Few people understand how much they benefit from their surrounding society. For example, if you grow up in Charleston, all these advantages are handed to you -- facilities you didn't create yourself:
You have billion-dollar four-lane freeways and bridges enabling you to drive free in all directions.
You have free public schools to train your mind, plus state universities.
You have large hospital complexes, ambulance services, and police and fire protection.
You have public parks, auditoriums, riverfronts, libraries, museums.
You have postal service, trash service, sewer service -- plus safe drinking water, reliable electricity, dependable telephones, the all-reaching Internet, etc.
No individual made all these things. They're communal blessings given to you through citizenship -- many of them provided by taxes. Simply living in America endows you with tremendous advantages not enjoyed in less-developed nations.
All this was in President Obama's mind when he told a Virginia crowd: "Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have [which] 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."
Obviously, he meant that the entire bounty of America supplies the framework enabling entrepreneurs to succeed. But Republicans and Fox News went ballistic over his "you didn't build that" line. Hundreds of stump speeches accuse the president of scoffing at business owners.
The theme of the GOP convention in Tampa was changed to "We Built This," to sneer at the president. Ironically, Republicans met at the Tampa Bay Times Forum arena, which was built primarily with $86 million in taxpayer funds.
To rebuke Obama, one speaker, Sher Valenzuela, told how she and her husband laboriously grew their Delaware upholstery business. Later, it was revealed that they were aided by $2 million in federal loans and $15 million in government contracts. In fact, during a previous talk this year, Valenzuela praised government aid as an entrepreneur's "biggest secret weapon."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a self-made billionaire and former Republican, understood Obama perfectly. He said the president meant that "if you didn't have the public school system, our kids wouldn't have educations, and therefore when you hired somebody, you'd have to teach them to read and write. ... It is true you use bridges to come into work, it is true that the country is protected by an army and there's a firefighter ready to respond if your place is burning down. And so you have to have those things."
Bloomberg concluded: "Yes, these people who did it themselves deserve enormous credit, but it's also true that if there wasn't a cop on the corner to keep them safe or an ambulance to respond when they had a heart attack, they wouldn't have been able to do it."
It's great that America, the world's richest country, provides a foundation on which hard-working business-starters can create jobs and rise to success.Footnote: A Democratic attack ad cited Mitt Romney's record of sending U.S. jobs overseas and told him: "You didn't build that -- you destroyed it."