never something as mushy or holistic as “a village”). To the extent we credit God we must properly contextualize His influence to emphasize that his providence was best exemplified by The Individual’s actions, thus maintaining the worship of Self. As an added bonus, this gospel compels us to deny that any forces beside The (perverted) Individual cause poverty, misfortune, or suffering, freeing us of the moral burden of asking society or government to rectify any problems.

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  7. SilverRain on August 21, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    If you take away the individual’s sense of accomplishment, their rewards for having worked, they lose the incentive to work. All the infrastructure in the world makes no difference if individuals aren’t willing to risk and work hard, if they don’t stand to gain something for it.

    Socialist Russia should have taught us that. Seriously, this doesn’t require a great deal of intelligence to grasp.

    Of course the infrastructure supports business. That is what the businesses pay it to do. Doing one’s basic job isn’t anything to crow about, particularly considering how inefficiently it is done.

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  8. Julia on August 21, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    Will #2 – I guess being smart enough to follow Hawks post, makes me stupid. Well done as a way to frame the debate as “intelligent” vs. “stupid.”

    I will only leave you with one “stupid question:” Would you be willing to live under the Paul Ryan budget?

    I value the education my children get through public school. (With slightly more than 50% of school not meeting the minimum standards under No Child Left Behind, how do you see cutting education resources as a help to the country?

    I like being about to get from my little mountain home to go shopping and church service when my body allows. We live about 3 city blocks from a main highway. Getting to the highway is the easy part, navigate the constantly changing pothole landscape can be dangerous. If the crews of city and state workers weren’t fixing pothole every day, we would be cut off from town during winter since it is much less expensive to fix them during the summer. Even more importantly, the hundreds of truck drivers, and the loads they carry would not make it to the people and businesses. How does drastically reducing federal funding and instead putting per gallon taxes, at the pump, helps who?

    I realize it is my stupidity, so forgive a dumb question because I am the truly dumbfounded.
    Why does it make sense to drastically cut and shred all government programs, except for military spending, which keeps go up?

    To my stupid eyes and ears sounds all these policies are in directly opposition to teachings of the Bible, Book of Mormon, and the other scriptures. Personally I would rather trim the fat and draw down to a much smaller military that is available, trained and ready, but not in actions outside our borders and those of our mutual compact allies.

    I am sure the answers are so obvious that a 4th grader in a conservative home would know them. Guess I am dumber than a 4th grader.

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  9. Jenn on August 21, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    “If you take away the individual’s sense of accomplishment, their rewards for having worked, they lose the incentive to work. All the infrastructure in the world makes no difference if individuals aren’t willing to risk and work hard, if they don’t stand to gain something for it.”
    This is what I completely don’t understand. Does it cheapen my sense of accomplishment to say I wouldn’t have gotten where I am without my parents, teachers, bosses, employees, opportunities…? Isn’t part of the goal of tithing to remind us that we owe all our wealth to God, anyways (go read Alma 26)? Apparently that humility doesn’t stick.

    If we asked Warren Buffet to pay 40% in taxes rather than 15%, would he suddenly lose his desire to make money? “Oh, 60% of millions of dollars just isn’t worth it, might as well stop contributing to the economy?” I just don’t see it.
    I like making more money than I used to. I like making enough money to be taxed at a decent rate. I am paying about 4 times the taxes I did 3 years ago at this time, and all I can think is “how wonderful that I can afford it!”
    I like the sense of accomplishment I get from knowing I contribute to roads and schools and yes, even (sometimes especially) entitlement programs. Of course I want to see reforms in how that money is spent. Boy, do I. But that is a separate conversation from simply admitting that I had help along the way.

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  10. Will on August 21, 2012 at 9:31 AM


    Wow, your response is quite defensive. I am simply saying the current tax code is extremely complicated and the discussion was pretty complicated. Some CPA’s can’t even follow what is or is not allowed. I have an accounting degree and admittedly I don’t understand all of the rules and regulations and stipulations. It is a mess — an absolute cluster that does not work.

    All I know for sure is that we cannot tax our way out of the mess. It is just not possible. We are in too deep – way too deep. The 16 Trillion in general obligation debt represents 72,137,060 homes at the median US home price of $221,800. It represents $119,402 per US Taxpayer and $238,805 per person that actually pays federal income tax. The bottom 50 percent do not pay federal income taxes, but are considered tax payers because they file a return. What’s worse is that it is getting worse not better. We borrow $3,120,000 every minute of every day, or $52,083 per second.

