Friday, July 20, 2012


The facebook exchange about which I posted last night continued today:

Greg Ron, sorry, late getting back here. I have to sleep at night. I didn't miss the point at all. You can go as deep as you want about the whole job creators thing because that statement has nothing to do with job creation. It has to do with people being successful. I actually agree with Obama's whole statement right up until he says the part about people who own a business not building it. That's complete and utter crap. Was the government there with the guy who started his own restaurant and made it into a success? Was someone from DC sitting there next to that person while they worked 14 plus hours a day for years on end, working over spread sheets, checking inventories, etc? No. The government may have given the guy a few tax breaks but it also imposed tons of regulations that the person had to follow as well. If Obama wanted to say "Rich people don't create jobs" he should have said that.Instead he pointed at every business owner and said "You think you worked hard and built your own business but the credit goes to the government because we built it, you didn't". If you can tell me how that is so in the example I just provided I will be glad to find some agreement with you. Problem is, you will have a hell of time convincing me of it.But again, I Do think the reaction to the statement is a little over the top but it's all politics.

Ron ‎@Greg: "I actually agree with Obama's whole statement right up until he says the part about people who own a business not building it. That's complete and utter crap."

That's because his statement doesn't mean what you think it does. Here's more of the context:

"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."

If you look at that last sentence, and ONLY that last sentence, then sure, it means what you think it does. But the sentence comes at the end of a paragraph. I mean, this is a classic ninth grade English composition construction, with a topic sentence, explanation, and conclusion sentence. So the word "that" in the conclusion sentence NECESSARILY refers to the content of the overall paragraph, teachers, the "American system," roads and bridges, NOT the business one owns. This is pretty easy to understand.

That we are arguing about it is weird when you step back for a moment's reflection. Obama's statement is not controversial in any way. Yes, OF COURSE, capitalism exists within an overall economic context of which the government is, and always has been, a huge part. No businessman creates his business in an economic vacuum. He depends on countless aspects already being in place that, outside of his own personal tax contributions, he didn't spend a dime on. I mean, businesses just don't spring from the forehead of Zeus fully grown. They need educated workers, start up capital, police protection, public infrastructure, and on and on. But like I said, this is obvious and non-controversial. We are only arguing about this because the conservatives have been so successful for so long in their multi-decade propagandizing that touts government as "the problem," that has convinced numerous Americans that there is some sort of line of demarcation separating the entity known as "the government" from this magical thing called "the economy." Of course, that's BS: government is inextricably intertwined with the economy, no way to sunder the two, and it would be a bad idea in any case.

It is only in this bizarre socially constructed "reality" where people can remove a single sentence from an overall thought and assign new meaning to it to make it signify something that is totally absurd. I mean, why the hell would Obama say something so obviously stupid? Answer: he didn't, and was actually pretty clear about it in the first place.

Also, lucky you. You get to work in the day.

Ron Another thought regarding the compositional analysis of the President's original full statement: the concluding sentence creates a parallel structure vis a vis the topic sentence, which also makes it pretty good writing. That is, both sentences are if/then statements. If you're successful, then you had help. If you've built a business, you didn't build it by yourself. And because we're talking about a topic sentence and a concluding sentence, the latter is essentially a repetition of the former. I mean, no way to mistake this. Unless, of course, one is totally uneducated in English usage, or one simply doesn't care what he learned back in ninth grade. Either way, this whole controversy is based on bullshit.
Did you notice the subtle jab about having to sleep at night? Given the overall context, it's hard not to take that as some sort of assertion that he has to work for a living while I...what?...drink rum out of coconut glasses on the beach all day? In any case, I've hit a wall of frustration with this guy. It seems there is nothing I can say that he's actually going to take into account when he formulates his response. That is, it's like we're having two conversations such that I'm trying to find some common ground between us while he's talking to some guy in his head.

Yeah, this is just one discussion with one guy, but the fact that this whole "you didn't build that" line of attack has gotten the conservatives so excited empirically indicates, shows a real world example of, some stuff I already knew about the Conservative Movement. It doesn't matter what you or anyone says about anything. You can make point after point after point, but they will simply behave as though you said what they already think you're going to say, and respond in kind. It may very well be impossible to talk to these people in any way that might be called constructive.

But I'm going to keep on trying.