Barack Obama - You Didn't Build That

Last Updated : Aug 27, 2012


On July 16, 2012 President Obama was speaking at a campaign rally in Roanoke, Virginia. In that speech, he was discussing his desire to see taxes raised on higher earners in an effort to reduce the deficit and his view that those high earners were willing to pay more. He asserted that those high earners were aware that the businesses owned by those high earners were only successful because of the roads, infrastructure, and education of others. In doing this, he used the phrase "you didn't build that" referencing that infrastructure. The implication being that those businesses could not exist without the manpower and infrastructure provided by the state. 

These statements caused a great deal of controversy throughout the 2012 campaign. Republicans seized on the statements to drive home the assertion that President Obama was hostile to business and unaware of how businesses are started in the US. One night of the Republican National Committee in Tampa Bay, Florida was even designated as "We built it" night. In addition to the "You didn't build that" phrase, Republicans were critical of the statements by President Obama that those who run successful businesses are not smarter or harder working than the rest of the country.


Speech in Virginia

The video and text below provide roughly two minutes of the President's speech that day. It is enough to understand the context of the phrase in question. The President starts out addressing the need to raise taxes to help balance the budget, and then notes that the same higher earners who will be taxed more are willing to pay these increased rates. He notes that they are willing to do this because they are aware that their businesses are only successful because of the education of the people they can employ, and the infrastructure in place. He notes that those people did not build that infrastructure with the words "You didn't build that."

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