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The Height of Hubris: “We Built This”

Written by piechartking on August 28, 2012.

Uninformed, deluded or craven. I think those are your choices if you’re conservative and caught spouting the “We Built This!” nonsense. Forget roads, forget the power grid, forget regulatory schemes, forget all infrastructure – the indisputable reality is that you did not build “this” on your own. Not totally on your own, anyway.

Let’s talk about Cheryl and Eli Valenzuela, who will be speaking this week at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. The Valenzuela’s own First State Manufacturing (FSM), a successful small business which they started in a garage doing upholstery, but which has subsequently expanded to making other products, like baseball ump vests and vests for the Israeli military.

Cheryl is scheduled to speak at the Republican National Convention, an ostensible flesh-and-blood embodiment of Republicans’ mantra “We Built This”. The phrase amounts to a rebuke of President Obama’s recent remarks that small business owners didn’t build their business in isolation without help from others. Forget that the remarks have been shamelessly taken out of context for a moment. Forget that, logically, it is impossible for you to build a small business in America totally on your own. Forget that you’re an adult and should know that without me having to write this article to remind you of that basic fact.

No, forget all that and just remember this: What is hilarious to the utmost about Cheryl Valenzuela speaking — as a living example of the “We Built This!” them, mind you—is that the Valenzuela’s didn’t even come close to building it on their own. Subsequent research on FSM, by Justin Acuff at Addictinginfo.org, has revealed the following:
1) The Valenzuela’s’ new 66,000 square-foot facility is funded by a $1.8 million US Small Business Administration (SBA) 504 loan
2) Eli Valenzuela learned the upholstery trade through correspondence courses in the Army, and he applied what he learned at Dover Air Force Base, upholstering C-5 cargo planes.
3) Before Eli and Cheryl opened their upholstery business in the garage, they first received help and advice from the non-profit SCORE Association and Delaware Small Business Development Center to compose a business plan.
4) FSM was initially funded by a $20,000 guaranteed SBA loan.
5) Eli and Cheryl also became certified in the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program.
6) In 2001, FSM received another $96,500 guaranteed SBA loan in order to modernize and expand.
7) After 9/11 and during the ensuing recession, FSM obtained a $65,800 SBA disaster loan to maintain their business and employees until the business climate improved.

Kind of takes the wind out of the “We Built That!” sails, doesn’t it? So, when you’re listening to inane conservative drivel this week about how we all did this “ourselves”, without any help from others; as you watch Republicans strut and chest-bump to “We Built That!” at a convention held in the 62% publicly-financed ($86 million) Tampa Bay Times Forum, keep these little facts as a obvious and commonsense reminder that, no, we didn’t build it all ourselves.

We all need help, and we all are in it together – a fact of life most people know without having to be told. Some of us (Yeah I’m talking to you, conservatives), it seems, are comically uninformed, hopelessly deluded, or just cynically craven, about the “We Built This!” theme.   You pick.

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I'm an American attorney living abroad in Taiwan. I have a beautiful and intelligent wife, and our four kids take after her in the beauty and brains department. Although I live abroad, I love my country and helping my country live up to its potential is my passion in life.

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