IRWIN, Penn. - In an attempt to change the subject from his tax returns and his tenure at the helm of Bain Capital, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney intensified his own rhetoric on Tuesday and called President Obama's recent comments about small business "insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America."
Romney was referring to Obama's remark on Friday at a campaign event in Roanoke, Va., where he argued that successful businesses happened not only because of individual achievement, but because people utilized parts of the public system, such as teachers, the Internet, and roads and bridges. Obama said, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."
While agreeing that government-paid employees and infrastructure are needed, Romney said that those services were not responsible for the success of new business.
"The taxpayers pay for government," Romney said to applause from a fired-up crowd of several hundred people at a gas and oil equipment company. "It's not like government just provides those to all of us and we say 'Oh thank you, Government, for doing those things.' No, in fact we pay for them and we benefit for them and we appreciate the work that they do and the sacrifices that are done by people who work in government. But they did not build this business."
Romney broadened his argument to suggest that Obama's logic demeaned those who were trying to better themselves.
"People who reach to try and bring themselves up, the president would say, 'Well you didn't do that,'" Romney said. "You couldn't have gotten to school without the roads the government built for you, and you couldn't have gone to school without teachers, so you're not responsible for that success.' Look, President Obama attacks success and therefore under President Obama we have less success, and I will change that."
A spokesman for the Obama reelection campaign called Romney's comments "over-the-top."
"As President Obama said the other day, those who start businesses succeed because of their individual initiative - their drive, hard work, and creativity," campaign aide Lis Smith 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 benefits from them. Apparently Mitt Romney disagrees."
Romney also attacked the president for an executive order that allows states to opt out of parts of the welfare law that was passed by former President Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress. "He is trying to take work out of the welfare requirement," he said. "It is changing the nature of America, changing the nature of what Democrats have fought for and Republicans have fought for."
Several prominent conservatives recently argued that Obama's changes are aimed at repealing the law and allowing states to give welfare money to people who are not working or actively trying to find a job. But according to an analysis of the order by the Washington Post, the administration is not removing the work requirement but offering states more flexibility to try new programs that will encourage employment.