Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Government Giveth and the Government Taketh Away

The old Testament Book of Job records that the Lord tested a righteous man named Job by allowing the loss of his health, family, prosperity and possessions.  As Job reeled from the news of the deaths of all of his children, followed by news that all of his flocks and herds had been driven away and that he had become destitute, he responded by saying,  "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord,"  or as The Living Bible paraphrases this verse, "The Lord gave me everything I had, and they were His to take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."  (Job 2:21)

I was reminded of this story this week as I saw President Obama's comments about business owners replayed in the news over and over. While it is widely accepted that his non-teleprompter address signals his desire to justify higher taxes on Americans earning over $250,000 a year, I think that his statements signal a much deeper hostility toward business in general and a much greater sense of entitlement than many of even his most serious critics realize: 

"There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me because they want to give something back...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.

"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."
For video of the event and Mitt Romney's response see,  Obama's Remarks on Business

Obama's remarks have been rightly attacked by everybody from Dan Danner, the President of the NFIB, to GOP candidate Mitt Romney for being insulting to business owners, and they are.  As someone who has worked in small business since 1998, I can say definitely that the government was not there when I cashed in an IRA to open the business; they were not there for the long days and late evenings spent in the office working to close loans; they were not there for the countless hours spent training and paying for training to learn how to do our jobs better. What the government has done is increase the cost of doing business and heap on regulation on top of regulation so that most businesses like mine have closed.  They have piled on forms and buried us under paperwork.  They have created an environment that heavily favors huge corporations over small companies, and now they are about to destroy us with taxes we cannot afford.  Before the economy and the housing market became so bad under the weight of all of their rules, we had excellent health insurance, but because of the constraints of the economy we are no longer able to pay for that, and now we are being told that we will be fined because we do not have the money to pay to for something we used to provide of our volition.

Although some of the details of the regulations vary, my story is not that different from that of other small business owners.  Our doors are still open in spite of the government--not because of it.  True, the military created the Internet, and that has created opportunities for business owners.  But does Obama really believe that small business success begins and ends with the Internet?  The Internet is only about 30 years old--small businesses have been impacting the American economy since before the Revolutionary war.  True, we have roads and bridges. So does everyone else.  The ancient Romans had roads so well planned and maintained that they gave birth to the saying, "All roads lead to Rome."  But well maintained roads do not produce a thriving economy or a thriving business environment.

Many are taking Obama's comments as just his personal opinion of business--a reflection of the fact that he has never owned or managed a business, never made a payroll, nor hired nor fired an employee.  He is the community organizer who thinks welfare and food stamps are economic stimulants.  He doesn't know what creates jobs or builds opportunity, so when he gets up to speak he puts his foot in his mouth.

Maybe.  My own opinion is that Obama's comments are symptomatic of a much greater ideological problem in this nation, which goes way beyond just increased taxation.  This idea is the concept that no one succeeds on his own merits--be it in business, or as a parent (It Takes a Village) or as a non-profit or in any other area of life.  As Obama says, "if you are successful, you didn't get there on your own."  Success is the result not of individual effort or initiative or hard work but of the collective. That being the case, any rewards for this success belong to the collective. For any individual to believe that he has a right to profit from his own achievements is selfish, egotistical and un-American and unfair. And this mindset can extend far beyond increased taxes to actual nationalization of industries and confiscation of personal property.  (After all, if you have a luxurious home which you bought because your business was thriving, you don't really have any right to it, since all of your success was made possible by the greater society in which you live.) To paraphrase Job, "The government [state, society, the collective] gave me everything I have, and it was theirs to take away. Blessed be the name of the government."

The book of Job records that when the Lord was finished testing Job, He restored to Job twice as much as he had lost--wealth, flocks, herds--and God even gave him ten more children to replace the ones who had died.  Those of us who are Christians believe in the inherent goodness, fairness and mercy of God who always ultimately looks out for our good.  But when the government becomes our master, there is no such happy ending--just widespread poverty and overall hopelessness that never ends as bureaucrats take from the producers while extending unconditional welfare to create a class of unskilled, uneducated people who will never be able to do anything except depend on the collective for their next meal.  Such thinking produces people who quickly determine that since there is no reward for work, they are better off not working and just being on the receiving end of whatever the society is able to dole out.  And as more and more people embrace this idea, our productivity will continue to drop and our deficits will continue to increase as we slide into Marxism.

Obama's words are not just insulting--they are dangerous, for business, for individuals and for the American way of life.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her newest novel, The Planner, about an out-of-control, environmentally-driven federal government, was released June 28, 2012. For more information, visit her website at Frontier 2000

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