Obama’s speech in Roanoke, VA, contains this bit of creepy collectivism:
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. (Applause.)
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.
You know the latent message here: You didn’t earn it. So you have no right to it. Since you have no right to it, “we”-the government-will take what we want.
Let’s consider that Internet example from the perspective that Obama routinely applies to private wealth. Putting aside the question of whether the Internet is truly the child of the government-funded ARPANET, the Federal government has recouped in taxes on income and capital gains from Internet-related economic activity many, many times what it spent in developing ARPANET. Indeed, I would wager that the government will collect more in taxes from the Facebook IPO than it spent on ARPANET, even taking into account inflation/compounded interest. When private fortunes are concerned, Obama’s philosophy is “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money”, meaning that you should pay more-much more-in taxes. But that doesn’t apply to government investment, evidently. If it did, it would be greedy to cash those tax checks from Internet businesses and workers.
What’s more, whatever the contribution of government initiatives like ARPANET to the Internet, it is blindingly obvious that virtually all the value generated by the Internet is the result of private initiative, private innovation, and private investment. So when you are cashing that government benefit check, realize that the government didn’t get there on its own.
And the last statement (“[g]overnment research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet”) is a flagrant lie. This statement implies intent: that government research on ARPANET had, as its explicit purpose, the encouragement of private economic activity. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Obama then fired up the Wayback Machine for further examples of the pivotal role of government:
So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President — because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.
Uhm, who is this “we”? A pitch-perfect illustration of the collectivist mindset.
At least he spared us a disquisition on the Intercontinental Railroad. (Now that would have been a feat!). As for the things he did mention:
Man on the moon? NASA is a tragic shadow of its former self-with Obama’s approval.
Hoover Dam? Please. You think it could be built today? Really? The enviros* and progs hate dams. Hate them.
And even something seemingly more benign, like the Golden Gate Bridge, would never be built today, or certainly not as quickly or cheaply as the original. The environmental impact statements, the legislative log rolling, the designs and redesigns to meet the objections of this constituency or that, all make such project a thing of the past.
No, nowadays, infrastructure projects aren’t shovel ready. They are rent seeker ready. Lawyer ready. Bureaucrat ready. Just look at the train wreck (literally) that is high speed rail in California. Or the Big Dig in Boston, as Walter Russell Mead reminds us:
It turns out that Boston’s “Big Dig” construction project cost taxpayers much more than expected — and enormous bills for interest payments and mass transit are still rolling in.
Hailed at its inception as an example of “smart government” and proof that “government can still get things done,” the project was originally estimated to cost $2.8 billion. Thanks to corruption, construction mishaps and the usual friction on projects of this kind, the project took a decade longer than planned to complete, and was said at the time (December 2007) to have cost a total of $14.6 billion.
There was much shock and finger-pointing when these numbers came out, but as Boston.com reports, those cost estimates were still much too low. By the time the whole mess is finished and accounted for, this beautiful proof of governmental competence and efficiency, this magnificent testimony to the ability of big infrastructure projects to turn the US around will end up costing about twice that much: at about $21 billion, the final cost will be about seven times the original estimate — an original estimate, by the way, so large that it blew peoples’ minds at the start.
Government today is all about transfer payments, rather than investment in public goods. When it tries to build stuff, it soon engages in a Bacchanal of waste and incoherence. Its greatest efforts are directed at redistribution via cashing checks from some and writing checks to others. That, and controlling via regulation economic activity large and small.
Interesting, isn’t it, that Obama couldn’t find an example of a seminal contribution of government post-1969?
If you are paying attention to what Obama says, it is clear that his vision is inherently a collectivist one that is deeply hostile to private enterprise and wealth creation. A vision that credits the government for the lion’s share of wealth creation if government has touched the creative process, however slightly or indirectly. A vision that cannot see Bastiat’s unseen-the wealth not created because of the very visible strangling hand of government.
* Wordpress’s auto spell kept wanting to replace “enviros” with “enviers.” That works.