As an American entrepreneur who has built several successful businesses, I offer this simple challenge to Mitt Romney (or anyone): Can you identify even one American-based business that hasn't, in any way, benefited from government support?
Last week I saw a small group of people holding signs on a street corner that read: "The government didn't build my business, I did!" A few days later, Mr. Romney came to my hometown and repeated the same refrain about "people who built their businesses without any help from the government."
That catchphrase has been a battle cry for the Romney campaign ever since Fox News cut and pasted a few of President Obama's words out of context, then twisted them to make it seem as though the President said business owners do not deserve credit for their own success. The deceptively edited video continues to be used by the Romney campaign, which has adopted the intentional distortion as one of their campaign themes, and now there are even Romney t-shirts proclaiming, "Government Didn't Build My Business, I DID."
Nearly every news source (other than Fox News) has refuted the Romney campaign's misleading distortion countless times and ways, so anyone who still believes the President of the United States would say such a thing may be beyond reasoning with, but I'll take a shot.
First, as is clear to anyone who heard President Obama's unedited words, the President was obviously talking about the bridges and roads that businesses rely on to conduct commerce. Businesses didn't "build that," the government did.
Second, when I ask if anyone can identify a company that hasn't benefited from government support, I mean, find one business in America:
1) That doesn't have any owners, employees, consultants, or advisors who attended public schools.
2) That doesn't use the U.S. postal service or other delivery service such as Federal Express or UPS that relies on public roadways.
3) Whose owners or employees don't use public roads, sidewalks, or bridges to get to work or conduct business.
4) That never uses an airline that relies on airports, runways and control towers operated by the government.
5) That never uses the Internet or a landline telephone, the underlying infrastructure and technologies for which were developed with federal funds.
6) That never uses a mobile phone, which relies on technology originally developed with federal funds and whose spectrum is leased from the government.
7) That doesn't use publicly built and managed water and sewer systems.
8) That doesn't use the U.S. dollar or a U.S. bank insured by a federal agency.
9) Whose owners or employees don't eat any grain, meat, produce or any other farm product subsidized by the government.
10) Whose owners or employees have never called a police officer, firefighter, national guardsman, or federally supported medical worker, or breathed any public air (the quality of which is monitored and improved through government initiatives).
My point here is the same as President Obama's: One way or another, the infrastructure supported by our government crucially benefits us all, especially small and start-up businesses. None of us truly does it "all by ourselves."
This is common sense, except in the Romney campaign. Not too surprising, since Mr. Romney spent his career on Wall Street as a leveraged buyout manager. He borrowed money from banks to buy companies, then used those companies' assets as collateral to borrow more money, making massive fees for himself and his colleagues. He often let the purchased companies go bankrupt, sending their jobs overseas. One of Mr. Romney's "business skills" was to send the nearly tax-free cash he made to bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.
The family of Mr. Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, gained most of its wealth through lucrative government contracts. Mr. Ryan's family had a construction company that developed many of Wisconsin's interstate roads for nearly 60 years, while Mr. Ryan's grandfather was a district attorney for the U.S. government.
As for Mr. Ryan himself, his only jobs since college have both been for the government -- first as a Congressional staffer, then as a Congressman. Yet listening to Mr. Ryan, one would believe he thinks the government is enemy #1. So what is Mr. Ryan doing now? He's trying to get an even higher paying job with... the government.
How is it that these two candidates, who cannot claim to have actually "built" anything themselves, still claim they speak for America's business owners? Do they really think a business can somehow pop up, as an island unto itself, and succeed without any government support? As the 10 points above show, Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan simply don't know what they're talking about.
To paraphrase President Obama's nomination acceptance speech: "Made in America" has always meant what's being built by us all -- together.