Mitt Romney hammered President Obama on the stump Tuesday over the president’s recent comments on the relationship between government and business, saying his opponent wants Americans to be “ashamed of success.”
The Republican presidential candidate seized on Obama’s gaffe Friday in which he suggested businesses owe their success in large part to government investment and said to business owners, “you didn’t build that.”
Romney, speaking to a crowd outside Pittsburgh, worked the comments into his campaign theme that Obama represents a big-government approach harmful to business. He called the comments “startling and revealing,” returning to them repeatedly throughout his address.
“I’m convinced he wants Americans to be ashamed of success,” Romney said. “I want Americans to welcome and to celebrate success. … I don’t want government to take credit for what the individuals of America accomplish.”
Romney suggested the comment was tantamount to saying Steve Jobs didn’t build Apple or Ray Kroc didn’t build McDonald’s, calling the notion “insulting” and wrong.
The Friday remark has dogged Obama for days. Romney has been joined by prominent business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in firing back at the statement.
David Chavern, chief operating officer of the Chamber of Commerce, accused Obama of slighting the “dreamers” of America.
“We should applaud the risk-takers and the dreamers who are willing to stand out from the crowd,” Chavern said in a Chamber blog. “Rather than denigrate what these people have done, we need to encourage more people to be like them.”
The Obama campaign, though, is accusing the Romney campaign of launching a “false attack” to distract from questions over outsourcing tied to his former company Bain Capital. Campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt defended the premise of Obama’s comment.
“As President Obama said, those who start businesses succeed because of their individual initiative — their drive, hard work, and creativity,” LaBolt said in a statement. “But there are critical actions we must take to support businesses and encourage new ones — that means we need the best infrastructure, a good education system, and affordable, domestic sources of clean energy. Those are investments we make not as individuals, but as Americans, and our nation as a whole benefits from them.”
Obama’s comment Friday came just days after he urged Congress to extend tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration only to families earning less than $250,000 annually — part of his argument that top earners have an obligation to pay more to trim the deficit.
“There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me because they want to give something back,” the president said. “If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. …
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen,” he said. “The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”
As Romney seized on that quote in Pennsylvania, Obama was looking to keep the issue of Romney’s business record and finances at the forefront as he sought to raise campaign money in Texas. He is hoping to raise at least $4 million from gay, Latino and wealthy donors.
In Texas, Obama faces a state that has not voted Democratic in a presidential contest since 1976. But Texas ranks among the states with the largest concentrations of wealth, along with New York, California, Florida and Illinois.
The Obama camp was airing an ad taking issue with Romney’s decision to release only two years of his personal tax returns. The ad questions whether Romney has avoided paying his share of taxes in certain years.
The Obama ad was running for one day only, a sign it was designed to drive media coverage.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.