President Obama seems to be unabashedly ripping off controversial Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren’s line that individuals really aren’t all that important. While campaigning in Roanoke, Virginia, this is what he had to say (transcript courtesy of the Washington Times):
“Look, if you’ve been successful, 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...”
Now President Obama is correct in noting that we don’t live in a vacuum. All of us owe a debt of gratitude to at least a few people – parents, teachers, friends, mentors – for the opportunities we’ve received and the accomplishments we’ve achieved because of those opportunities.
However, that doesn’t mean we owe them money for their non-contractual helping hands. And it certainly doesn’t mean we owe the government for what they did for us.
But let’s throw reality to the wind and say that Elizabeth Warren and the President are right. Let’s say that we should be keeping score of who owes who what in every single case possible…
Personally, that means I owe my parents tens of thousands of dollars, since they raised, fed, clothed and home schooled me. Then there are the employers and college professors I’ve had, and the public and private workers who have ensured my life runs smoother than it otherwise might, all of whom Warren and Obama also think merit payment.
Of course, those other people already got paid for what they did, which means my debt to them is either small or non-existent. In addition, I should have some money coming to me for all of the ways I’ve helped my friends, my family and the homeless people I’ve bought food for in the past.
How do I calculate all of that, considering all of the different values and factors involved? Better yet, how does the government calculate that?
The answer is simple: It can’t. And even more importantly, it shouldn’t… especially not when “the rich” President Obama and his fellow liberals are targeting have already paid a huge debt to society through the businesses they run, the jobs they offer and the personal commerce they engage in with the money they make.
Who knows? Maybe when the tabs are all calculated, maybe we owe them something!