Let's imagine for a moment a woman (we'll call her Nancy) who had a job but saw limited opportunity for advancement at her place of employment.
So, Nancy began scribbling out unique product designs in her spare time — an exercise that eventually led to a patent for a brand new widget.
But Nancy faced a problem common to every startup entrepreneur — lack of capital. She attempted to secure a loan from a number of local banks but was turned down due to lack of collateral. Seems our lending institutions have raised the stakes in the aftermath of the worst credit crunch in decades. This was especially frustrating because Nancy had a businesswoman's spirit — that willingness to leap into the hyper-competitive world of commerce.
And she would not be derailed. Nancy borrowed money from her parents and cashed in a small portfolio of stock to raise the capital needed to purchase the required equipment. Then, she set up a small manufacturing line in her basement. Nancy's determination and talent for engineering soon produced a modernized widget, which in turn led to a marketing agreement with Home Depot.
Nancy's new contract allowed her to move out of the basement and into a small facility. She hired five new employees, and business grew so quickly that Nancy soon expanded into a larger facility. Today, Nancy employs 49 people. (Given her narrow margins, Nancy is careful to keep her workforce under the Obamacare mandate.) Her gross sales exceed $10 million a year. The same banks that refused her credit not so long ago now line up to get her business. And competitor widget manufacturers have inquired into whether she would be willing to sell her growing company, to no avail. Nancy is determined to become a dominant player in the widget market.
Many of you may identify with this prototypical American success story. Indeed, many of my readers could easily change out "Nancy" for someone you know — a friend, neighbor or acquaintance — who had a dream to build a business from the ground up. FYI, fill in "Kevin Plank" and "athletic sportswear," and you have the beginnings of the magical hometown story of Under Armour.
Not so long ago in America this storyline was a guaranteed winner. On the campaign stump, candidates for public office would celebrate such entrepreneurial success — often with an electorate grown accustomed to Horatio Alger stories and an American opportunity society. Interestingly, the fact that the Nancies of the world could become wealthy in the process did not detract from the storyline. It was, in fact, seen as a product of what hard work and brains could achieve in the freest marketplace the world has ever witnessed.
Unfortunately, such narratives are out of favor in Barack Obama's America, where wealth creation is consistently made the object of scorn. (What better example than the Obama re-elect campaign's strategy of demonizing Mitt Romney's career in private equity?) And where the seemingly limitless desire for additional tax revenue ("resources") makes class envy the preferred strategy of the left.
Regular readers of this column recognize the relentless mantra of "more, more, more" in every tax and budget debate on Capitol Hill. What I hope you understand is that every time "more" is satisfied with another tax increase, it's not enough. It's never enough. There is always more demand for revenue — more government programs — more need to take from those who "built that."
Sometimes, these builders choose to leave the premises (reference California's and Maryland's experience with wealth migration over the last decade). At other times, the taxing burden is so onerous that it makes no economic sense to start a business. But most of the time, the builders grin and bear it — and wait for the next election cycle.
Today's polls reflect that this group has grown weary of grinning and bearing and being made to wear black hats. After all, it is they who create the jobs (70 percent of new American jobs are created by small business owners) that pay the bills that keep the entire enterprise going.
This anger appears likely to play out in November when many of those senators who voted to give us Obamacare and stimulus and higher taxes will be on the ballot. I hope so — the Nancies of the world (and their employees) deserve better than this. After all, they built that.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around" and "America: Hope for Change" — books about national politics. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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