Polish-American Entrepreneurs Balk at Obama’s Comments

President Barack Obama’s recent comments on making of businesses success at an appearance in Virginia caused a stir when some took them as an affront on American entrepreneurship. Mitt Romney’s campaign replayed the controversial quote, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that,”  five times in a 15-second video and in a recent meeting with business owners in California, his camp unveiled a new campaign slogan: “We Did Build That.”

The comment also did not play well among Polish-American entrepreneurs, reported Nowy Dziennik, which also offered a fuller version of the quote.

President Barack Obama (Justin Sloan via Flickr)

“If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen,” said President Barack Obama during a speech in Virginia.

“I will surely not vote for Barack Obama,” said a Polish-American entrepreneur, commenting on the president’s remarks.

Barack Obama, who is running a re-election campaign, shared his thoughts on entrepreneurship during one of his meetings with the voters.

“If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own,” the President said. “I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there [..] 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.”

Obama also said that it was the government, not scientists nor technological companies, that are behind the Internet.

“The Internet didn’t just emerge on its own,” the President said. “Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

“The system [in which we create our business] does matter,” said Adam Szala, owner of Square Enterprises, a large distribution and import company located in New Jersey.

“However, in my opinion a favorable system is responsible for a quarter of the success. The basis for success is hard work, good ideas, and again hard work,” added the Polish-American entrepreneur. “There are many small businesses in Poland that were set up 15 or 20 years ago, and are doing well in spite of the less friendly business climate than we have here. Examples from other countries also lead to the same conclusion. The conditions which a given country creates for businesses may be helpful, but if a businessman is not fully engaged, nothing will happen on its own,” concluded Mr. Szala, who runs the business on his own, without any partners, and has successfully grown it since 1989. He said that only now, after years of hard work and sacrifice, can he afford to spend time with the family.

Sylwester Kalinowski, a tax expert and owner of Metro Business Center in Greenpoint, has also noticed that it is easier to set up and run a company in the United States than in Poland. However, he does not think that is thanks to President Obama.

“The business climate has always been like that here,” Mr. Kalinowski said. “Democrats are making things worse by going towards more bureaucratization of the system.”

Mieszko Kalita, the owner of Beata Deli in Greenpoint, said that recently the business climate for small companies has become tougher.

“After 24 years of running my own store, I look at what is going on around me,” Mr. Kalita said. “And it increasingly is starting to resemble Communist Poland. There was a time when one could peacefully ran their own business, but now two days after one inspector visits your store, there comes another to check how the first one did. It has recently happened to me twice. They check one another. It is like in the worst effects of Communism, while we are living in what appears to still be a Capitalistic country.”

Observers predict that Obama’s speech in Roanoke in Virginia will [hurt him in the election]. They said that right wing voters will claim that Obama has no idea about what is going on in the small business sector, and that he undermines the importance of the private sector.

“I found these remarks insulting. I don’t remember receiving any assistance from the federal government, and I have been in business for the past 24 years,” said Mr. Kalita, who does not agree with President Obama when he says business owners owe their success to roads that the government built and the American system. “Mr. Obama can be sure that neither myself nor any of my friends will vote for him. The American government has been established by American citizens in order to serve the nation and spend the nation’s taxes in an appropriate way. Barack Obama doesn’t know what he is talking about […]. If it were not for the hardworking people, there would be no government and no taxes for roads. In the past, when people wished to have a road built, they would build it on their own. Now we pay taxes and the road is built by the local or federal government.”

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