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We Are Not All Entrepreneurs

Scott Galupo makes an important point in his post on Paul Ryan’s speech [1] last night. Measuring the distance between Ryan’s vision and the lived experience of many Americans, Galupo observes that:

In Ryan’s intellectual bubble, there are job creators and entrepreneurs on one side and parasites on the other. There is no account of the vast gray expanse of janitors, waitresses, hotel front-desk clerks, nurses, highway maintenance workers, airport baggage handlers, and taxi drivers. They work hard, but at the end of the day, what can they be said to have “built”?

This disconnect goes beyond Ryan. Again and again last night, we heard stories of poor people who became successful because of their hard work and smart decisions. Susanna Martinez described the growth of her parents’ security business “from one 18-year-old guarding a bingo-to more than 125 people in three states.” Rand Paul told the story of his constituents, the Tang family. According to Paul, Mr. and Mrs. Tang are Cambodian refugees who work long hours in the donut shop they own, but how have sent their children on to extraordinary academic achievement. Even Ann Romney contributed to the rags-to-riches story contest. Although many Americans know her as a quarter-billionaire enthusiast for equestrian sports, Mrs. Romney thought it important to inform us that she is the granddaughter of a Welsh coal miner.

These stories make us feel good about America. But their repetition ad nauseam reveals the insularity of the Romney campaign. Most Americans are not entrepreneurs or business owners. And the ranks of employers aren’t limited to the blue-collar types Galupo mentions. They include vast swathes of the middle class, including millions of government employees who would presumably lose their jobs if the Ryan budget were enacted. (People who work for military contractors would apparently be safe [2].)


We heard a great deal last night about what a President Romney would do about America’s enemies, at least as John McCain and Condoleeza Rice understand them. We also heard something about Romney’s dedication to freedom, although without much explanation of what that means. But we heard almost nothing about what another Republican administration offers Americans who work jobs rather than “creating” them.

It’s part of the so-called American dream, as Sen. Paul put it, that “any among us can become the next Thomas Edison, the next Henry Ford, the next Ronald Reagan…” Another part is that those who don’t reach the towering heights of achievement can hope for stable lives that include a reasonable measure of comfort. Republicans once endorsed this rather modest ambition. Does anyone believe they care about it now?

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#1 Comment By KXB On August 30, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

Chris Rock – Jobs versus Careers (NSFW)


#2 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On August 30, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

plutocracy in action. how many times must I say it? as has been noted in past posts; how can anyone seriously consider a “public servant” who cites Ayn Rand as the primary reason for seeking public office? want more irony? didn’t see the speech, but doubt Ryan pledged allegiance to the hag. speaking of which; he’s taking a page from Bill “I didn’t inhale” Clinton’s playbook; as he now claims to have enjoyed the book, but rejects Rand’s “anti-Christian/atheist philiosphy” that’s like say; “I read Atlas Shrugged; but I didn’t undertsand it”. Better yet; “I love the Bible, but I don’t agree with God’s philosphy as far as the poor, the sick, and the naked…” And let’s not forget the shining example of First State Manufacturing, and “entrepreneur” Sher Venezuela. turns out she did “bulit it” with taxpayer funded small business loans, and cushy (pun intended) government contracts.

#3 Comment By icarusr On August 30, 2012 @ 3:18 pm

I am surprised that you appear to be surprised. Did you expect differently from the Party that gives you “Food Stamp President” and “job creators” and ” takers” – and that built a convention around an out of context quote?

#4 Comment By Jack On August 30, 2012 @ 3:20 pm

The exaltation of the “job creator” above the person who does the job is one of the things that increasingly bothers me about the rhetoric coming from my former party.

I don’t own my own business. I work for other people, and probably always will. That is not to say I’m not successful. I have a great job at a great company, and am proud of the success I’ve had in my chosen profession.

