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Ian Squires Headshot

Who Built That?

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The Romney campaign got a nice treat July 13th in Virginia. No sense denying the red meat President Obama served up when these precise words came out of his mouth:

"If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

Obviously, the President did not intend to convey what that cherry-picked snippet might suggest. If you simply read the four sentences immediately preceding those poorly-phrased two, you understand the context and what he was, actually, saying:

"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."

When Rep. Akin spoke about the subtle differences of sexual assault on August 20 (with forcible and legitimate being the bad kinds of "rape") he meant what he said. He shares in the belief of most of his conservative colleagues. His mistake was stating their position bluntly and to the public. But obviously he does agree with his own opinion.

President Obama fumbled over an awkwardly-phrased two lines. Look back up at the President's controversial sound bite again. Intellectual honesty is generally overlooked in favor of partisan bull****. But even if we suspend reality and assume President Obama is an illegal immigrant/double-secret Muslim spy, it should still be painfully obvious what message he attempted to communicate. Especially if you do not rip it out of context, as every detractor has willingly done.

The President's opinion is crystal clear. I'm more interested in Mitt Romney's worldview, specifically why he thinks our entrepreneurs deserve 100 percent of the credit for every facet of their endeavors. Romney's campaign website is now selling "I built my business, Mr. President" t-shirts. As the GOP nominee declared, "The idea, to say that Steve Jobs didn't build Apple, that Henry Ford didn't build Ford Motor...to say something like that is not just foolishness, it's insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America, and it's wrong."

That's wrong? Really? So Steve Jobs could have started Apple anywhere? Might have even saved a pretty penny on those burdensome American taxes we hear and fear so much about. Jobs and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak famously built their first computer in the garage of Jobs' parents. So if instead of California that garage happened to be located in, say, the landlocked, sub-Saharan African nation of Rwanda, there would be millions of Apple computers (not to mention the iPods and, maybe, Afr-iPads) shipping out of Rwanda each year, and the United Nations might not have ranked the Rwandan economy 148th in the world. If only Jobs and Wozniak had worked there.

Or Yemen. If only these two fiercely independent Apple inventors had put their hard work to use in Yemen, perhaps the war-torn Arabian Peninsula-nation with an adult literacy rate hovering around 50 percent would no longer rest atop Forbes Magazine's list of the "World's Worst Economies."

Maybe Mr. Romney is right. Could it be that every time a Microsoft flourishes, or a Facebook goes public, many Rwandans and Yemenis are left impoverished and kicking themselves for not simply thinking of it first? Is it the "American Exceptionalism" that Romney is so proud of? Maybe the many Rwandan tech startup we hear about fail to grow into internationally known, multi-billion dollar corporations simply because their citizens refuse to work as hard as Harvard University dropouts Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, the creators of Microsoft and Facebook.

Rightly or wrongly, President Obama believes that being American actually put all of these great innovators at a distinct advantage over their counterparts in, say, Kyrgyzstan. Iran is home to significantly lower corporate taxes than the United States, yet even with the passing of Apple's CEO, Northern California native Steve Jobs, there have been no rumors of Apple, Inc. contemplating a West Coast relocation to Tehran. Is Mitt Romney really surprised?