If it's not a turtle-atop-a-fence-post adage, it's close.
"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help," President Barack Obama said on the campaign trail last week. "If you've got a business - you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."
It was a pitch for higher taxes on those who, apparently, stood on the shoulders of everyone else in order to reach that brass ring. Envy, rationalized.
There's a problem with that logic. Nearly everyone has attended a public school, ridden on a public road, crossed a public bridge. Not everyone has taken a risk, opened a business and (rarer still) found financial success.
What about people who have had the same advantages, government benefits and societal gifts as business owners, but never strived for success as entrepreneurs? Did they squander the advantages afforded by those teachers, roads and bridges? Should they be punished?
No. And the same goes for business owners. Because, in a free market based on voluntary exchanges, each benefits. A customer pays a business owner because he or she receives goods or services valued as much, or more, than the money. The business owner, meanwhile, would rather trade the investment of time, effort and capital for (hopefully) a profit.
Everyone benefits from schools, roadways and other structures and services provided by local, state and federal governments. Some dare to put those benefits to more productive use.
All this political back-and-forth avoids the fact that, even if all the Bush-era tax rates were to expire, we still would have a budget deficit. And an economy growing at a turtle's pace.