    So to answer your question, yes we need a budget. We have not had a federal budget since Obama took office. How can you balance a budget, if you don’t have one? Ryan’s plan is not perfect, but necessary. Like I said, we need to cut entitlements now so they don’t disappear complete. If we do not, we will face the situation that Greece is in and those that depend on the government will be the most heavily impacted. We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

    The items you cited are basic services which are necessary and did not cause the massive debt. Entitlements have. They are the problem. They need to be cut and reformed.

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  11. JimD on August 21, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    Julia, it’s not about whether one is “willing” to live under the Ryan budget or any balanced budget. It’s about whether there’s enough money out there to do everything that the federal government has been doing over the last half a century.

    The simple fact is, you could tax every American earning over $250K/year at 100%, and you still couldn’t balance the annual budget. This talk about the wealthy who ostensibly don’t pay their fair share is a red herring–the issue is first and foremost a spending problem, not a revenue problem. It really all boils down to that old SNL skit: Don’t buy stuff you can’t afford.

    People who can’t abide the Ryan budget (or something similar) are going to be into a nasty shock when the gravy train of entitlement spending arrives at the inevitable end of the line: default.

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  12. Jenn on August 21, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    The problem is the Ryan budget doesn’t just reduce entitlement, it reduces EVERYTHING- “For services such as education, law enforcement, water treatment, and disaster response, states would lose over $247 billion in federal funding from 2013-2021. The plan also would cut federal funding for state and local transportation and infrastructure projects by $194 billion through 2021.”
    State taxes may have to go up to deal with the cut in federal spending.

    Basically, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t lower federal tax rates, cut infrastructure, cut entitlement, and still expect to live in a functioning, successful society. I agree we need a massive shift in how we approach entitlements and budgets but I don’t think simply removing the money and not offering alternatives or stop-gaps is going to be successful.

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  13. Skyway on August 21, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    The Paul Ryan budget doesn’t actually lower the deficit until some magical time in the future. No, really. Not by a penny. He’s not a “deficit hawk”.

    “CBO’s March, 2012 baseline projects a deficit in 2022 of about 1.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product. Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity,” which became the framework for the House budget, brought the 2022 deficit down to exactly the same 1.2 percent. No difference in the top line.”


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  14. prometheus on August 21, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    A few thoughts:

    Will: “All I know for sure is that we cannot tax our way out of the mess. It is just not possible.
    … Entitlements have. They are the problem. They need to be cut and reformed.”

    Honestly, I agree that just throwing more money at the system isn’t going to work. If that were the case, the US would have one of the best health care systems in the world. The question that needs to be asked is, Why can other countries spend so much less and get so much more? Until there is a willingness to look around the world to see other solutions, and a willingness to wipe out the current system (which clearly isn’t working) and start over from the ground up, I just don’t see anything but collapse in the future. Is the political will there for that kind of radical change? I don’t know that it is.

    On a side note, I find it odd to hear health care and senior care called Entitlements. I wonder if that is reflective of the fundamental attitudes towards cooperation, collectivism and interdepence prevalent in the US as opposed to more socialist nations?

    Leading to this point:

    Jenn: “we are not independent islands, we all affect each other.”

    Rugged individualism is the American cliché – I did it myself with no help from anyone! It is highly lauded, esteemed and sought after, from my observations. The reality is, though, we all depend on each other to function in any kind of industrial society – it is too complex to be otherwise. By elevating the individual without recognizing the community, our mutual needs get ignored and then aren’t met.

    Of course, one can swing too far to the other side and sacrifice the individual entirely on the altar of the good of the community, which is not an ideal situation either.

    I think that a healthy dose of open mindedness would be so helpful as it would allow us to look at other ways of doing things without a kneejerk defensiveness. Finnish schools are one of my frequent rants – their whole attitude towards school, the way they implement education is simply fantastic. They spend less time, less money, and outperform all the rest of us. Why not learn from what they are doing? But that is a progressivist community-oriented attitude. Traditionalism and individualism just doesn’t lend itself well to this kind of borrowing and learning.

    SR: “If you take away the individual’s sense of accomplishment, their rewards for having worked, they lose the incentive to work.”

