Obama 'You Didn't Build That' Speech: Why American Success is Not Just Pure Luck

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

That’s what President Obama told a throng of his supporters in Roanoke, Va., last weekend. In his mind, Steve Jobs didn’t build Apple. The rest of us did. Jobs just reaped all the benefits.

The president wishes to create the premise that successful people don’t really earn their wealth. They’re no smarter or harder working than anyone else: "[I]f you’ve been successful, 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."

Obama wants us all to believe that the only difference between Steve Jobs and the average Joe is a good public school teacher and a bit of good luck. Of course this is patently ridiculous, but why is it important to his agenda? Because we need to “ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more.” If the rich achieved their prosperity on the backs of the poor and middle class, why shouldn’t we take a little bit more? In fact, why shouldn’t we take a whole lot more? After all, they weren’t any smarter or harder working than the rest of us. Why should they have more money than they will spend in a lifetime, while others live paycheck to paycheck? Don’t we have as much right to their fortunes as they do?

Obama believes government is the origin of our wealth. Any money left in the private sector is a cost to the federal government. At a recent speech, Obama said “the money we’re spending on these tax cuts for the wealthy is a major driver of our deficit ... costing us a trillion dollars over the next decade.”

How does letting people keep money they earned “cost” the government anything? It doesn’t, unless you believe, as Obama does, that government provided the wealth in the first place. We should just be thankful for every dollar the federal government lets us keep. 

The people “costing” government the most are of course the wealthy. Obama tells us they aren’t paying their “fair share.” This obviously begs the question: what is their “fair share?” The most up to date tax data reveals that the top 10% of earners pay 70% of the total income tax revenue, while taking home 43% of the total earnings. In contrast, the bottom 50% of earners pay just 2.3% of the total income taxes, while garnering 13.5% of the income.

If the top 10% paid 90% of all income tax revenue, would that be "fair?" How about if they paid all 100% of the collected income tax revenue? If you pose this question to a progressive; don’t count on getting a straight answer. They never want to quantify “fairness.” That’s because there’s no way to quantify “more.” No matter how much is paid by the wealthy, it would never be enough to satisfy their unquenchable thirst for more. Even if the top 10% of earners paid all 100% of the income tax revenue, while the bottom 90% got a free ride, there would still be cries for more. They would simply argue that the revenue collected just isn’t enough to cover the demands of the recipient class. As long as any one person has a dollar more than the next, there will be calls for more redistribution.

Obama needs a plurality of Americans to buy into the notion that success isn’t earned. It’s the premise of his entire agenda. He’s wrong. Ingenuity, diligence and good choices all breed success. 

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Gary W. Patterson, Jr.

Attorney practicing in New York metropolitan area.

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