Tuesday, July 24, 2012

3 responses to Obama's "You didn't build that"

Charles Krauthammer:

The ultimate Obama fallacy . . . is the conceit that belief in the value of infrastructure — and willingness to invest in its creation and maintenance — is what divides liberals from conservatives.

. . . Infrastructure is not a liberal idea, nor is it particularly new. The Via Appia was built 2,300 years ago. The Romans built aqueducts, too. And sewers. Since forever, infrastructure has been consensually understood to be a core function of government.

The argument between left and right is about what you do beyond infrastructure.
Will Wilkinson:
Mr Obama's observation that it takes a village to make a fortune is in one respect irrelevant and in another offensive. It is irrelevant because the class of people Mr Obama wants to "give back" has already paid most of the tab, and continues to pay most of the tab, for the tax-financed public goods upon which they, and the rest of us, so crucially depend. At the federal level, the top 10% percent of the distribution paid over 70% of income taxes in 2009 . . . . Mr Obama's in-it-together point is mildly offensive in context because it is used to imply that top-earners who resist paying an even larger portion of America's tab do so only because they are in the grip of an absurd myth of self-reliance.

Together with a bit of simple democratic mathematics, the facts about the portion of tax revenue contributed by the rich plausibly suggest that they pay more than their fair share for the infrastructure of capitalism. The rich have money, which can buy political influence. But the middle class have votes, which in a democracy is influence. So it's not surprising that the public goods upon which the middle class equally depends are financed disproportionately by the wealthy. Of course, no one ever got elected by identifying middle-income voters as the free-riding class. Asking the minority who already finances rather more than most government expenditure to "give something back", as if it were currently skating by unfairly on the more open-handed spirit of the less privileged, is plain, old-fashioned demagoguery. . . .

Anyway, it's not the infrastructure of American capitalism that's busting the budget, is it? Our fiscal strain is largely a matter of buying health-care for old people. The health and longevity of America's elderly is an admirable and humane goal, but it's not part of the vital infrastructure of business.

None of this is to say that the top tax rate should not rise. There may be other, better, reasons to stick it to the rich. . . . But Mr Obama's notion that the rich get more out of our common institutions than they put in is questionable, to say the least. And his suggestion that opposition to higher top income-tax rates could only be based on by-the-bootstraps social atomism is a silly bit of bad faith.
(I made a similar point in response to Elizabeth Warren.)

Ann Althouse (my mom):
You could say if you listen sympathetically to Obama saying the quote, you could understand the quote in a way that's not ridiculous and disturbingly left-wing. And if you get that far, then Romney's use of it could be understood as "a false attack." . . . But why would Romney not use that quote for all it's worth? Since when does decency/integrity/honesty require that a politician interpret his opponent's words in a sympathetic light and give him the benefit of the doubt? The quote is a gift to Romney and he's accepted it.

It's like Romney saying "Corporations are people." That's a gift to Obama's people and they are using it. They don't feel any ethical compulsion to stop and say we understand what he really meant. I mean, I love the way the new Obama ad — trying to get us to understand — includes this additional part of the context: "We succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."

When I heard that the first time, I said: Yeah, corporations are people. We do things together. Sometimes when people succeed doing things together, they form a corporation as a way of working together. But you'll never hear Obama say that. He will use the "Corporations are people" line for full mockery effect, never admitting that he knows why it makes sense and why it really isn't anything we disagree about.