    I agree with this, but I think there are a lot of assumptions about what the sense of reward / accomplishment looks like, or comes from. Money is only one of many rewards. My idealist likes to think that we might someday move beyond money as being the primary reward. Blame Star Trek… :D

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  15. FireTag on August 21, 2012 at 10:42 AM


    You are correct that Ryan’s budget takes decades (plural) to achieve balance. Yet, he is tarred in the mainstream press as the embodiment of evil. True “deficit hawks”, as you would seem to define them, are NOT ELECTABLE because of the well-intentioned liberals whose desire to do good exceeds their training in how the economy actually works, and selfish elites who understand perfectly well what is happening but believe they can personally escape what’s coming if they can keep everyone else from figuring it out for a while longer.

    The person telling you to get prepared is your friend. The person telling you to stay in your cabin, everything is fine, and we can go on with business as usual is quite possibly preparing to abandon you to your fate.

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  16. FireTag on August 21, 2012 at 10:54 AM


    I think there is less an objection on the American right (at least on the center-right) with the notion of individual vs. community than with the notion that community = government (and particularly, an objection that government = the president, but that’s another discussion).

    We view ourselves as the rulers of our government, and not as ruled by our government. That’s what happens when democracy is successfully imposed on a king even if you are working to perfect that democracy a quarter of a millenium later.

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  17. CEF on August 21, 2012 at 11:08 AM

    I thought this was a fun article.

    The tax system explained in beer.

    When pondering the question of mining super taxes and the structure of our tax system in general please refer to this explanation using the language of Beer!!

    Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100.

    If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this;

    The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
    The fifth would pay $1
    The sixth would pay $3
    The seventh would pay $7
    The eighth would pay $12
    The ninth would pay $18
    The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59

    So, that’s what they decided to do.

    The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve ball.

    “Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20″. Drinks for the ten men would now cost just $80.

    The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes.

    So the first four men were unaffected.

    They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men – the paying customers?

    How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share?

    They realised that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.

    So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by a higher percentage the poorer he was, to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using, and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay.

    And so the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% saving).

    The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% saving).
    The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% saving).
    The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% saving).
    The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% saving).
    The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% saving).

    Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings.

    “I only got a dollar out of the $20 saving,” declared the sixth man.

    He pointed to the tenth man, “but he got $10!”

    “Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a dollar too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me!”

    “That’s true!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $10 back, when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!”

    “Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “we didn’t get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!”

    The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

    The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

    And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our tax system works.

    The people who already pay the highest taxes will naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction.

    Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore.

    In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

    David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.
    Professor of Economics.

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  18. Will on August 21, 2012 at 11:10 AM


    The United States was established by God to provide freedom and liberty to the world. He setup the United States so that he could restore his gospel on the earth – a country that allows the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, the freedom to define one’s own destiny. More importantly, a nation that has the wealth and might to defend the world against the evils of lucifer — communism, fascism and other imperial empires that stomp on human rights and prevent God from bringing to pass the eternal life of man.

    Canada, where you live and where I have lived as well, is a great place. It is a great country, but it would not be around without the United States. Nor would England, France, Italy, Australia or any other free nation on earth. Because of the United States, Germany’s aggression in the first two world wars was stopped. We also stopped Japan’s naked aggression. We stopped, to a lesser extent China’s aggression in Vietnam and Korea. We also stopped the real threat presented by communist Russia; and, the current threat by Islam, who have been at war since Issac’s condemnation of Esau’s posterity ‘by thy sword, shall thou live all the days of thy life’.

    The United States lost a lot of blood and treasure keeping peace in the world – a lot. I am not saying other countries did not help, but if it weren’t for the US, we’d all be speaking German and there would be no gays, women’s rights, blacks, Jews, Mormons, Hispanics and on and on and on. They would have killed them all. We would have a world of blonde hair, blue-eyed Germans.

    A lot of treasure. A lot. A whole lot. Personally, if I were in charge I would send all the nations of the world a bill for protection. Money we could use to solve some of our domestic problems. This would also curb some of the criticism we receive from citizens of these nations when they are footing the bill for their own protection. Perhaps they would look to the US with more gratitude.

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  19. Jenn on August 21, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    We could take the analogy all sorts of directions.
    My problem with the analogy comes in around this line: “The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement”. You forget the part where the tenth man says “why do I have to pay more than anyone else for the same beer? It’s not fair!” The rich would never agree to that system, everyone would pay their own way, and soon the 10th man finds himself drinking beer by himself.
    You also leave out the steps where the tenth man lobbies with the bar to charge him less for beer, or give him more beer than everyone else. The poorer men don’t have the same influence with the bartender, and soon, to make up for giving the rich man a higher quality beer, the poor men get lower quality beer. That’s fine- after all, they’re not paying, right? Except they soon find it isn’t worth coming to the bar for the gross cheap beer, and once again, the 10th man finds himself drinking beer by himself.

