Thursday, August 02, 2012

'You didn't build that' resonates because it was insulting and dismissive

'You didn't build that' resonates because it was insulting and dismissive

via PrairiePundit by Merv on 7/31/12

Josh Barro:
Jonathan Chait says the president's "you didn't build that" speech revived racial resentmentsabout redistributive fiscal policy, partly because the president was speaking in a "black dialect."
Maybe this was a problem with the speech, but the key problem was much simpler: The president was needlessly insulting. He wasn't just calling on successful people to pay more in tax but was being dismissive of their accomplishments.
I agree with David Frum that the most toxic part of the speech is Barack Obama talking about the sources of success:
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.
Really? The president is always struck by people who take credit for their own successes? Obviously, every successful outcome in life -- and every failed one -- arises from a combination of internal and external factors. But the president's tone when he said this, amused by the very idea of people taking credit for their achievements, was off-putting.
Frum mostly talks about why this statement irks rich people, but I believe it resonates badly with people at all income levels. Lots of people -- most, I hope -- are proud of something they've achieved in their lives and feel like that achievement owes much to their own hard work and talents. You don't have to make over $250,000 a year to be annoyed when the president mocks people for taking credit for their achievements.
And it's an especially jarring statement because of what it's used to justify -- higher taxes, with the implication being that they are called for because people do not deserve their own pre-tax wealth. People are rightly unnerved by an argument that amounts to "we can tax you because you didn't deserve this anyway." Faced with such an argument, defending your own contribution to your success isn't just a point of pride -- it's an argument you must make to defend the principle that you are entitled to your own private property.
Barro goes on to chastise Chait for his goofy suggestion that the reaction was based on race.   He points out that Scott Brown made similar attacks on Elizabeth Warren for making similar remarks.  He purported Indian heritage was not a factor in the ad.  I think the "You didn't build that" attacks will continue to resonate with business owners.

I suspect that Obama cops this attitude because so much of his own success was undeserved.

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