Sometimes it's difficult not to feel sorry for the Democrats who have to defend President Obama's recent argument that government is the entity responsible for the success of businesses. That certainly is the case with respect to Christopher Hahn, who offered a series of increasingly implausible excuses and arguments for the President's demonstrably false statement on a panel with Fox News host Megyn Kelly today.
Hahn, who was tasked with arguing the liberal position opposite conservative radio host David Webb, started off by claiming that the Romney campaign was distorting President Obama's actual meaning, which was...rather like what Romney has been saying it was, namely that no one succeeds purely on their own and that there has to be an "environment for success" (whatever that means) fostered by the government, and therefore government should get some of the credit. This is a more moderate statement than Obama's apparent belief that government should get all the credit, but not by much.
Webb fired back using examples of entrepreneurs such as Henry Ford, who still managed to come up with original ideas that made his business possible, regardless of what the government did. It was at this point that Hahn's argument transformed from dodgy but plausible to outright silly.
"Henry Ford would not have been Henry Ford had there not been roads being built!" Hahn exploded.
"That is a false notion," Webb fired back.
No kidding. The interstate highway system wasn't built until 9 years after Henry Ford's death, and the model T was originally built and marketed before Woodrow Wilson was even President. If Hahn was trying to make the case that activist government creates an "environment for success," he was doing a poor job of it.
It was at this point that Megyn Kelly interjected, "If I take risk and take a business and it succeeds and I make over 250 or 200 [thousand], then he wants me to pay more taxes. If I take risk and build a business and it doesn’t succeed, then I get to stay at the same rate. But both people, you know, both people in this hypothetical scenario used the same infrastructure, took the same risk, created the same business, but one has to pay more — why? Because he or she was successful.”
Hahn's response has to be heard to be believed. "Theoretically, if you succeed, you are using more of government services. You are benefiting more from government services. What separates us from Uganda is we have a functioning government that provides for its citizens, specifically, stability. And I've heard conservatives crying for three years now about stability in this country, about the President is not leading to stabilitizing (sic) the tax rates, and certainty, what we have with our government is certainty."
Now, notice those first two sentences. "If you succeed, you are using more of government services." How on earth does this follow? It seems to us that successful people pay more to prop up the government, not the other way round, or is Hahn assuming every business works like Solyndra? Moreover, the argument that if you are successful, you are benefiting more from government services strikes us as rather similar to saying that if a student gets an A, that means they learned more from the teacher. That might be true in some contexts, but the student also could have done independent reading on their own, or might just be so smart that they can infer information without being taught it. In other words, this argument does precisely what Hahn is arguing President Obama didn't mean to do - that is, obviate individual achievement.
Watch the panel below, courtesy of Mediaite. Fair warning, you may get angry.