These are the words that started it all

“There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

“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.”

That is the word for word context of the part of the speech President Obama gave earlier this year that the Republicans have condensed to just four words

“You didn’t build that”

From that snippet of a larger statement the GOP has been building a prosecution against the incumbent in an attempt to prove him guilty of wanting to insinuate the government into our lives while it is obvious that anyone who experiences business success did so solely as a result of their own inspiration combined with perspration.

They have even made it a major theme of this week’s nominating convention in Tampa. Of course Jon Stewart of The Daily Show quickly capitalized by brilliantly mocking this nonsense. You can view the video here.


We need not delve deeply to reveal  success stories that belie the characterization of “I made it on my own.” In fact we just need to look at the Republican nominees for President and Vice President..

We will look at Number 2 first.

Paul Ryan has served in Congress fourteen years and  is just forty-two years old. He was born into a family that had become very wealthy in the construction business.

(Disclaimer: I make no assertion that any of this is or was illegal nor was it vastly different from what most people in their positions would have done.)

This construction business began in the late 1800’s as the federal government awarded contracts to build the railroads. The Ryan family benefitted from those contracts.

Through the years the company flourished and gained expertise and thus was able to bid on and win federal government contracts to help construct Chicago’s O’hare Airport as well as chunks of the Interstate Highway system. Even today much of its business comes from federal (and probably some state and local) government contracts.

When Paul Ryan was sixteen years old his father died. As a minor he was entitled to Social Security Survivors benefits from the federal government.Fortunately he did not have to use that money to live on and he wisely saved it which paid for his college education.

While in college he worked as a Senate intern and on a congressional campaign. Upon graduation he went back to Washington, D.C. as a staff economist for that same Senator. Later he was a speechwriter for a conservative group founded by people who had worked in the federal government.

Eventually he launched his own political career…in the federal government.

Now let’s look out for Number 1 as he so ably does for himself.

Romney’s narrative is pretty well-known. Takes time off from college to go on a Mormon mission. Those endeavors aren’t easy either. Returns and gets his degree then dual law and MBA degrees from Harvard then on to Bain and Company. As sort of a protege to Bill Bain, Mitt was entrusted with heading up the spinoff of Bain Capital from the parent company.

Now things begin to get interesting. Though portrayed, especially in a convention speech by his wife, as a brave entrepreneur who took a great risk in heading to the offshoot, the truth is actually the opposite. Fearful of failing (not unreasonable in a startup) Mitt sought a cushion…an edge if you will. He persuaded Bain to take him back at the main company if that failure occurred and keep him financially secure and cover for him with an explanation that would keep his public image untarnished.

Everything worked out but it seems in 1990 Bain and Company itself was in deep finacial doo doo. Here’s how a Rolling Stone article describes the situation.

The trouble began in 1984, when Bain & Company spun off Bain Capital to engage in leveraged buyouts and put Romney in charge of the new operation. To free up money to invest in the new business, founder Bill Bain and his partners cashed out much of their stock in the consulting firm – leaving it saddled with about $200 million in debt. (Romney, though not a founder, reportedly profited from the deal.) “People will tell you that Bill raped the place clean, was greedy, didn’t know when to stop,” a former Bain consultant later conceded. “Did they take too much out of the firm? You bet
What happened next was culled from FDIC documents that Rolling Stone obtained through a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request:

The FDIC documents make clear what happened next: “Soon after the founders sold their equity,” analysts reported, “business began to drop off.” First came scandal: In the late 1980s, a Bain consultant became a key figure in an illegal stock manipulation scheme in London. The firm’s reputation took a hit, and it fired 10 percent of its consulting force. By the time the 1989 recession began, Bain & Company found itself going broke fast. Cash flows weren’t enough to service the debt imposed by the founders, and the firm could barely make payroll. In a panic, Bill Bain tapped Romney, his longtime protégé, to take the reins.

What Romney did was basically this. He got a consolidated loan from four banks and some Bain partners returned cash to the business. But even those tactics did not succeed fully and the banks were on the hook for over $30 million. Since there was a golden parachute provision in the loan documents that provided for the payment of the available cash to Bain executives, liquidation would mean the creditors would get nothing.

So the FDIC ended up taking the hit (that’s FEDERAL Deposit Insurance Corporation), the bonuses were paid while the banks got nothing and…oh yeah…Bain Capital walked away with a $3.6 miliion fee for lending Romney to the parent company.

So as you can see no matter the abilities to run a business Mitt Romney possessed, he never would have left Bain and Company without his own little safety net in place. Then, when summoned to a rescue he left inchoate, he was able to leverage the federal government into covering the losses for the loans his private company could not repay. All this while making a tidy profit.

Yes, various programs of the U.S. federal governmet enabled our two broad-shouldered lads to wend their way to the top, as steps towrd the present goal of becoming the most powerful man in the world and the man just one heartbeat from replacing him. In Mitt’s case he also had the luxury of a fallback position if his venture into leading a new company failed.

Not that many people opening dry cleaners or restaurants or auto body shops  are accorded that luxury.

Thus if you encounter Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney upon the campaign trail and you hear either of them blurt out, “I built that!”, immediately get a bar of soap and wash their mouths out for blasphemy.

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