Democrats rebutted Republicans’ “you didn’t build that” attack Wednesday night, enlisting a slate of business owners and CEOs who testified that President Obama is the one on their side.
Over the last month, the Romney campaign has argued that Obama does not believe small business owners deserve credit for their success. In Tampa last week, Republican convention speakers lambasted President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment — a line Obama said in reference to “this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.” The GOP, Republican convention-goers argued, is the party that champions small business.
“Right away, President Obama cut small business taxes — not once or twice, but 18 times,” said Karen Mills, who heads the Small Business Administration. “He put a record volume of guaranteed loans into the hands of America’s small businesses. He eliminated pages of burdensome forms and regulations so that small business owners can focus on profits instead of paperwork.”
“For these last four years, I’ve had a president who’s on my side,” said Bill Butcher, the owner of Port City Brewing Company in Virginia.
“I remember what it was like to go to bank after bank after bank hearing ‘No,’” said Butcher, recalling his attempts to get a loan for his fledgling business. “We may not have ever gotten to ‘Yes’ if it wasn’t for President Obama and the SBA loan program he started.”
Convention-goers also heard from business owners who made it big and still support Obama.
Austin Ligon, the co-founder and former CEO of CarMax, praised Obama’s auto-industry bailout. Obama’s actions, he said, “prevented over a million job losses, and laid the groundwork for what’s now a robust recovery of the American auto industry.”
“As a businessman, I’ll tell you: Mitt Romney just doesn’t get it,” Ligon said.
Last came Jim Sinegal, co-founder and former CEO of Costco — whose once-small business is now the fifth largest retailer in the United States.
“Some of my friends in corporate America say that all they need is a government that gets off the backs of businesses, and that’s why many of them are supporting the opposition, with donations of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Sinegal said. “But I think they get it all wrong.”
Business, Sinegal argued, needs a president who creates the conditions necessary for success: a strong education system, investment in research and development, affordable energy, an “efficient transportation systems” and “sensible immigration laws.”
Sinegal defended Obama’s original meaning behind the “you didn’t build that” line.
Our initiative, our enterprise — this, in part, is why our company succeeded. But here’s the thing about the Costco story: We did not build our company in a vacuum, we built it in the greatest country on earth.
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.