    Having the system favor the wealthy man sounds fair and reasonable- it’s just that the question soon becomes: does the tenth man get the same enjoyment out of going to the bar if none of his friends are there?

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  20. Skyway on August 21, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    Thee are many types of taxes. There’s state, local, Payroll, sales, and income tax. The 47% of people don’t pay tax line is incorrect because it is only true for a single type of tax — income tax. If you add in payroll tax, the number of people that don’t pay is 17% and they are almost all elderly, disabled, students, or people temporarily down on their luck.

    State and local taxes are regressive, with the poor paying a greater percent of their income than the rich.

    To discuss taxes, we should start by understanding the actual statistics.


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  21. Jenn on August 21, 2012 at 12:16 PM

    I have a really hard time telling if Will is being purposefully satirical or not.

    The US is single-handedly responsible for bringing about God’s will?

    If it weren’t for France coming to our military aid during the revolutionary war, or Holland coming to our financial aid, we’d all still speaking with an English accent. If it weren’t for England and the other Europe colonists, we wouldn’t even be here.
    If it weren’t for Russia, France and England, we would never have gotten out of World War 2- which we only got involved in after it came to our own soil in pearl harbor. Russia gave many more lives for WWII, and we looked the other way when our former ally, Stalin, brought the Iron Curtain down on them, killing millions more people than Hitler ever did.

    If we hadn’t set up Germany for such colossal failure after World War 1, Hitler could never have risen like he did.

    We do a lot of good in the world. So do other countries. We also do a lot of harm. So do other countries.
    We are not the only democracy in the world, nor the only country with free speech or free religion. We paved the way for others, just as countries and individuals paved the way for us for centuries before the US existed (magna carter, anyone? ancient greece?)

    Again, no man (or country) stands completely on their own. To claim sole responsibility for our success and worse, imply the inferiority of those who helped us get to where we are, is a disgrace, nor does it do anyone any favors. We are a great nation, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need or aren’t grateful for the help we’ve gotten from others, nor does it mean we don’t have a LONG way to go before we can claim to be doing God’s political will on earth all on our own.

    (oh and we won the vietnam war? islam descended from esau? what history book are YOU looking at?)

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  22. Skyway on August 21, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    I found a better source.

    “The fact of the matter is that the American tax code as a whole is almost perfectly flat. The bottom 20% of earners make 3% of the income and pay 2% of the taxes; the middle 20% make 11% and pay 10%; and the top 1% make 21% and pay 22%.”


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  23. Will on August 21, 2012 at 12:59 PM


    “The US is single-handedly responsible for bringing about God’s will?”

    Yes, see: D&C 101: 80 and 1 Nephi 13

    “And for this purpose have I established the aConstitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the bshedding of blood.”

    That war was won because of the U.S. Period.

    You indicated I said we won the war with China (Vietnam)? I did not say this, I said:
    “We stopped, to a lesser extent China’s aggression in Vietnam and Korea” this is true. Had we not stepped in all of Korea and all of Vietnam would be communist now.

    “Islam a descendant of Esau?”

    Tone of Your Comment

    Let’s get a divorce. Seriously, I would welcome it. The liberals from the conservatives, I mean. The reality is the liberals/democrats are the party of the poor and uneducated and those that want to control (not help) the poor and uneducated. They need others in order to function. In order for the liberals plan to work, the poor need the protection and money offered by others; and, those libs/dems in power need the poor (control) to keep themselves in power. On the other hand, we conservatives and libertarians would be blissfully happy taking our guns and money and living without the badgering, heavy hand of the government.

    Get me the papers and I will sign. Please, get me the papers.

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  24. prometheus on August 21, 2012 at 1:05 PM


    “The United States was established by God to provide freedom and liberty to the world.”

    Not sure how you can justify that one……

    The US has done a lot of good, and it has done a lot of evil (assassinating political leaders in other countries, funding and training insurgents, destabilizing governments in various places in the world), just like every other nation.

    It is comments like this that cause so much ill will globally. Seriously, asking for protection money from the rest of the world? Saying that the rest of the world is pathetically incapable of creating peace and safety for their varied citizens because Uncle Sam has the God-given right to be the sole arbiter of justice and freedom? Maybe that isn’t what you intended, but that’s sure how it comes across.

