Laughter is good for the soul. Which explains why I felt so darn refreshed last night after watching the Republicans in action.Granted, it was pathetic that the Republicans built their entire evening on a blatant lie. But what fun it was to just kick back and revel in the hilarity.
As you know by now, the core theme of the night was “We Built It” – the notion that business entrepreneurs succeed by dint of their own gumption, and that Republicans are proud of that gumption…unlike President Obama, who supposedly disrespects that gumption, and who supposedly said back on July 13 that successful businesspeople owe everything to government. Obama never said that, of course. But last night, via some cleverly mendacious editing, the Republicans made it sound as if he had. Over and over, Obama’s voice emanated from the arena loudspeakers: “Let me tell you something, if you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”Now let’s compare the GOP’s version to the actual version. Obama, on July 13: “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.”Obama was just stating the obvious. Entrepreneurs thrive in a free system where people help each other. Entrepreneurs succeed via their own initiative, with support from government (i.e., the taxpayers), which builds the roads and bridges and the societal infrastructure. This has been the American reality for decades. Indeed, Franklin D. Roosevelt said the same thing, in a message to Congress in 1935: “People know that vast personal incomes come not only through the effort or ability or luck of those who receive them, but also because of the opportunities for advantage which government itself contributes.”And anyone with even minimally cognitive abilities can read Obama’s full remarks and see that his clumsy line “you didn’t build that” was a reference to roads and bridges. Heck, he could’ve gone further and pointed out the obvious fact that ’50s economic prosperity was aided and abetted by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower’s decision to construct the interstate highway system.So the GOP built its evening around something Obama never said, and that set up a long string of thigh-slappers. I loved it, for instance, when the Republicans paraded Delaware businesswoman Sher Valenzuela, who co-runs an upholstery business. She built it! All by herself, thanks to her entrepreneurial gumption! With no help from government…Oh well. So much for that lie. It turns out that Valenzuela got $2 million in loans from the federal Small Business Administration, and $15 million in government contracts. And that she recently surfaced in a video praising federal assistance as a business person’s “biggest secret weapon.”
We also saw a guy named Phil Archuleta, who owns a signage company in New Mexico. On stage he declared: “President Obama talks like he supports small businesses, but his actions are destroying us.” Because Archuleta built his own business all by himself, right?
Uh, no. Turns out, Archuleta got a $850,000 guaranteed federal loan from the Small Business Administration to build a new 11,000-foot facility for his company. And, to build his company, he also worked with the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Energy. This stuff apparently slipped his mind last night.
I was also amused when Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell showed up on stage to boast about his state’s low unemployment rate, and deliver a general shout-out to his fellow Virginians: “You did build that in America! Big government didn’t build America, you built America!” I nearly ejected my drink through my nose. The obvious reason why Virginia enjoys such a low unemployment rate is two-fold: (1) The huge number of federal government jobs in Northern Virginia, and (2) The huge number of Northern Virginia residents who commute to their federal government jobs in Washington, D.C.I also found South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to be quite chuckle-worthy. She went on and on about all the entrepreneurs in her state who built their businesses on their own without any support from government – while somehow omitting the fact that the feds pump $4.6 billion in defense procurement contracts into South Carolina each year; that the procurement money is only 17 percent of what the feds pump into the South Carolina economy each year; and that the next generation of South Carolina workers are getting educational support from the federal government (via Pell Grants, for instance) to the tune of half a billion dollars each year.And it was comedic when Ann Romney invoked her late father as someone who Built It all on his own. Her words: “When he was 15, Dad came to America….He moved to a small town in the great state of Michigan. There, he started a business – one he built himself, by the way.” Big applause from the credulous naifs in the convention hall. Somehow, Ann forgot to mention the fact that Edward Davies, successful entrepreneur, built his heavy equipment firm with the help of lucrative military and NASA contracts.But seriously, folks: Everybody built this country. The railway and road construction workers, financed by the taxpayers, who have helped businesses move their goods to market. The techie scientists, financed by government grants, who created the miracle of the Internet and moved businesses into the 21st century. The lawmakers who passed the GI Bill and thus enabled war vets (including Chris Christie’s dad) to get an education and a toehold in the economy. American society is a huge communitarian project, an interlocking web – no matter how fervently the Republicans may try to lie and deny.Oh, and by the way? The Tampa arena that’s hosting the Republican convention? The arena that was festooned last night with “We Built It” signs? Turns out, government provided 62 percent of the money to build the arena. It’s publicly owned by the taxpayers.Not that the Republicans care about being fact-checked on any of this stuff. As Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said the other day (and I swear he actually said this): “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”That one deserves the biggest laugh of all.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1