Saturday, January 25, 2020

"You Didn't Build That" House In Martha's Vineyard (Where's My Rebate?)


While it is true that businesses benefit from government-funded infrastructure, politicians also benefit from the contributions from their supporters.

During Obama's re-election, the right-wing made much hay out of a quote of Obama's taken out of context and made into a meme on the Internet.   During a speech, Obama pointed out that business people are successful in part because they have a ready infrastructure to rely on - an infrastructure supplied by the people of the United States.  Without this infrastructure, many businesses wouldn't be able to get off the ground.   In China, for example, the lack of roads and infrastructure is preventing many regions from developing - something the Chinese are playing catch-up to fix.

It used to be, back in the 1970's, that Truckers would put signs on the back of their rigs, advertising, "This truck pays $5000 a year in road taxes!" which sounds like a lot of money, until you realize that one mile of Interstate highway costs about a million dollars to build, and that truck easily destroys more than $5000 (or whatever the number is) worth of roadway a year.   Ride in the right lane of any Interstate Highway and you'll see what I mean.

People driving in cars pay fuel taxes and registration fees as well (here in Georgia, we tax electric vehicles $200 because they pay no fuel tax).   But in terms of road consumed versus road paid-for, car drivers (who outnumber truckers by more than 10 to 1) probably are paying more than their fair share.   But we don't mind, as we all get our goods delivered at some point by truck, and we want this infrastructure in place.

So, if you start a trucking company, you might say you "built it from the ground up" and no doubt you put a lot of sweat and work and risk into the business.   Good for you.  But without the Interstate Highway system, it would be a non-starter.  That is what Obama was getting at.   But the conservative mouthpieces took this quote out of context to make it seem like Obama was saying that people didn't create their own businesses at all.

Obama had a point.  None of us can thrive in some post-apocalyptic libertarian nightmare, where there is no infrastucture or cooperation among people.   You can't cook semiconductor chips or pour engine blocks in your back yard - you need the cooperation of thousands, nay, millions of people.   Our modern society can't exist unless all these people work together.  Unless you want to go back to living in a log cabin and slaughtering your own hogs, we have to maintain a society.   Besides, if you want to go the log cabin route, you can always move to Alaska or some remote region and leave the rest of us alone - because the rest of us want our smart phones, computers, and 600HP fuel-injected cars, thank you very much.

But I digress.

Obama had a point, but it is a point that is lost on today's legion of far-left politicians and even Obama himself.   Leftist, Socialist, and even Communist liberals are claiming "they built that" with no help of anyone else, including the voters and the people who contributed to their campaigns.

Exhibit one is Bernie Sanders.  Bernie, after getting tired of being poor, decided to write a book and cash in on his fame - a fame we created or at least created by his supporters and the voters of Vermont, who vaulted him into the spotlight and put him on CNN and on the debate stages (thankfully, not in the White House).   His fame was not something he made but we made.  Just as you can't make your own smart phone from raw sand and plastic, without the cooperation of thousand upon thousands of people, Sanders did not become a successful (such as it is) politician without the support of thousands.

Yet when queried about making a million bucks from his book, he pushed back with an "I made it myself!" kind of quote.  His actual quote was "I didn't know it was a crime to write a good book!" which implies two lies.  First that his book was good (it was not) and second, that he is just some lowly author whose book was published because he is such a good writer.   I could have submitted the same or similar manuscript to every publishing house in the nation and garnered nothing more than rejection slips.   Even if published, no one would read it.  It is only because of his celebrity that he made a million bucks from it.

He was cashing in on his fame and fortune, and more power to him.   But it is utter hypocrisy for him to to suggest that his book would have stood on its own merits, if written by a nobody.

You didn't build that, Bernie, we did - well, we helped you by making you a political celebrity that we either love or hate.  Without that "infrastructure" your book would have been self-published and written-off (sorry, pun) as the crackpot writings of some obscure failed carpenter from Burlington, Vermont.   And that is what it is, without the cache of celebrity attached.

But that's Bernie, and being surprised at hypocrisy from Bernie is to be naive.  This is a "man of the people" who owns four houses, including a dacha on Lake Champlain, whose wife drove a college into bankruptcy - a man who knows nothing about government or business, but wants to tell us how to run both, by running for the nomination of a party he steadfastly refuses to join.   A man who has accomplished nothing after decades as an elected official. Why people follow the rantings of that madman (and not my madman rantings) is beyond me.

Getting back to Obama, the same effect is in place, although Obama has yet to say something as dumb as Bernie.  The Obamas really cashed-in on their fame and fortune, much as Bill and Hillary did.  A lot of leftists complain about this - the $50,000 speeches, the poorly-written tomes bought by PACs and special-interest groups by the cartonload.   The same leftists who bitch about this give Bernie a pass, of course.  But then again, Bernie is small potatoes next to Hillary and Barack.

The Obamas just bought a $12M house on Martha's Vineyard as a vacation home.  A President elected on a platform of providing "affordable housing" doesn't seem to think the issue applies to him personally.    But beyond that, one wonders, where did he get all that money?   Because the salary of a President isn't all that great, comparatively speaking.   And speaking of speaking, that's the answer - the books-and-speeches route.   Books generate royalties long after they are written, even after you are elected - even after you retire.

But again, "You Didn't Build That".  No one would pay a plug nickle for a book written by a "community organizer" from crime-ridden Chicago (which appears to be the only place he doesn't own a home).  No one would dump $12M in his lap to buy a luxury vacation home on tony Martha's Vineyard, without his celebrity.  And who created that celebrity?   We did, in part, by electing him President.

I voted for him - twice (the alternatives were not that appealing).  Of course, with the electoral college, my votes didn't really count in Georgia.   Hillary did win 45% of the State, however, which illustrates that it is possible for a less odious and more centrist candidate to win even a Red State.  If only Hillary wasn't Hillary - with that screeching voice and that carload of baggage from a lengthy career in politics with Bill.   If only....

I also donated money to his campaign.  My question is, do I get a rebate or something from this?  I mean, I'm glad for him that he got elected and wrote books and gave speeches and made millions of dollars, but without us, none of this would happen.   Maybe we should get some sort of dividend on our "investment" in this man - or any other politician.  Maybe it should be like gofundyourself, where you get a product or something, in return for your "donation."  Maybe!

Just a weird thought.   Why should politics be so profitable?   Even running for office - and losing - can make you a few bucks with "leftover" campaign funds (and matching funds) usable for a number of purposes, including building political power.  We should get some sort of payback - at least a small check - pennies on the dollar.

Failing that, I would accept if Obama lets me park my trailer in his yard on Martha's Vineyard for one weekend this summer.

Seems only fair, right?