Deconstructing Elizabeth Warren and “You didn’t build that”

Most of you recall Elizabeth Warren (and then Barack Obama’s) line about “Nobody got rich on their own.” If you don’t, you can watch it here.

Warren used an interesting rhetorical device in personalizing the successfu lbusiness person but socializing the source of public works. She basically used Alinsky’s 11th Rule for Radicals:

Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract

corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.

If I had been a wealthy business owner in the room (in fact any business owner) I would have listened politely as she ranted about how we didn’t build the roadsour goods went to market on, how we didn’t educate our work force and how we didn’t hire our own private security force to protect our businesses. We didn’t do that. “They did.”

Business Person

Ms. Warren. You say we didn’t do any of those things? Who did?

Elizabeth Warren

We did.


So everyone in this room is either a construction worker, school teacher or a policeman?


Of course not. Don’t be stupid. When I say “we did” I mean the people, the Government.


Well since you want to speak for all the people, permit me to speak for all the business ownersin Massachusetts. You say the people, the government did it? How did government pay for all of this building and educating and policing?


With tax money!


And where did their tax money come from?


From their income.


And where did their income come from?


From their wages.


And who paid them their wages?


Their employers.


You mean me and the rest of the business owners? You see Professor, government has nothing

of its own. It can spend no money that it doesn’t first extract from the private sector.

With capital, I can find a field, call a real estate broker and buy it. He earns a commission andhas to pay taxes on that. The previous owner, if he makes a profit has to pay taxes on that too.Then I hire an architect to design my factory. He has to pay taxes on the fees I pay him. Then I hire a contractor who hires construction workers to build it and they all pay taxes too. I have to buy the building materials which have to be manufactured which takes employees and they all pay taxes as well. Now once my factory is built on which I pay property taxes, I go out and hire

people to make my product and they pay taxes. Finally my product is being made and I start selling it and pay taxes on the profits. It doesn’t end there but you get my point.

So with all due respect Professor Warren, take 1000 of the most highly skilled, highly educatedworkers out into a field with no factory, no tools and no materials and then call me when

you’ve built a Prius.

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