Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Why ‘You Didn’t Build That’ Resonates - Bloomberg

I agree with David Frum that the most toxic part of the speech is Barack Obama talking about the sources of success:

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.

Really? The president is always struck by people who take credit for their own successes? Obviously, every successful outcome in life -- and every failed one -- arises from a combination of internal and external factors. But the president’s tone when he said this, amused by the very idea of people taking credit for their achievements, was off-putting.

Frum mostly talks about why this statement irks rich people, but I believe it resonates badly with people at all income levels. Lots of people -- most, I hope -- are proud of something they’ve achieved in their lives and feel like that achievement owes much to their own hard work and talents. You don’t have to make over $250,000 a year to be annoyed when the president mocks people for taking credit for their achievements.

And it’s an especially jarring statement because of what it’s used to justify -- higher taxes, with the implication being that they are called for because people do not deserve their own pre-tax wealth. People are rightly unnerved by an argument that amounts to “we can tax you because you didn’t deserve this anyway.” Faced with such an argument, defending your own contribution to your success isn’t just a point of pride -- it’s an argument you must make to defend the principle that you are entitled to your own private property.

via www.bloomberg.com


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My own success - such as it was - was much of it down to the luck of finding myself with the right skills at the right time in the right place. True it was backed up by years of hard work - but lots of barmaids and cleaners probably worked pretty hard too. A schoolteacher once asked me "Does everything still come easy?" The answer was "aye", and it was no moral merit of mine that it did. It was just the way I was.

So I take a dim view of much of the bragging by Mr XYZ of how he deserved this and that when no allowance is made for the endowment he was born with and the luck he had in life. And I can't think of a less suitable person than President O to make such a point.

Posted by: dearieme | Jul 31, 2012 2:21:36 PM

No-accounts and layabouts had the same chances and opportunities as those who did well. Their school buses were all yellow, and rode on the same roads. The same fire department extinguished their respective house fires.

If "endowment" extends to one's native abilities, and to good character, discipline and prudence, then the word "deserve" has no meaning.

Posted by: Lou Gots | Aug 1, 2012 12:37:23 PM


Yes exactly. Some people make poor choices of parents who don't bring them up right.

Posted by: molly | Aug 4, 2012 11:23:03 AM