Carolina Journal News Reports
The Romney campaign held a press event at a Snoopy’s location in Raleigh after owner Steve Webb sent a message to President Obama.
RALEIGH — President Obama’s statement — “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen” — made at a July 13 speech in Roanoke, Va., did not sit well with business owners in North Carolina and across the country.
Steve Webb, the owner of the Snoopy's Hot Dogs & More grills in Raleigh, drew national attention when he posted, on a sign outside one location, "Mr. Obama, I did create this business." The photo went viral on Twitter and representatives of the presidential campaign of Republican former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney held a press conference featuring Webb at the Snoopy's location.
Several North Carolina business owners and the representative of a business trade association told Carolina Journal they did not appreciate the president’s comments.
Gregg Thompson, director of the North Carolina State chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, said NFIB was “incensed” with the mind-set of the president. “These are hardworking entrepreneurs and small business owners who came up with business ideas all on their own.” Thompson said. “[They] used money that they had either saved, or mortgaged their house, or maxed out credit cards to be able to start their business.” NFIB represents 8,300 business owners in North Carolina.
Thompson said that 67 percent of all newly created jobs originate with small business owners, “not by the government, and not [with] the help of the government as the president insinuated.”
Frank Goodnight, owner of Diversified Graphics Inc. in Salisbury and a member of NFIB’s Leadership Council board, said Obama’s assertion “is absolutely the most absurd statement that I’ve ever heard a politician make. It points out how out of touch he is with businesses and economics in the United States.”
Greensboro entrepreneur Gordon Hunt, who joined his father and brother in starting Illuminating Technologies, said, “For someone that has no private sector experience to lecture me on what it takes to start a business, is insulting. … [Obama has] never created jobs. He’s never built a business. He sees business as a tax tool, and he doesn’t understand the life experience that it brings. He’ll never know what it’s like to help other people create a life for themselves.”
Ferrel Guillory, founder of the Program on Public Life and a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the business owners seemed to be taking the president’s comments out of context, “If you look at the sentence before, [Obama] was talking about roads and infrastructure,” Guillory said. “By ‘that,’ did he mean the business, or the roads and infrastructure?” Guillory believes the president meant the latter.
Hunt countered that the president’s remarks, taken in their entirety, leave a less favorable impression than the excerpt that has drawn so much attention. “He was off his teleprompter, and that’s when we find out what he really thinks,” Hunt said.
Goodnight agreed. “I’ve listened to the entire speech now twice,” he said. “There’s no way he misspoke. He was off teleprompter, which is dangerous for him.”
Another statement by the president raised the hackles of business owners: “If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own,” he said. “I’m always struck by people who think … “It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.’ Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hard working people out there.”
Thompson disagreed entirely: “A successful small business owner is successful because of his hard work, determination, commitment, and drive — not by any other outside source,” Thompson said. “No leg up, no luck, no handouts.”
After listening to what he called a “considerable amount” of the president’s speech, Guillory said, “when you look at he speech as a whole, the president is saying that we want entrepreneurs to succeed but that success is dependent on an array of things such as roads, schools, and fire protection that we come together to provide as a community.”
Roy Cordato, vice president of research and resident scholar at the John Locke Foundation, said the remarks show Obama has a “fundamental misunderstanding of a market economy.” He said the president is “hostile to entrepreneurship. His view is a Marxist view of wealth creation: that profits are extracted by exploiting workers.”
“The stimulus package is completely based on that misunderstanding,” Cordato added. “The government can’t stimulate the economy because it first has to take resources from individuals and successful businesses.”
Hunt said this mentality is “reflected in every [Obama] policy. Over 4,000 new regulations were announced in January, [which] are putting a lot of businesses out of business.”
Guillory said the president’s remarks in Roanoke merely were “asserting the long-held view in this country that you need government as a partner, as an expression of a community’s interest, to support free enterprise and private initiative.”
Signè Thomas is an editorial intern for Carolina Journal.