By Lois Alley, The Raleigh Telegram
RALEIGH – Many business owners across the nation are upset over recent comments made by President Barack Obama that if they had started a business, “they didn’t build that.”
At a speech in Roanoke, Virginia this week, the President told supporters that they didn’t get to where they are today without help from the government.
“If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own,” he said. “You didn’t get there on your own.”
“Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive,” he added. “Somebody invested in roads and bridges.”
The last part of his speech has raised quite a few eyebrows among people who have owned their own business, particularly in an economic time when it’s hard to make ends meet and people are working longer hours just to keep their doors open.
“If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that,” he said. “Somebody else made that happen.”
Although the comments were not widely reported in traditional media, they have been thoroughly discussed in online media and on more conservative channels such as radio talk shows, quite a bit.
Radio host Jason Lewis commented in a recent broadcast that the topic kept resurfacing among his listeners and was discussed several times on his radio show throughout the week. He said he felt the message sent by the administration is clear.
“They like business so long as you depend on the government,” he said. “But they don’t like you doing things on your own.”
Lewis commented that starting up your own business is “the epitome of risk” and that there is no safety net for those who bet everything on launching their own business. He also added that business owners pay taxes, which pays for the government infrastructure and questioned why taxpayers should be made to feel like they owe the government that they helped pay for in the first place.
Republicans in the state have been quick to point out the comments by President Obama. In a press conference in Raleigh, several party political figures commented on his statements.
“I think it reflects both an insult to every small business owner, but also an ignorance on the part of our President,” said Kieran Shanahan, a private attorney in Raleigh and a former US attorney who has been a GOP party leader. “It reflects how unqualified he is to lead us to an economic recovery.”
In North Carolina, some business owners have found the comments by the President to underestimate what it takes to start a business.
One business owner in Raleigh on Glenwood Avenue who wished to remain anonymous for fear of angering Raleigh officials has told the Telegram that in fact he felt the opposite of what President Obama said is true — he has been able to succeed despite interference from the government.
As an example, the businessman quoted an incident where he was expanding his operations to a new building and was told by two City of Raleigh officials two conflicting statements regarding the fire sprinkler system requirements in his new building. The resulting confusion cost him thousands of dollars, he said.
“We try to work with the city to abide by the law, but if they don’t even know what the law is, how can we know?” he asked.
He commented that it’s obvious the President has never had to run his own business and had to deal with “city hall.”
Other business owners took a more public approach to protest President Obama’s comments.
Snoopy’s Hot Dogs, a local hot dog and burger chain, has put up a sign on its location on Wake Forest Road with a message for the President: “Mr. Obama, I did create this business. — Steve Webb.”
Steve Webb started the business and posted the sign to protest the statements, which have been repeated over the world after someone sent out a photo through Twitter on the Internet.
During a recent visit to that location, some hot dog customers didn’t seem to know what the quote was about as they had not heard the President’s comments to business owners. Others knew about the sign and comments and had even made a special trip there to support Snoopy’s.
“I came all the way over here just to buy a hot dog and show my support,” said one Raleigh man who would only identify himself as a local business owner. “I didn’t have nobody help me with my business and I thought his [President Obama's] comments were ridiculous.”
At the press conference organized by the North Carolina GOP, some other business owners made their displeasure with the “you didn’t build tht” comment well known.
“When we started our business, we did not hang a sign up and wait for the business to come to us,” said Harold Hoffmeier,” founder of All About Garage Doors. “The Obama administration has not helped our business in any shape or form.”
His wife echoed those thoughts and said that she was currently doing the work of two people because she was concerned about the economy and didn’t want to hire anyone until things get better.
“We really do need to hire two people…but I’m afraid to and so, I’ll do two people’s job until the election,” said Susan Hoffmeier.
FULL TEXT OF THE PRESIDENT’S SPEECH
“We’ve already made a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts. We can make some more cuts in programs that don’t work, and make government work more efficiently…We can make another trillion or trillion-two, and what we then do is ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more …
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me, because they want to give something back. 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. 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.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. 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.
So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for president – because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.” ::
Article Posted: Friday, July 20th, 2012.