11 GOP convention speakers who actually ‘didn’t build that’

By Kay Steiger
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 18:02 EDT
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Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) via republicanconference / Flickr
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Despite the fact that the Republican National Convention is held in a stadium that was financed with $86 million in public funds, the theme this year is “We built this!”

The theme is designed to be an affront to President Barack Obama’s supposed claim that those with successful businesses don’t deserve credit. The Romney campaign has dug in with an attack ad that says Obama’s message to business owners is “you didn’t build that,” despite the full context of the quote, which he used in a Virginia speech in July.

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help,” Obama explained. “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.”

And the theme has been taken to heart by numerous candidates and delegates invited to speak at the convention. Looking at the prepared remarks for Tuesday alone, a number of speakers skipped over ways that their accomplishments had been supported by the government.

1) Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, when touting this Congress’ record of “implementing free enterprise policies that create jobs, cutting spending and repealing Obamacare,” failed to mention that — despite his very public opposition to the American Recovery Act in 2009, he secretly requested $81 million in stimulus money from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

2) When Host Committee Chairman Al Austin thanked attendees for stimulating the Tampa Bay economy with the Republican National Convention, he failed to mention the $50 million federal grant provided to make the convention possible. An estimated $2.7 million of that grant went to spending on security alone.

3) Ricky Gill , a Republican Candidate for Congress for California’s 9th district, called himself “a proud son of California’s San Joaquin Valley.” The valley is a robust farming community in central California, which, in addition being a recipient of some of the billions in farm subsidies that framing communities receive annually, has been dealing with a desperate drought. Republicans on the Natural Resources Committee in the House put forth legislation “to prevent future California man-made droughts” through public allocation of water to the valley.

4) Rep. Tim Griffin, representing the 2nd congressional district in Arkansas, said that a private company in his district awaits the building of the Keystone pipeline, a project that has even been opposed by Republicans because of it’s hefty $260 billion estimated price tag. “In Little Rock, we have a company with over 500 miles of pipe ready for the Keystone pipeline – but that pipe is sitting in a stack,” and will be, apparently until the federal funding comes through.

5) Rep. Francisco Canseco from Texas touted the fact that his district included “800 miles of U.S.-Mexico border,” which is secured by the U.S. Border Patrol, which has a workforce of nearly 20,000 employed directly by the federal government. The size of the Border Patrol has doubled since 2004. (Incidentally, Canseco isn’t so friendly with every U.S. security agency, since he claims to have had an intimate encounter with the Transportation Security Administration earlier this year.)

6) Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn not only touted the city’s immigrant population — even though at least 30 percent of immigrant-led households in Florida participate in at least one major welfare program — but also touted the city’s home to MacDill Air Force Base, which faced a 7 percent cut this year to its $10.5 billion annual budget.

7) Keith Rothfus, running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 12th district, said he was a cancer survivor, has been a beneficiary of some of the research subsidized by the National Cancer Institute, which receives some $5 billion annually from the federal government. The Romney-Ryan budget proposes cuts to the funding of cancer research.

8) Andy Barr, running for Kentucky’s 6th district in Kentucky, cited Toyota’s “7,000 jobs in Georgetown, Kentucky,” made possible in part by $6.5 billion in tax incentives provided by the Kentucky Business Investment program, a state-funded program.

9) Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett admitted that there’s “a role for Washington in addressing our city’s critical infrastructure needs,” but cited the fact that his city “was recently named as the most entrepreneurial city in the country, with the most start-ups per capita.” That could be in part due to the $30 billion in federal grant money allocated by the Oklahoma City Small Business Administration district office.

10) Lisa Stickan, chair of the Young Republicans, studied law at Cleveland State University, a public university that received some $210 million annually from the state until 2010, when a Republican-legislature cut 34 percent of its budget. Stickan probably would have found paying for college difficult without federally funded student loans and/or grants, or a tax-free college savings plan.

11) Utah’s Rep. Jason Chaffetz touted a “$500,000 grant under the Small Community Air Service Development Program” in 2010 given by the U.S. Department of Transportation, but didn’t mention that when he applauded the generations who “quietly rolled up their sleeves and built a stronger, more prosperous nation. The government didn’t build it. They built it.”

But it seems that those triumphs wouldn’t have been possible without help from the government.

Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
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