Yet according to everything coming from the GOP in recent memory, I’m inferior. The guy who owns a fast food franchise – who works more hours and makes less than I do – is superior in every way because he “creates” jobs.

The narrative doesn’t make me feel any less important personally, but it tells me that politically, I am much less important to the GOP than someone who owns a business. Is it a smart strategy to tell voters like me (who outnumber “job creators” by a long shot) that we’re not quite as important?

#5 Comment By Athenian Stranger On August 30, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

Not to mention, “We Built It” seems to me like a surprisingly impious slogan for a party that prides itself in being the home of the Religious Right. The same with the epithet “job creators”–as if the entrepreneurs are some kind of deity to be worshipped, the true “creators”. This party seems more to me to be that of the Arrogant Rich rather than the Religious Right.

#6 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On August 30, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

@Jack, glad you mention fast food resturants. on one hand; fast food purveyors DO create jobs; jobs in healthcare; as those who consume fast food are more prone to diabetes, heart disease and cancer. but let’s be honest; fast food business owners are both producers and moochers; as I don’t know of ANY national chain eateries (Taco Bell, KFC, Burger King, McDonald’s, etc.) that do NOT accept EBT (aka known as “re-distributed wealth”). I guess this makes them “food stamp entreprenueurs”.

#7 Comment By Dylan On August 30, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

Agreed. This exaltation of business owners over everyone else is getting absurd. And I come from a family of small business owners. My father and his two brothers ran a successful restaurant for over two decades, and my mother had her own antique shop for a while. I have nothing but respect for all of them and what they accomplished … both of those businesses helped provide for me and a good deal of my extended family (not to mention a number of long-time employees who I think were treated quite well) for many years. But, as I only learned recently, the restaurant got a small business loan from the government, without which it probably would never have gotten off the ground.
Small businesses are the kind of free enterprise that warm the cockles of my heart, but this yammering about Obama’s “you didn’t build that” taken completely out of context is asinine.

#8 Comment By Bob Jones On August 30, 2012 @ 4:54 pm


Yes she did, she took 17 Million Dollars in taxpayer money and built a business. She built it and we paid for it. I guess she should really campaign with Obama, as she exemplifies exactly what he was talking about.

#9 Comment By MattSwartz On August 30, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

This post is a 8/10. It needs more Bell Curve.

#10 Comment By obijuan On August 30, 2012 @ 7:33 pm

I go to a lot of Republican social events, and absolutely if you don’t work in finance and/or own a business you get looked down upon. Worse still, if you work for the government you may as well be announcing that you get food stamps.

#11 Comment By obijuan On August 30, 2012 @ 7:35 pm

BTW, Sher’s business is considered minority owned which puts a thumb on the scale in her favor for govt contracts.

#12 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On August 30, 2012 @ 9:45 pm

of course Sher is a minority; 1% is a minority

#13 Comment By Mr. Patrick On August 30, 2012 @ 9:55 pm

The right has gotten so lazy they no longer bother to field original thought, they simply take 150-year old Marxist ideas, invert them, and pass it off as a governing philosophy. Marx says all value comes from labor? Hogwash! That must mean all value comes from, and belongs to, capital! Down with the wage-earning exploiters!

#14 Comment By seen enough On August 30, 2012 @ 10:24 pm

The GOP is a party of orgiastic defense spending and hypocritical government loan takers. Both parties are rife with parasitism and corruption.

#15 Comment By Daniel On August 31, 2012 @ 12:42 am

Excellent post, Jack…. I tired of the kempian “immigrant paki donut shop owners are what this country is all about” bs yearssss ago…. I prefer bygone days of AMERICAN welders, electricians, construction workers, plumbers, etc etc etc…. I’ll be sitting this one out

#16 Comment By david On August 31, 2012 @ 12:53 am

Sam Francis talked about this “rags to riches” propaganda the GOP was always spouting. It’s a major reason the odds are against Romney winning.

