July 14, 2012 just might be the tipping point of this presidential election–and perhaps an important sea change in our political culture.
That’s the day Americans woke up to the real meaning and significance of President Obama’s remarks in Roanoke on the 13th, that “if you have a business, you didn’t build that.”
That was the day America’s private sector, after being vilified by everyone from Hollywood and the Environmental Protection Agency to Occupy Wall Street, decided it was time to fight back.
Now, America’s private sector lives the wisdom of Calvin Coolidge’s adage, “This country’s business is business. ” It knows the private sector, and businesses large and small, are the source of this country’s jobs, prosperity, and creativity–and have been since its founding.
Business owners also know it takes a lot of government mismanagement to cripple the greatest economy in the world, and hobble it with a growth rate of 1.5% and unemployment above 8 % for almost four years.
As the Heritage Foundation has recently noted, in his first three years in office President Obama imposed some 106 major regulations on American businesses, compared to 28 under George W. Bush. Another 144 are in the pipeline waiting to be unleashed, if Obama is reelected in November.
According to the World Bank, the cost of starting a business in the United States has doubled since 2007, and in “ease of starting a business” we’ve dropped from third in the world in 2007 to thirteenth.
The president’s speech made Americans who own businesses and work in the private sector, aware they are fighting more than just an economic downturn. They are combating an ideology that says in effect, “that’s not yours, it’s the government’s, which it is free to distribute to whomever it decides to reward.” It’s a full-scale assault on the values of American individualism and earned success, and in the last four years it’s brought us to the cliff of economic and fiscal disaster.
The reaction to Obama’s words has been nothing less than startling. Americans are finally telling business it’s time to stand up against the enemies of economic freedom.
We’ve seen it in the latest Gallup polls, which show 63% of Americans see Mitt Romney’s business background as a positive for getting this country back on economic track, and that among national priorities taxing the rich –the centerpiece of Obama’s entire economic strategy–finished dead last.
We’ve seen it in the massive support for the owner of Chik-fil-A, as people showed their support for the principle of a private business owner speaking his mind without fear of government intimidation–for or against gay marriage, doesn’t matter.
Millions of others are cheering the makers of the magnetic desk game Bucky Balls, who were told by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to pull their product from store shelves, because some children might have inadvertently swallowed one of their magnetic balls (even though Bucky Balls carry a warning label and was never advertised as a child’s toy).
Instead of knuckling under, however, Bucky Balls said no–despite the CPSC’s threat to sue. They’ve become overnight American heroes, with the company getting more than 100,000 supportive comments on blogs and websites.
Something big has been building since the president’s Roanoke speech. How big, and whether it lasts through November, is hard to tell. But it’s been an overwhelming victory for the believers in American freedom, as one private entrepreneur after another has stepped forward to say, “No Mr President, I did build that, and you’re not entitled to take it away from me.”
And millions are cheering as they do so, loud and long.
Historian Arthur Herman is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institutein Washington, D.C. He is author of seven books, including New York Times bestseller "How the Scots Invented the Modern World" (2001); the Pulitzer Prize Finalist "Gandhi and Churchill"(2008); "To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World" (nominated for the UK's Mountbatten Prize); and the highly acclaimed "Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II," which The Economist magazine picked as one of the Best Books of 2012. His most recent work is "The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization" (Random House 2013). Follow him on Twitter@ArthurLHerman.