Within the space of just two weeks, Americans have witnessed two radically different philosophies about the free enterprise system from President Obama. In his notorious Roanoke, Va., speech of July 13, he said “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” That is, Americans have not fully earned their success.
Backpedaling after a public outcry, the president insisted he had been misinterpreted, and that he is fully committed to the values of competition, merit and opportunity. In a speech to the National Urban League in New Orleans on July 25, he asserted that “America says we will give you opportunity, but you’ve got to earn your success.”
The sentiments expressed in these two speeches are inconsistent. To find the truth, we need to look at the administration’s actions.
As far as business is concerned, a great deal has been written about the myriad barriers the Obama administration has placed in the way of entrepreneurial success. From stimulus spending that benefited politically connected firms to Dodd-Frank’s expensive and onerous new regulations that disproportionately harm small banks, the deck is increasingly stacked against the entrepreneur. And proposed tax increases on “millionaires and billionaires” who allegedly don’t pay their “fair share” (though the top 1% of earners already pay 38.7% of all federal income taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office) seem like more of a punishment for earned success than an incentive to achieve it.