It’s a shame there aren’t more mid-July graduations in Roanoke, Virginia. If there had been, the president might have delivered his “you didn’t built that” speech to the most appreciative of audiences.
Imagine the relief enjoyed by graduates — and their parents — who face the anxiety of angling for entry into a workforce under the shadow of an 8.2% unemployment rate, when the president rejiggered the formula for success.
The hearts of newly minted grads would be lifted to know that classroom achievement, diligent hours studied away, ingenuity and determination are not the factors deciding their futures. No, the actual active ingredient, informed the talker-in-chief: his generous government. They’ve got you covered back at central planning in D.C. Relax. You won’t have to put down that Xbox 360 controller, slow the collegiate flow of beer and take initiative. The government will come to you; they’ll build a road, in fact — or light rail or high-speed transit or something — and sweep you along into passive success.
But this new paradigm in Western work ethic isn’t just good news for our graduates. Washed-up business failures and burnt-out entrepreneurs, lift your heads! It wasn’t your fault! No need to blame lousy business models, hare-brained products or even plain old bad fortune. The government just didn’t build “it.” There are only so many resources available, you know, with the one-percenters the government built up not ponying up their fare on the Federal Expressway. The Chevy Volt. Pepsi Clear. The Edsel. Betamax. A few in a long list of successes-in-waiting the government just couldn’t build in time. All along we thought competition and consumer choice drove the free market. Nope. You didn’t build that mess; we did.
Those lucky recipients of achievement and prosperity — built, packaged and delivered — can take a deep breath, too. The president’s reassurances dispel the paranoia that the government might be trying to tear them down. Sure, regulatory agencies churn out hundreds of fresh pages each week. The NLRB rearranges a private business’s operations. The Environmental Protection Agency turns 30 years of forest law on its head, gutting responsible forest farms, family-wage union jobs and even their cousins at the Forest Service all at once. The current regulatory burden is $1.75 trillion annually. But they all can stop whining. Your businesses are ours to tear down. You see, you didn’t build that; we did.
The audience that matters most got the message, though. The American electorate had a profound glimpse into the president’s view of himself. He sees himself as the benevolent Grand Gardener, carefully cultivating and watering businesses, nurturing and overfeeding some, hacking back others that grow too big and ripping others out by their roots as he sees fit.
So, graduates, pick your poison. Food stamps, subsidies, loans or a road. We’ll take it from here. You’re in good hands. Just ask Solyndra.
Daniel Beutler resides in Washington State with his wife and their two pugs. He is a former congressional aide and campaign worker.