#17 Comment By Nathan On August 31, 2012 @ 10:03 am

The single best commencement address I ever heard was where the speaker said, most of you are not going to go out and find a cure for cancer or do other great things. Maybe none of you will. What you’re going to do is look for your “niche in life” and fill it. And just because you work at the steel plant or a bakery all your life doesn’t make you a failure. If you do those things and to them well, raise your families, make use of whatever gifts God gives you, then you will in fact have lived successful lives.

So very very true. But not according to Mr. Ryan? The successful person is the one who starts the donut shop, not the people who make the donuts for them, make them so well that customers come back. No they’re the also rans, the failures for not starting their OWN donut shops. (I speak from experience, I worked briefly in a donut shop for a few weeks right out of college.)

The commencement speaker was right. Find what you’re good at, fulfill God’s will for your life, be that as a clerk in the department store, selling shoes, doing janitorial work, whatever, and you are a success. But not necessarily according to these guys? Sad, very sad.

#18 Comment By CDK On August 31, 2012 @ 10:54 am

I used to work in a donut shop too–it’s one of the easiest businesses in the world to start and run, and there’s no serious “labor” involved. Here’s how it works: you get a hole in the wall space, you get a large fryer for about 1500 to 2000, you do your frying once in the early morning, and then you pay someone minimum wage to mostly stand around and watch the register all day. That’s it–that’s really all there is to it. The owner of the store I worked in showed up once a day to collect the deposit, and then left. There was no manager. He had maybe four or five employees, no benefits of course. I doubt the guy had more than a few grand invested in the whole deal. Sorry, I’m not impressed with the “I worked long hours” crap–long hours in something like this is nothing. The notion that one of these stores adds more “value” to the economy or society than, say, a public library on the dole is beyond preposterous and borders on the simply offensive.

By the way, just pointing out the obvious: Ayn Rand is not considered a serious thinker by almost anyone in the field she claimed to be the summit of–philosophy. She was a vulgar social darwinist with pretensions of intellectualism, who specialized in the flattery of that part of the mob that likes to think of themselves as above the mob. Why this deranged harpy keeps being presented as some kind of sage is beyond my powers of explanation.

#19 Comment By john On September 1, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

Perhaps they should considers Rand’s idea of war. But, that’s another matter to mention just in passing. Without corporate welfare in the form of bailouts and government contracts, and permitting the wealthy to socialize their losses and privatize their gains the plutocrats would be the janitors in no time. Most of them produce nothing but exotic financial products to be traded in the Wall Street casino assured that governmen, which is the taxpayers will pay the debts of those who lose.Where are the Thomas Edisons, the Carnegies, The Fords and Rockefellers who actually produced products?

#20 Comment By Greg On September 4, 2012 @ 11:14 pm

An excellent point, and blog post. I am now imagining a world in which The American Conservative runs the Republican party. It’s a much better and honest world. Hey, a guy can dream…

#21 Comment By Barry On September 7, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

“So very very true. But not according to Mr. Ryan? The successful person is the one who starts the donut shop, …”

No, the successful person is the one who sells some junk bonds, buys the donut shop, borrows more money, pockets it and leaves the shell of the donut shop to the suckers creditors.

#22 Comment By Leave us alone On December 10, 2013 @ 7:57 am

Joe, jack and other finger pointers at successful businesses, a few points. Business that accept food stamps ie:, restaurants, grocery stores, drug stores do so with the governments blessing. Lets not pretend that SBA loans which are paid back are anything like the government cronies / friends of the admin getting billions $ grants like solrynda and sunpower.. Food stamps, SSI and a vast array of other Gov vote buying gimmes are responsible for massive amounts of human suffering by ignoring human nature and enabling millions of people to become completely dependent on a monthly check for doing nothing. More proof that giving a fish to man does buy votes but teaching a man to fish does not. Need proof? Just drive through any rural poor neighborhood about 2 pm and witness for yourself every street filled with 35 year old men drinking beer – waiting on their check.