Laurinburg business owner Ron Riggins isn’t too happy with recent comments attributed to President Barack Obama.
Riggins is using a marquee outside his sports bar to express his displeasure.
The sign at Champs restaurant reads: “Mr. President, we built our business and paid taxes for roads and services.”
Riggins put up the message after Obama gave a speech last month talking about the interdependent nature of government and successful businesses.
The president said: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. 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.”
Riggins, a Democrat, says he disagrees with the president’s viewpoint as do many others.
“I often use that marquee to kind of wink at people, and I understand that some people may not like that message, but so far I’ve had a considerable number say that they like it,” Riggins said.
A recent national Gallup poll seems to support that assertion, with business owners being among the least approving groups of the job the president is doing.
Based on interviews conducted with 25,464 working American adults, the poll found that Obama’s approval during the second quarter of this year among business owners was at 35 percent. That figure, according to Gallup, makes business owners essentially the least-approving (along with farmers, fishers and forestry workers at 34 percent) among the eleven major occupational groups polled.
County Democratic Chairman Kenton Spencer blames the economy for the lack of approval among business owners.
“It’s that simple,” said Spencer. “When the economy was bad under Bush, you heard from unhappy business owners, as I’m sure you did during any historical recession.”
But Scotland County GOP Chairman Bill Owens flatly blames Obama’s policies for the poor polling numbers.
“He is stifling business with regulations and policies, and it can’t survive and grow, which is supposedly what he wants it to do,” Owens said. “You have got to allow the freedom for initiative, and (Obama) is not doing that.”
For Riggins, the displeasure with Obama is related to the economy as well as a general philosophy espoused by the White House.
“We are at the point now where the government thinks that being successful is being bad,” Riggins said.
“The first year failure rate in the restaurant business is 51 percent, and it is not easy, and the president still wants to penalize us for our success,” said Riggins of the tax policies and regulations supported by Obama.
Riggins also believes that Obama fails to acknowledge how much business owners actually do contribute to infrastructure through taxes as well as indirectly.
“Not only do they match the taxes of their employees, but they pay property, sales and tourism taxes,” Riggins said. “My little restaurant pays $250,000 per year in taxes, not counting income taxes.”
Out of context
Spencer said he does not believe Obama’s comment has been fairly represented by critics.
“I applaud Mr. Riggins for expressing himself,” said Spencer. “What his marquee said, by the facts, holds water.
“But what the president said has been taken out of context, however, to get us back to this small government vs. big government polemic.”
Spencer said funding infrastructure is part of the process of government, and the relationship between business and government is what defines our system.
“That is what the president was saying,” he said.
Disagreeing with Spencer, Owens said that he felt Obama’s comments have been used fairly by Republicans who say that they “tell us something of his true feelings toward business.”
“The only reason (Obama) wishes to now add some context to his comments is for political position,” Owens said.
In the case of the upcoming presidential election, Spencer said that he supports the president’s plan to continue rebuilding the economy.
“That contrasts with (Republican nominee) Mitt Romney’s plan, which is just to be contrarian,” Spencer said.
Riggins said the president has been given enough time.
“The president campaigned saying that he would fix the problems, saying that if things were not better by his third year, he did not deserve re-election,” Riggins said. “He has not even edged toward that.”
Adding that he was no “big fan” of Romney, Riggins said that he is even less of a fan of Obama.
“The president has not changed, his performance is not any better, so why would we want four more years of what we have had?”
Four other business owners contacted by The Laurinburg Exchange refused to speak publicly.
“I support the president and what he said has absolutely been perverted with regard to its meaning,” said one Laurinburg business owner.
Another local business owner said that he “would be more keen to bash the president but for the fact that I’d lose business.”