The ‘No One Gets Rich On Their Own’ Baloney

-By Gary Krasner

Obama’s “no one gets rich on their own” rant was to justify policies that soak the rich, and not about the wonders of roads & bridges! But that was how Obamians had tried to spin it, such as here at Huffington Post.

You can read my postscript deconstruction of his Roanoke speech at the end of this article to see how ridiculous that is. Bottom line is that when Obama uttered these two sentences, “If you’ve got a business—-you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen”, he was NOT referring to roads and bridges from the prior sentence. It would have been far too obvious for him to have meant that shop keepers do not build the roads and bridges in the towns where they operate. He sure as hell didn’t mean to suggest that their taxes help build them! No, holding to the full context of the speech, he meant that they are not singularly responsible for their success, that would warrant the degree of wealth they reaped.

The original thesis—-the product of liberal linguistics consultant George Lakoff—-is a way to minimize individual success, so as to justify taking from successful people the rewards of their success, through taxes. Liz Warren—-the women who couldn’t get into Harvard on her own without falsely claiming to have one drop of Cherokee blood—-had adopted this simplistic baloney to frame the debate for OWS, if you recall.

Here’s Lakoff:

There is no such thing as a self-made man. Every businessman has used the vast American infrastructure, which the taxpayers paid for, to make his money. He did not make his money alone. He used taxpayer infrastructure. He got rich on what other taxpayers had paid for: the banking system, the Federal Reserve, the Treasury and Commerce Departments, and the judicial system, where nine-tenths of cases involve corporate law. These taxpayer investments support companies and wealthy investors. There are no self-made men! The wealthy have gotten rich using what previous taxpayers have paid for. They owe the taxpayers of this country a great deal and should be paying it back.

This is a more carefully constructed version than the one Obama delivered (see postscript section) in his speech in Roanoke, VA. That’s because Obama spoke his words without the aid of his teleprompter.

Lakoff’s construction that, “there’s no self-made man” appears tamer and less contentious than Obama’s ad lib version. Obama’s speech contained the same false contentions, but it sounded angrier (at business), far more ludicrous, with banal observations. But being that it was an unscripted speech, Obama betrayed a candid view of his redistributionist, spread-the-wealth philosophy, and a resentful attitude toward business people.


Of course not. It’s ridiculous, whether it’s Lakoff’s carefully constructed thesis, or Obama’s raving rant. Everyone, including businesses, contribute to society at-large, via taxes. Indeed, wealth created by business is the sole underwriter of public works. And the wealthy pay the most. In 2009, the top 400 taxpayers paid almost as much in federal income taxes as the entire bottom 50 percent combined. And businesses in the US pay the highest taxes in the world. Corporate profits are taxed twice: once at the corporate rate of 35% and once at the dividend or capital gains rate of 15%. And that’s just federal taxes.

Wealth created by business is what funds government works. Like Lakoff and Warren, Obama’s statist pieties omits that wealth creation from business funds the construction of those roads, and the workers who build them. It is the car maker who builds the roads and bridges—-not the government. Indeed, there were no paved roads when the Ford Model-T was built. There are beautiful roads in North Korea, Cuba & Burma. What’s missing are automobiles and destinations of worth. And that’s because wealth comes from private entrepreneurship. Not government.

Even Obama’s comment that “Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet” is factually incorrect. It was private industry & entrepreneurs who invented it and made it a success. (See “Who Really Invented the Internet?” by L. Gordon Crovitz, 7/22/2012,

It’s also banal, taking it literally, to state that we should appreciate the external support we get from friends, family and government services. Businesses, workers and customers all benefit from roads, teachers, and firefighters, and all of them pay for those services. To say that businesses, which already pay high taxes, should owe something EXTRA to government because of its success is wholely without justification.

On one block in one town, a business may succeed and another may fail. It happens often. Both received the same benefits of infrarstructure & civil servants. THEREFORE, what Obama attributes to business success—-government (& TAXES!!)—- actually has little effect on business success. The success is virtually all a function of price, service & marketing. To claim that they owe their success to government is like saying they owe their success to gravity, because it keeps their products from flying off the shelves!

