Sometimes the only way to get news from perfectly polished politicians is to take what they say out of context.
Take for instance the famous statement then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi made, “But we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it.” What she actually meant is found within the context of the speech, where she says the “fog of controversy” has made it impossible for anyone to find out what is actually in the bill.
Another infamous line taken out of context came in January from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. “I like being able to fire people,” was taken out of context from a larger point about being able to choose your insurance company.
And then there is the quote made recently by President Obama. “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen,” Obama said a couple of weekends ago. Obama has been making headlines at recent speeches, thanks in large part to ditching the teleprompters. A senior campaign official told The Hill going sans teleprompters is part of a strategy to “up the tempo,” at campaign events. It has certainly upped the tempo of the national political punditry.
The difference with Obama’s most recent quote and the other two examples is that it was not really taken out of context. If you read the quote in it’s entirety, you will reach the same conclusion.
“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. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”
The isolated quote tells you that Obama believes that you owe something for your success. The quote in its entirety also tells you that Obama believes you owe something for your success.
It’s not a revelation that this is Obama’s ideology. He believes that the government is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, the answer to our problems and, incidentally, in need of a “fundamental transformation.”
There are certainly plenty of counterarguments. One would be that the government also “helped” all the unsuccessful people too. Others have said that we pay taxes for all the “help” Obama listed. Another argument can be seen in a new Romney campaign ad that features a business owner asking if the government helped when his dad took out a loan against his house to start his own business.
But perhaps the most important argument to be made against this statement from Obama comes from President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, where he described our nation as a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
The point is, there is no magical being out there that is “the government.” There is no celestial being, a silhouette shining down from the heavens, that is making the decision to invest in the Internet or build a road. We are the government. As the government, we have put in place certain circumstances that give all people a fighting chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
We don’t owe ourselves anything except that fighting chance. We might owe some folks in our lives gratitude, but gratitude does not necessarily translate into owing something to someone, as the president suggests.