    In any case, it perfectly illustrates the kneejerk defensiveness that seems to be characteristic of the conservative bloc. I am not suggesting that the US is a bad nation. I am simply pointing out that you could learn a thing or two from the rest of the world, if you were humble enough to be teachable. Education, health care, welfare, security, policing – all have different expressions in pretty much every country around the world. Some do it better, some do it worse. Why not learn from those who do it better?

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  25. Skyway on August 21, 2012 at 1:09 PM

    WWII was won by Russia. The incredibly bloody Eastern Front battles won by the Soviet Union won the war.

    The Vietnamese and the Chinese do not get along.. The Vietnamese and the Chinese fought a border war in 1979.

    What does the US look like without government? You can buy a house in Flint, MI for under $500.00 largely because there are no government services in the area.

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  26. Will on August 21, 2012 at 1:14 PM


    “Not sure how you can justify that one”

    See D&C 101:80 and 1 Nephi 13

    “Maybe that isn’t what you intended, but that’s sure how it comes across.”

    That’s pretty much how I intended it.

    “Education, health care, welfare, security, policing – all have different expressions in pretty much every country around the world”

    You mean the bankrupted countries in Europe? Exactly what we are trying to avoid.

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  27. Jenn on August 21, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    I’m not saying God did not have a hand in creating the US, but rather that we don’t have an exclusive claim to enacting God’s will- we haven’t done it on our own, nor have we always done a great job of it. WWII would not have been won without the US, but it also would not have been won without our allies, and we definitely did not pay the great cost- in money or in blood. We cannot claim that we did that on our own. I’m not saying we didn’t do it, but that we did it WITH HELP. We aren’t the only tools in God’s toolbox. It is completely counter-productive to start claiming that we stand on our own and everyone owes us- I can’t see what purpose that accomplishes, other than we can pat ourselves on the back as the nations we’ve helped and who have helped us roll their eyes.

    As for revisionist history: Vietnam IS communist now- their official state constitution “asserts the central role of the Communist Party of Vietnam in all organs of government, politics and society”. We lost that war. China is communist. In all of our efforts in that part of the world, we succeeded only in saving South Korea from the “evils” of communism. The USSR killed itself. I’m not saying we didn’t do good, but I definitely think you overstated our success in that part of the world.

    The descendents of Esau are the Edomites- many of which eventually converted to Judaism and on to Christianity. Some (like the pre-ottomans) got exposed to Islam long after it was created and converted, but I can’t find any evidence that Mohammed or any of the progenitors of Islam descended from Esau- I’d be curious to hear your sources.

    As for a “divorce”- how would that work? We apparently inhabit the same country, so I think unless one of us either moves out or shuts up, we’re not getting divorced anytime soon. Heaven forbid calm discourse should get us anywhere.

    I am a liberal, and a democrat. I am neither poor, nor uneducated. I was born into an affluent (staunchly conservative) family, have never once used government entitlement programs (aside from pell grants, if those count), graduated from BYU, and at the age of 28 am in an upper management position, making a 6-figure salary. I am not interested in power, but vote according to my conscience and what my logic dictates to me. I have different priories than you, that does not make me stupid or evil.
    Life experiences have changed my perspective and I no longer see things in the black-and-white of my conservative youth.

    I have not accused you of ignorance, nor of ill intent. I understand that it is possible for two well-intentioned and even intelligent people to disagree.

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  28. prometheus on August 21, 2012 at 2:08 PM

    “That’s pretty much how I intended it.”
    “Let’s get a divorce.”

    And at this point, Will, you indicate that you are not only not interested in any type of discussion of alternatives, you are actively campaigning to shut down all possibility of discussion on both sides, building a concrete wall topped with barbed wire to shut out the people who might disagree with you and shooting them when they approach. Well played.

    There is no point in trying to have a discussion with you at all, I guess. Too bad, really.

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  29. Will on August 21, 2012 at 2:15 PM


    The purpose of my comment about the US was to combat the entitlement attitude not only in the US, but around the world and on this site and others. There are people that make things happen in this country and in the world and there is a huge, ungrateful and demeaning attitude developing towards them in the US, spearheaded by the Obama Administration. Quite honestly, it is tiring. It is tiring to bust your ass your whole life to provide jobs for others and pay $100,000’s of dollars in taxes, realizing more than ½ don’t pay a dime in income taxes. Then to have some ***hole like Obama say I’m not paying my fair share or more aggravating I didn’t create the wealth that I have. It is a tactic of Lucifer that creates contention – envy and jealous on one hand and bitter resentment on the other. It is not of God.

