Point of View Columns

Mitt Romney and the Myth of the Self Made Man

Recently President Obama pointed out in a speech that American businesses are not successful on their own and that they owe their success to the support and services provided by government and the American people. Proving once again that history, common sense and statistics have no place in his political rhetoric, Mitt Romney has responded by trying to promote the Myth of the Self Made Man.

The Koch brothers, Senator Jim DeMint, Grover Norquist, Congressman Paul Ryan and all of the denizens of the right wing of the right wing of the Teapublican Party loudly proclaim their goal of shrinking government, claiming that government gets in the way of business, job creation and the freedom of the American people.

In continuing his efforts to pole dance his way to the Teapublican nomination, Mitt Romney has contorted his personal narrative in order to win favor with the insatiable conservative wing of his party. And now, as he pursues this quixotic mission he has decided to twist the truth, obliterate the facts and defy common sense.

That President Obama’s statement referring to business relying on the support and services of the American government should be even remotely controversial is simply further proof of the core Teapublican ideology – “Obama Bad. Not Obama Good.” This not so insightful philosophy seems to inform Mitt Romney’s latest attack on President Obama.

It is difficult to imagine that a successful businessman like Mitt Romney would seriously think that a business could prosper in a community where there were no police, sanitation or fire services. Even though a good part of Mr. Romney’s business acumen lies with acquiring and denuding businesses and then selling off the scraps, one would think that even he would understand this elemental fact.

Mr. Romney could take time off from sending love notes to his money stashed away in faraway places like Switzerland and the Cayman Islands and ask a businessman in Trenton or a businesswoman in Detroit what it is like to try and run a company when basic municipal services have disappeared and government has shrunk to a size that it can be drowned in a bathtub – to quote Grover Norquist’s timeless phrase.

If he could stop thinking about his tax returns he might read about how Steve Jobs, an entrepreneur that he cites as being independent of government, went to public school. He might also take a moment to reflect that almost all of the American employees of Apple spent some time in public school.

And if Mr. Romney is aspiring to be president he should know that almost all of the American employees of Apple who attended college went to an institution that received federal funds for research, construction and student loans. And the same story is true at companies from Microsoft to General Motors and any other business you might care to name.

It is true that businesses and their owners pay taxes. But is there anyone who would seriously argue that dollar for dollar American businesses get the best value for their tax dollars? The interstate highway system, the clean water system and the national power grid are pretty expensive items that provide incredible value to the business environment in this country. Even ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers would have to think twice about paying for the infrastructure that supports their enterprises dollar for dollar.

Historically, it was government financing that provided the resources that resulted in the construction of the transcontinental railroad which literally transformed this country and created a truly united United States. Countless fortunes were made from this single government investment as the heirs of Leland Stanford and alumni of Stanford University will attest.

More recently, it was the government that created the G.I. Bill which in turn permitted millions of returning World War II veterans (my father included) to attend college and become part of the middle class which has been the foun.dation for this country’s economic progress for over a half century. From General Electric to the general store on the corner, millions of American businesses and their owners and executives literally “owe” their success to government services and support.

It is inconceivable that anyone could seriously argue that government (federal, state and local) and the services that it provides has not been a full partner in the success of American business. And it is quite telling that Mitt Romney would try to put forward this myth of the self made man.

Mitt Romney may be a self made man but he didn’t do a very good job. He left out common sense and included an aversion to the truth


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