Just when you think it can’t get any sillier…..along comes the “You Didn’t Build It” meme.
Anyone capable of rational thought knows exactly what President Obama so ungracefully tried to say several days ago. But rational thought has little to do with politics.
That the Republicans have taken advantage of the President’s gaffe is not surprising. That it’s gone to the extent it has is somewhat surprising. That a lot of very stupid people are falling for the meme is predictable.
What the President was trying to say – and this is crystal clear to anyone who follows politics – is that the government, which the Republicans have done their damndest to demonize for the past several decades –is inextricably involved in the creation of even the most private of private businesses. Senator RoJo the Clown, whose principal business skill was marrying the boss’s daughter, denies and downplays the role of the low-interest government loans he took advantage of, the rail siding at his business the government was a partner in, the tax breaks he got from the government, and on and on – to say nothing of the roads, bridges, and other infrastructure elements the government played a role in.
At a rare stop in his home town yesterday, Paul Ryan told the local media (after having told the national media in prior interviews) that this “you didn’t build it” thing was a rare slip by the President, giving us a clear picture of his inner thoughts, and that (Ryan posits) President Obama really thinks the government is (insert your favorite theme here: “the source of all good”; “the source of all success”, etc.) depending on which news outlet Ryan is talking to. He regurgitated the same crap in Janesville yesterday, where the “Walker Stalkers”, who have long since worn out their novelty and have now become sort of an embarrassment, again demonstrated their love of free speech by trying to drown out and shout down Romney and RoJo and Ryan’s remarks.
A momentary sidebar: I am the son of a man who built his own business from the ground up, selling insurance at night to augment family income after his full day of teaching (which also involved driving a school bus route beginning at 6 AM and ending around 6 PM). Eventually, he went to part-time work at the high school and then switched to full-time insurance sales and management after he’d bought out competing agencies and the business got big enough to need his full-time attention. He built it with help from my mother and hard work. I am self-employed in a business I built with my experience, connections, and hustle.
And yet I know exactly what the President was talking about.
The Republican talking heads have taken this “you didn’t build it” meme to an absurd extreme. Late last week, the “Fox and Friends” morning show featured an on-set interview with 5- and 6-year old sisters who run their own lemonade stand, and who claimed to be extremely offended by the President’s “you didn’t build it” remark. The girls fed a bunch of rehearsed lines to Steve Doocy and Gretchen Carlson about their investors being their parents and the growth of their business was due to their hard work and not the government. Steve and Gretchen fawned at every utterance and joined the girls in expressing indignation that the President would say such a horrible thing. (Did you know that Gretchen is one of those effete intellectual snobs the Republicans hate? She was a Rhodes Scholar. True.)
5- and 6-year old minds are perfectly suited to the “you didn’t build it” meme, and they prattled on about how they were offended by the President’s remark, and the government has nothing to do with their success.
I have a few questions for the girls (and their parents) about this lemonade stand that the government has nothing to do with. First, what’s the source of the water you use for your lemonade? Did you drill your own well, do your own testing and lab work to be sure you weren’t about to poison your customers? Or, are you using a municipal water source, built, paid for, and maintained by local taxpayers who constitute THE GOVERNMENT? Then we could get into the access question, about the streets and sidewalks the customer base uses to patronize the girls’ business. Do they provide their own security for their lemonade stand, or do they rely on the local law enforcement unit OF GOVERNMENT to make sure it’s safe for them to keep cash on the premises of the their business?
I have dozens more questions like these.
I think it’s safe to say 5- and 6-year old minds couldn’t cope with questions like mine, because they’re not yet at a level of development to understand the social web within which they operate.
And, perhaps that’s why the “you didn’t build it” meme appeals to those mouth-breathers who aren’t capable of independent thought, either.