    As for the US and the war, success is not measured (if you can call it success) in how many die, but in how may live and the spoils that go to the victor. We developed a bomb that allowed Japan to cry uncle. As for Russia, it was poor tactical mistakes by Hitler and it was the cold Russian winter that lead to his downfall as much as it was the Russian army.

    As for the divorce, we’ll take all the healthy red states run by conservatives and you can have all the areas wrecked by liberalism – the major US, crime-ridden, bankrupt areas. Basically, the blue States wrecked by liberal leaders – New York, Michigan, California and the like.

    My comment about the liberal democrats being the poor and uneducated and those that want to control the poor and uneducated is an accurate generalization. It is intended as a generalization and thus does not apply to everyone. It is, however, true.

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  30. Julia on August 21, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    Prometheus –

    Well said, that was kind of my point in #8. Anytime a debate is framed in: “anyone who is intelligent enough will have to agree with me” there is very little chance that they want to listen or have a conversation.

    I find this true on both sides of the debate, but the fanatics on the right are so concerned about not being seen as liberals, that they end up saying things like, “Ryan’s plan is not perfect but necessary.” Really? If it is true that we must do something, anything even if we lose a large number of people destitute and dying without medicare, medicaid, road maintenance (to make driving safe) and food safety inspectors. I don’t see a point where an inclusive society can engage with someone who decisively sees themselves as an outsider. That said, I do try to understand, with honest questions. So……….

    Will, how about responding to my questions about how the individual parts of the plan would impact you and your neighbors. (I will leave out the sarcasm if you will.) If you forgot them, I will make them into one sentence questions. Think of it as explaining to me why we need a divorce…..

    What do you see as the benefit in cutting resources to education?

    How does cutting spending on infrastructure maintenance help the economy and the people who live here?

    Where and how do you expect people to get medical care if Medicaid and Medicare program are slashed or even eliminated? (For extra credit, why would we guarantee benefits for those currently on Medicare, if not having Medicare is the ideal state for our society?)

    Why does the military budget get increased every year, when other budgets, like the VA, would be slashed?

    You say you want I divorce from all the Liberals. If Liberals were to stop buying things produced or sold by conservatives, and high tariffs were put on goods coming from the Magic Homeland of the Conservatives, how much would your current wealth help you, if you couldn’t tap into the Liberals and poor people as consumers?

    Where are you going to go after this divorce, and how do you plan on paying for this new government’s services?

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  31. JSG on August 21, 2012 at 3:37 PM


    Will’s big point from way back in comment 2 was the simple mathematical fact that we do not have enough money to keep funding all of our welfare projects. You could basically liquidate the wealth of every citizen in the USA and it still wouldn’t be enough to cover the trillions and trillions of medical and retirement benefits that the government has promised but not fully planned for.

    You asked Will how people will get medical care if Medicare is reduced. I would like to ask you how they will get medical care if it goes bankrupt.

    You cannot feed the poor with empty promises. You cannot care for the sick with government IOUs. The simple reality is that there are not enough resources, people or time to solve all of the worlds problems. You have to pick your battles and a sustainable small government that solves some of the world’s problems is better than an out of control giant government that promises everything but fails.

    Conservatives are not heartless people. They want to help the sick. They want to care for the elderly. They want better education for our children. They just want to make sure that we can afford it first. Bankrupting yourself in the name of charity is a bad long term policy and hurting ourselves a little with a strict budget is better than waiting for reality to hurt us a lot when our massive debt finally comes due.

    Think of it like dieting. Losing weight is hard. But waiting for a heart attack is even worse.

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  32. Jenn on August 21, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    “You’re overweight, so we’re going to help you lose weight by simply cutting all access to food altogether. This will improve your health”.

    Hm…. not sure how that works.
    Entitlement reform would be a diet. The Ryan budget is like starvation (I’m going to go with Anorexia Nervosa- sees or exaggerates problems and responds with starvation)

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  33. JSG on August 21, 2012 at 4:04 PM

    Obviously there’s some room for arguing how much debt weight the government needs to lose and how quickly. If you genuinely believe the government is only a little over-weight then it makes sense you that you think Ryan’s plan is too aggressive.

    Other people think major economic disasters are looming in the next few decades and they will logically conclude that even very difficult budget cuts are preferable to the pain that would be caused by large scale bankruptcy or massive inflation.

