There's an argument going on, and sometimes it sounds like people who basically agree screaming at each other over nothing.
It erupted again recently, when President Barack Obama, echoing (less articulately) Elizabeth Warren's argument that successful business owners were helped by public investment, and ought to support continued investment to help the next guy.
"If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen," Obama said, and the right exploded with outrage.
Obama's statement "reveals what he thinks about our country, about our people, about free enterprise, about freedom, about individual initiative," Mitt Romney said. To underline the point, Romney set up a press conference with a business owner to declare hard work, not government, is all it takes for success.
Because we love to argue, we exaggerate. Pushing back against the cult of the entrepreneur, some on the left characterize Romney and his billionaire backers as self-centered and ungrateful - think Donald Trump - or as more interested in their overseas bank accounts than their country - think of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who just denounced his U.S. citizenship so he can save millions in taxes.
Pushing back against big government, some of the right characterize Obama and Democrats as the sworn enemies of capitalism, innovation and individual freedom.
But here's what Obama also said, just before the widely-quoted sound byte: "When we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."
And here's what Romney also said: "A lot of people help you in a business. Perhaps the banks, the investors. There's no question your mom and dad, your school teachers, the people that provide roads, the fire, the police. A lot of people help."
And it turns out the entrepreneur Romney spotlighted had help from government as well. He was able to open his business thanks to a government-backed industrial development bond, and a government contract to overhaul buses.
Truth is, Romney and Obama understand that both individual initiative and community support contribute to any enterprise's success. If they, and their followers, could get beyond either/or arguments, we could have a more productive discussion over removing the barriers to individual initiative and providing the public investments economic growth requires.
- The (Framingham, Mass.) MetroWest Daily News