The Mitt Romney campaign is still battering President Obama on the “if you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that” statement. The Obama campaign is quick to point out that the remark refers to “roads and bridges,” which it looks like it did in context. But Mitt Romney is holding Obama to the interpretation that the President was telling business owners that they didn’t build their business on their own without government help. It’s a good attack for Romney because it feeds the narrative that he’s trying to build that Obama is hostile to business.
The problem is, Romney can’t seem to find any small business owner who actually built a business without massive government help.
Take the Romney ad “My Hands Didn’t Build This”:
“My father’s hands didn’t build this company? My hands didn’t build this company? My son’s hands aren’t building this company?” That’s powerful stuff. It’s also completely untrue.
Jake Tapper cites the New Hampshire Union Leader that the business in the ad, “received $800,000 in tax-exempt revenue bonds issued by the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority ‘to set up a second manufacturing plant and purchase equipment to produce high definition television broadcasting equipment’…” The businessman in the ad, also acknowledged that in the 1980s the company received a U.S. Small Business Administration loan “somewhere south of” $500,000, and matching funds from the federally-funded New England Trade Adjustment Assistance Center. Whoops!
The businessman is unrepentant, characterizing his decision to take well over $1 million in tax payer dollars to fund his business as “getting some of my tax money back.” No, it’s you taking all of our tax money because you are incapable of “building that.”
And that’s fine. These programs exist because we all want small businesses to survive and grow. But to steal from Judge Judy, “don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”
Mitt Romney also appeared at Middlesex Truck and Coach in Roxbury, Massachusetts to declare his support for the owners who built that company. Now, I lack the resources to dig too deeply into the finances of Middlesex Truck and Coach, but I instinctively did some basic research based on the tag “Roxbury, Massachusetts.” I suspected that Roxbury was the sort of neighborhood that was the subject of a massive tax giveaway. And I was right, Roxbury-based businesses received large tax giveaways as part of an Empowerment Zone project. And moreover Mitt Romney was governor of the state during this project. I can’t verify that this business was part of the program, but it is more likely than not given their location and their establishment date.
And again, that’s fine. I approve of Empowerment Zone tax breaks, a bipartisan policy invented in the early-1980s to combat stratifying neighborhoods and encourage businesses to offer more opportunities in overlooked areas. But businesses in these zones would not be able to make it on their own. They need these tax giveaways. I just wish they’d be honest with themselves about it.