    So I guess the trillion dollar question is how close is America to an economic heart attack? Do we just have to cut down on our metaphorical soda intake or have we reached the point where we need extreme dieting and hospital care?

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  34. Skyway on August 21, 2012 at 4:20 PM

    So, how much money do you think the Ryan budget is going to save us compared to, say, doing nothing?

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  35. Julia on August 21, 2012 at 4:43 PM


    You (and Will) still haven’t answered the entire group of questions.

    Why isn’t the military funding part of the reductions in spending? Why does expanding the amout spent on the military make sense, especially since we would be cutting the support for former soldiers in the Veteren’s Administration?

    I would like the answers to the other specific questions I asked. I would appreciate it if you didn’t treat me like an idiot, but I assume that since I am not as smart as Not-heartless conservatives, it is probably okay to tell me to get over caring about those who might not have food to eat. I find it hard to feel sorry for those who are lucky enough to have $100,000 which could be paid in taxes.

    I work with people who earn minimum wage, without insurance, without a vehicle, with two families in a two bedroom apartment, and they still barely have enough money to pay rent, buy a bus pass, and feed and clothe themselves and their children, on less than $150 a month. WIC, free student lunch and food stamps are the only thing that keeps those children, and millions of them around the country, from being malnourished. All of those programs would lose over 50% of their funding in the next 10 years.

    If you believe that deficits are the problem, the Ryan budget does nothing to help that. The tax cuts he wants go even deeper than the Bush tax cut, and Bush’s tax cut is part of the reason that our deficit ballooned. We cut taxes and didn’t fund the two wars we were fighting. All of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were put on a credit card. (Although we have not been as generous with our returning veterans and their families.) Ryan’s plan would continue to balloon that military credit card spending.

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  36. Will on August 21, 2012 at 5:19 PM


    Reality Number 1

    Quite honestly, I don’t think Ryan’s plan is enough. I don’t think it makes the cuts that are necessary to keep us from going bankrupt. We are in bad shape. Really bad shape. If I were a creditor I’d have said no more a long time ago. Again, the US can only borrow $3,120,000 every minute for so long. Think about that, over three million dollars (more than most people make in a life time) every minute of everyday and you say there is no problem. Seriously, who is being unreasonable here?

    Reality number 2

    I never said or suggested there are not government services that are not necessary. Most of these, however, happen (or should happen) at the local level – police, fire, roadway maintenance and construction, public utilities and education. There is no reason these cannot and should not happen at the local level. Why does the federal government need to be involved? To me it makes more sense for the local government to handle these issues. Way more sense.

    Reality number 3

    God gave the commandment to Adam and Eve, which is also intended for us “by the sweat of thy brow shall thou labor all the days of thy life”. I think what God meant by this is that we are “to work all the days of our lives.” With this in mind, I don’t think it is moral or right for someone to pay enough to cover them for 2 years at the most (this is how long it takes the typical person to get every dime they paid into retirement) and then retire for 25 or 30 years. This is just simple math, math we are not courageous enough to do as a nation. It is planned bankruptcy.

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  37. Will on August 21, 2012 at 5:26 PM


    Military spending needs to be cut along with everything else. I did mention this in my first comment.

    If you have real compasion for these people, you need to realize WHEN we go bankrupt, they will suffer more.

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  38. FireTag on August 21, 2012 at 5:32 PM


    The Ryan budget INCREASES Federal spending. CUTS are in terms of the great Washington myth of cuts “in respect to a baseline”. So, if I PLANNED to spend $10 trillion MORE in the next decade than if I spent at current rates and now plan to spend only $6 trillion MORE in the next decade, I’ve CUT spending by $4 trillion and am tarred as a horrible monster. But MORE checks are going out, not LESS. MORE people are getting fed, not less.

    The damming evidence of the game was put out BY THE OBAMA BUDGET itself, which contains a graphic that shows spending rising into astronomical levels for a century. The CBO analysis noted that this was probably unnecessary because we were only debating whether there would be complete economic collapse within the USA in the early 2030′s or the mid-2030′s.

    We are past the point where we can avoid pain.


    The military IS sharing the cuts — and has been.

    The key to ending poverty is the CREATION of wealth, not merely its distribution.

    Governments have NOT proven themselves to be efficient creators of economic wealth, although they have proven themselves to be very good at appropriating it for the politically powerful until they kill the proverbial goose that laid the golden egg.