Success, measured in profits, and is not an evil. It’s the reward for the work you did, and an incentive towards excellence. Government and gravity are helpful, to be sure. But they’re the insignificant constant. They’re not among the critical factors that make the difference. If they were, then government would take the blame for business failures, and pay what is owed to creditors. Governments don’t do that. To the contrary, governments PENALIZE success by taxing it at higher rates. THAT DOES NOT HELP BUSINESS. Obama is therefore WRONG.

A man who started two businesses—-William Tucker—-described best how government “helped” him succeed.

I’ll tell you one other thing about starting your own business. If government takes any interest at all in you, it’s going to involve collecting taxes. I hadn’t been incorporated for a month before I started receiving letters from the New York State Department of Taxation telling me when I could start paying them. There were incorporated business taxes, workmen’s compensation taxes, unemployment taxes, Social Security taxes and on and on. Nearly all the correspondence I received while I was trying to start a business involved the government telling me how much money I owed it. I gave up the business in 2001 yet until last year I was still receiving letters from New York State trying to collect more taxes. They tracked me through three changes of address.
[ … ]
Indeed, there are millions of people who work very hard at their jobs. But to start a business you’ve got to do more than work hard. You’ve got to create something entirely new. You’ve got to be sensible, you’ve got to be ambitious. You’ve got to be willing to quit your day job, run up a lot of credit card debt and maybe risk everything in order to turn your dreams into reality. It’s a lot different than taking college exams.

FROM: President Obama — Public Employee #1″, by William Tucker, posted 7-17-12

Why are liberals more concerned about what Romney does with HIS money, and not what Obama does with THEIR money?! OH WAIT, because they must feel that Romney’s money IS their money! It’s ill-gotten gains, and Romey must have stolen it! That’s the essence of Obama’s “no one got rich on his own” rant.

This is all LIBERAL BITCHING. But even when I was a liberal in the 70s, 80s and 90s, I was always thankful to my employers for my job. I was paid the market rate, but also commensurate with my skills. Some people worked faster and more accurately than me, and they were able to command a higher salary. That is how it should be. If you think “equal pay for equal work” yields a more productive workforce, talk to workers who came from FORMER soviet or chinese communist systems. And there’s no such thing as “equal work.” Each person performs differently than the next.

The famous pro Soviet communist of the 1940s and 50s, Frank Marshall Davis, was Obama’s mentor when he was a teenager. And it’s apparent today, as Obama bitches about wealth creation from business. He is naive, banal, and ignorant of the ills of collectivist statism. And given his and Michelle’s mooching off the wealth of liberal Democrat friends, he’s hypocritical too.


As I said, taken as a whole, Obama’s “no one got rich on his own” speech was obviously about justifying policies to soak the rich, and not about the wonders of roads & bridges!

Here’s Obama’s remarks in full, after I numbered each of them:

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

TRANSLATION: Wealthy people should give back their wealth. To whom? To government through taxes, in which some of it trickles down to poor people.

2. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own.

TRANSLATION: They don’t deserve the rewards of their investment in money, time and expertise, because they had helpful parents & friends?

3. 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. (Applause.)

TRANSLATION: “Smart”-alecs in business, as seen by the resentful, less-wealthy academic (Obama), who is among the other less well-off “smart people out there” and “a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.”

4. 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.

TRANSLATION: “It takes a village” (i.e. gov.) liberal theology. ONLY government helpers are specified—-the public school teacher and the govenment road & bridge builders.

5. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

TRANSLATION: Taken in context, someone besides you, made your business “happen.”

6. 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.

TRANSLATION: Yet another thing that government created (which is utterly incorrect) that helped the businessman get wealthy (also false).

7. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.

TRANSLATION: Equates the individual’s own efforts with the “assistance” from government. No mention of the oppressive regulations, fees and taxes.

8. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

TRANSLATION: Ridiculous: The fire department deserves some credit for your invention or investment etc. You don’t deserve appreciation for paying firefighter’s salaries though.

Thus, the Lakoff framing of this issue INTENDS to minimize the great personal sacrifices, risk of loss, and hours of toil by entrepreneurs. If you believe it was solely & mainly about giving credit to government infrastructure, then YOU are ignoring the full context of it.

Copyright Publius Forum 2001