Monday, July 16, 2012

President Obama: "You Didn't Get There On Your Own"

At a recent campaign stop, President Obama said the following:

"If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there." 

This has been a more and more popular meme in the blogosphere. One that the ungrateful "haves" were only able to achieve their success by leveraging the infrastructure that government has provided for them.  And as such, those that have won success now owe a debt. 

It's one thing when some liberal posters make such a claim, but when the president now makes it, it pushes me over the edge. 

I'm officially livid. 

Yes, I'm in the top tax bracket.  And I didn't get there on my own?  Pardon me for the vulgarity, but I'm at a loss for a better retort - bullshit.  Not a damn thing was handed to me.

While I'm the product of a public school system, the education I received there was mediocre at best.  I found out just how weak my education was when I went to college and interacted with students that went to private school.  They were far more prepared than I.  Looking back with an adult's perspective, the teachers I had were remarkably unremarkable, and every great one encountered was offset by at least one borderline psychotic. 

So when I arrived at college I was behind, but prepared to work.  And work I did.  And while there, I learned the lesson that has stayed with me throughout my career: all of life is a choice.  I could work my butt off and get an "A," or I could go to the bar with my friends, cut corners, and maybe eek out  a "B."  Sometimes I chose the prior, sometime the latter, but the lesson was not lost on me.  I had a choice in my relative success.  It was up to me. 

After undergrad I went to grad school and worked the hardest I ever have in my life.  Despite putting in 50+ hours in at work every week, I put in an additional 20+ on school.  For four long years.  While my friends where chiding me for not going out with them, I was working.  When I did relent and go out, I felt the pain that came with one that really should be reading one more chapter or cranking out a couple more pages on the business analysis case. It was not a fun period. 

Upon graduation, my classmates and I kidded ourselves on what we'd now do with all of our new "free time."  For most of us, the "free time" turned to more work.  Throughout my career, nearly two and half decades, I've simply worked substantially harder than my peers.  Part of it was because it was necessary to remain competitive, but mostly it was a conscious choice.  And the result was that soon my peers were no longer peers, and I moved up. 

But both of us had choices.  I could have left at 5:30 like the rest of them and had a balanced life, or I could have killed myself and moved up.  I chose the latter. 

And now, even though I've "arrived," nothing has changed.  My work weeks are 60-80 hours.  I need to be available to the business 24 hours a day, 7 days per week if necessary.   It is a choice I make. 

A great example of this is this past weekend - a beautiful Saturday in Green Bay.  Coming off a week where I was in the office as early as 5:45 and leaving as late as 7:30 ( a good 70 hour week), I was in the office for about 6 hours on Saturday morning.  Out of an office of 800, I was one of 20 folks there.  Know who most of the other 20 were?  Mostly our top executives.  That 20 and the remaining 780 all made choices on how to spend that beautiful Saturday morning. 

I don't begrudge the 780 for the benefits associated with their choice.  Nobody should.  So why in the hell does the president begrudge me for the benefits associated with my choice?  How the hell can he say I didn't get there on my own?  It sure felt like I was on my own all those times when I was shutting off the lights in the office at the end of the day while the rest of my friends had left hours earlier to go to the bar, play softball, or spend time with their friends or families. 

I've made the necessary choices and paid the associated costs to get to this point in life.  Me.  The personal sacrifices I've made are too long to list, and a number I deeply, deeply regret.  I paid a price few are willing to pay, and have enjoyed a compensation commensurate with that sacrifice.  But I did it myself.  Yeah, I used the school and roads, and have enjoyed the protections afforded by our military, police, and fire departments.  And I've paid substantially more for those services than most others.  Even though many of our society pay absolutely nothing for those same services, despite using them at an equal or greater amount than I do, I feel like I already pay "my fair share." 

Compared to what it took to get here and maintain here, what I've "paid" is colossal. 

You're wrong, Mr. President.  You may not have achieved your position on your own, but I assure you that I got here on my own.  And for you to insult me and my massive amount of sweat and sacrifices with your disrespectful class warfare rhetoric shows the depth of your lack of knowledge of how our economic system works.     

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