    Your argument about the flatness of the tax rate is a stronger argument for NOT raising Federal taxes so that local governments can support their local revenue bases, since they are the most regressive. The Federal deficit is only part of the problem; states and localities are also going bankrupt, and you can’t tax the same “rich people” multiple times.

    Again, if you want to stop confusing tax revenues with tax rates and raise revenues, try something DIFFERENT than what the Dems have tried for the past three years. You have experimental confirmation that it doesn’t work. Even the hated Bush produced more months of under SIX PER CENT unemployment than it is mathematically possible for Obama to produce of under EIGHT PER CENT unemployment EVEN IF HE SERVES A FULL TWO TERMS.

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  39. Douglas on August 21, 2012 at 9:29 PM

    “We would have a world of blond-haired, blue-eyed Germans” – and it’d be productive and peaceful, but probably more boring.
    Yes, the “entitlements” cannot continue to be funded at anywhere near current aggregate and individual levels. Just “Social Insecurity” alone will torpedo Uncle Sam’s finances. Never mind military and civilian retirements – if Uncle can’t fund SS, then retirement pay (a large voting block to be sure, but well-outnumbered by the “Grey Panthers”) will also be cut. And regardless of how well it was “earned”, it’s already been established in both the United States code and federal court cases that the President has the authority in a national emergency to reduce and/or eliminate pay for active and retired “federales”. So saying “we EARNED it”, even if there’s a valid moral argument that at least its monies owed for services rendered, is irrelevant. And sooner or later, that day has to come. Both major parties have play “kick the can down the road”, but the end of that road has been reached. The Federal deficits are ballooning not ONLY due to runaway spending but also that with the leading edge of the “Baby Boomers” (those born in the period 1946 to 1964) have turned 66 and are leaving the work force and draw Social Security in droves. Since 2010 the outgo for SS checks has exceeded the FICA taxes collected, and there’s no sign that regardless of how the economy fares that SS will ever be “in the black” again. Worse, when there was an excess, the monies were “invested” in T-Bills, which was a simple sleight of hand to plump up General expenditures and say we weren’t running a “daffy-sit” (this is how Slick Willie and Newt pulled it off in the 90′s, folks!). It’s come to a head. We have to make difficult choices, or the cruel laws of economics will make them for us.
    As for Obama’s snarky quip, “You didn’t build THAT”…right. Had we been able to rely on the private sector for those services, it’d have been a better value and better suited to my needs. Thanks, but no thanks.

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  40. Vajra on August 23, 2012 at 5:23 PM

    The private sector has not shown itself able to provide civic services at a lower price point than the various governmental agencies unless it hires workers at extremely low wages, which, unsuprisingly, involves employing less-qualified individuals. The administrative cost for private health insurance are greater than the administrative cost for Medicare, for example. Private mercenaries cost far more in Iraq than the same services provided by the U.S. military itself. The “private” sector which says it can provide these services simply wants to suckle at the teat of taxpayer monies without having the inconvenience of having to follow legal technicalities…like the Constitution, health regulation, environmnetal protection, or decent wages and working conditions.

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  41. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on August 25, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    #40… I wonder why UPS and FedEx are still in business then?

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  42. Douglas on August 27, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    #40 – ask yourself then WHY both the Bush and Obama administrations have researched privatization of the VA (to varying degrees) as a cost-saving measure. Never mind that had the AVERAGE wage earner had to pay his/her Social Security “contributions” into a true self-directed investment account, doing little more than a relatively conservative portfolio, would be able to purchase a life annuity (with a death benefit) that would pay thrice what SS maxed out at, AND be paying taxes…
    Virtually everything “Uncle” does is the product of short-term political expediency and seldom, if ever, pans out in the long run

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  43. rah on August 28, 2012 at 3:19 AM

    I think inserted here should be some of the most rigorous economic evidence on the matter. Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson’s “Why Nations Fail” has been praised by economists and other academics, policy makers etc. across the political spectrum. They argue with pretty convincing data that the key to economic prosperity is the political and economic institutions which support a market. So what the OP calls “background” is in their argument the very thing that truly explains economic growth and success in a country the very thing being debated. I agree with all the commenters that point out that other community resources and supports are also critical for small businesses. Its a strawman to argue that Obama or anyone was claiming that government was the sole cause.

    It is also worth keeping in mind that the GOP completely pulled “that little line” way out of context, ignoring the qualifiers and praise Obama gave to small business owners and their efforts.

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