Is Liz Warren so far left that even Barack Obama needs to distance himself from her?
Last week saw the president backing away from his anti-free market tirade that, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.”
The president now claims that his words were taken out of context. But it is clear from the entirety of the speech that Obama’s finger-wagging lecture was deliberately cribbed from Warren’s earlier “nobody got rich on his own” rant.
Warren’s remarks, delivered in 2011, were a deeply ideological defense of redistributive economics.
“You built a factory out there? Good for you,” Warren said dismissively. “But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.”
And so, the Harvard professor concluded, those who own businesses owe it to “the rest of us” to pay up. “Part of the underlying social contract,” Warren said, “is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward.”
Although conservatives attacked Warren’s remarks as anti-capitalist, many liberals embraced the feisty law professor’s call to redistribute wealth. Including, it seems, the president.
It is not surprising that Warren’s ideological clarion call resonated with Obama.
Her words reinforced the anti-business predisposition of a president who, as a young man, told his mother that he regarded his entry-level corporate job as “working for the enemy.”
Her words echoed his world-view that government is the engine of economic growth and that the private sector exists for the purpose of maintaining a robust public sector.
And her words backed up his call for higher taxes and his decision to spend billions on government projects and so-called shovel-ready jobs.
Obama’s remarks were not — as Jon Stewart has claimed — “a slight grammatical misstep.” On the contrary, they were a well-thought out tip of the hat to Warren and her Ivy League notions that nobody succeeds without government and, therefore, successful people need to “give back” more to the government than they are already giving.
The president may have hoped that, combined with his desperate attacks on Bain Capital, his Warren-esque comments would lend intellectual coherence to his policy agenda and generate class resentment toward his wealthier opponent.
But Obama, the Harvard Law grad, forgot that the rest of the country isn’t Cambridge. And while Massachusetts academics might appreciate this rhetoric, middle-America does not.
In fact, Obama may have just awoken a sleeping giant. From coast to coast, contractors, shopkeepers, farmers and restaurant owners — many of them swing voters — now realize that when Obama speaks disparagingly about the “rich,” he is talking not just about venture capitalists. He is talking about them.
Immediately, and organically, signs have started popping up in storefronts across America. “Mr. President, we built this,” they read. As one small business owner told me last week, “I realize that nobody succeeds entirely on their own, but I didn’t see Obama here when I was working every Saturday for 30 years.”
The truth is, Obama and Warren are two peas in a political pod. Both candidates genuinely believe that many Americans pay too little in taxes and that business owners owe a never-ending debt to government.
Obama is now scared to death that his “you didn’t build that” statement reveals him as too far left for the country.
The question remains: Is Warren too left for Massachusetts?