Published July 17, 2012
Comments made by President Obama during his weekend campaign stop in Roanoke, Va., have some small business owners furious.
Here's verbatim what the president said while speaking to a crowd of supporters about taxes: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Some have interpreted the comments as meaning all business owners who have worked hard and achieved success were helped along the way by government infrastructure, and therefore these business owners should be subject to higher taxes.
Small business owners are speaking out in response. Some say it’s just political rhetoric and the president's right to start the discussion, while others took the statement quite literally and object to being told "somebody else" made their business success happen.
Bruce Lackey, president and CEO of Happy Chicken Farms in Urbancrest, Ohio, said with the exclusion of the public sector, government isn’t responsible for much job creation. However, Obama has every right to begin a discussion about creating new jobs and governments’ role in doing so. Lackey has close to 100 employees in Ohio and Virginia and has been in business since 1953.
“Obama can use the bully pulpit to frame objectives and goals and start a discussion,” Lackey said. “But it comes back down to small-and-middle-market businesses to go out and create jobs.”
Unlike some other business owners, Lackey isn’t feeling burned by Obama’s comments.
“It would take a lot more than that to offend me,” he said. “I think its politics and this comes from both sides of the aisle. I take it and discard most of it.”
As for government regulation, Lackey said he is not against it in principle.
In fact, he said many regulations leave small business owners exempt and impact their bigger competitors more often than not.
“I am not opposed to a lot of regulation, I feel 80% of regulation is good and 20% is bad,” he said. “If most small business owners had their eyes open, they’d see they’re exempt.”
Phil Derrow, owner of OTP Industrial Solutions in Columbus, Ohio, said he found the President’s comments to be “appalling.”
“Anyone understands how the system works,” Derrow said. “We all benefit from government roads, and fire and police departments and the legitimate purposes of government. But for him to say, ‘You didn’t build that, someone else made that happen,’ I don’t see how that can be blown out of proportion. It deserves outrage.”
Derrow, who has 500 employees and is nearing his 50th anniversary as a business owner, said that while he thinks Obama is a smart man, his understanding of business is severely lacking.
“I think he said exactly what he believes,” Derrow said. “I was truly shocked. I know Elizabeth Warren has made similar comments. Nobody disputes the public benefits we all get from public service, but the notion that somebody else magically creates business is ludicrous and offensive.”
Jerry Pierce, owner of Restaurant Equipment World in Orlando, Fla., agreed with Derrow.
“This is highly insulting and arrogant,” Pierce said. “When I started my business, it took me 10 years to save $10,000 and my first office was a desk made of a door and two filing cabinets. Government wasn’t there to help me. Obama has no idea how to run a business.”
Lackey said he would prefer both Romney and Obama focusing less on what the other is doing on the campaign trail and shifting their focus to creating actionable plans.
“It’s not just, ‘Here’s what I have done,’” he said. “If you say you are going to create two million jobs, tell me specifically, how.”