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Opening Arguments

The turning point

President Obama's "You didn't build that" speech has been so throughly hashed over now that it might eventually be seen as the defining moment in the presidential campaign. The speech and Mitt Romney's reaction to it draw about as clear a bright line between the candidates' positions and overall approach as can be drawn. I think Charles Krauthammer has done the best job of explaining what that line is:

The ultimate Obama fallacy, however, is the conceit that belief in the value of infrastructure — and willingness to invest in its creation and maintenance — is what divides liberals from conservatives.

More nonsense. Infrastructure is not a liberal idea, nor is it particularly new. The Via Appia was built 2,300 years ago. The Romans built aqueducts, too. And sewers. Since forever, infrastructure has been consensually understood to be a core function of government.

The argument between left and right is about what you do beyond infrastructure. It’s about transfer payments and redistributionist taxation, about geometrically expanding entitlements, about tax breaks and subsidies to induce actions pleasing to central planners. It’s about free contraceptives for privileged students and welfare without work — the latest Obama entitlement-by-decree that would fatally undermine the great bipartisan welfare reform of 1996. It’s about endless government handouts that, ironically, are crowding out necessary spending on, yes, infrastructure.

Our very clear choice this election: The individual or the collective. Neither is ever in complete control of a society -- there is always a mixture of automonous effort and mutual obligations. The question is whether one or the other is too ascendant and if we can or should therefore put a renewed emphasis on the other. I think it would be pretty hard to argue that pathological individuality has been a problem over the past few decades. Voters this fall will decide, among other things, whether the statist collectivism of what Krauthammer calls the Leviathan state has gone too far. I hope they will but fear they won't.

Pat Sajak of "Wheel of Fortune" fame, by the way, has written a blog post saying the turning point will be bad news for Obama. It's gotten a lot of play on other sites:

It's as if President Obama climbed into a tank, put on his helmet, talked about how his foray into Cambodia was seared in his memory, looked at his watch, misspelled "potato" and pardoned Richard Nixon all in the same day.

UPDATE: Obama '08: Yes we can! Obama '12: No you didn't.


tim zank
Sun, 07/22/2012 - 8:07pm

Good job Leo, and thanks for the link to Treacher..he's always a good read.  November gives us a pretty clear choice of Producer or Recipient.

Christopher Swing
Sun, 07/22/2012 - 9:01pm

Leo, if you're going to link to the Daily Caller, why not just cut to the chase and just go to the GOP/Romney official PR site?

Harl Delos
Mon, 07/23/2012 - 1:17pm

Producer or Recipient, Tim?  Or a ristocracy versus working class?

The biggest single reason the working stiff is paying too little in taxes is because he's making too little in wages - and that's because of the declining industrial base.  A factory worker is getting paid less because his unskilled labor competes with the unskilled labor of the whole world.  If you have the means to enter a profession or buy a business, your income hasn't suffered as much.

Of course, you could always borrow the money from your parents to do that, as Mr Romney suggests - but if your dad lost his job at Harvester and is now a greeter at WalMart, you may have trouble borrowing enough to set up a card table and sell lemonade along the sidewalk.

tim zank
Mon, 07/23/2012 - 6:27pm

My point is valid Harl, Romney has been producing all of his life. Obama has been receiving all his life.

Christopher Swing
Tue, 07/24/2012 - 5:08pm

Romney has been producing all his life?


I don't think using money he already had to buy companies, gut them via offshoring, and then sell them at a profit is really "producing" anything. (Even if we limit this to the time he admits to working at this, and not the 3 years he apparently lied about.) Except money for him (that gets hidden offshore as well).

Christopher Swing
Thu, 07/26/2012 - 7:02pm

Although, I couldn't be more amused that the republican campaign has been reduced to running on a grammatical error, i.e. what you do in an argument when you're completely f**ked. :D