By Joseph Campagna GSB ’15
Countless numbers of Fordham University students have been afforded the opportunity to attend college thanks to the tireless work ethic of parents and grandparents who started their own businesses with the hope to provide their children with a more prosperous life than their own. Family owned and operated businesses have given millions of Americans, and their families, the chance to realize the American Dream and obtain financial freedom. They’ve also become an intricate part of who we are as a country.
While we vigorously debate the merits and truth of sweeping statements about our country, none of us can deny the sweeping truth that America is a nation of family businesses. Family businesses comprise 90% of American business enterprises, and employ 62% of American workers. More importantly, the family business has been a vehicle for Americans of all kinds to learn the values that make our nation great: creativity, ingenuity, innovation, and hard work. Even as a nation more culturally and polarized than ever before, there are still great facets of our society that bring us together. Family owned businesses are one of those facets.
That is why it was so disappointing to see President Barack Obama tell business owners “you didn’t build that.” Supporters of the president immediately dismissed his comments as a gaffe, but the president’s record tells a different story. During the president’s three years in office, he has signed into law health care legislation that will levy obscene taxes and penalties onto family owned businesses, in addition to advocating for increases in the estate and social security tax, both of which will drive family businesses into bankruptcy or sale. In addition to consistently implementing public policy that hurts family owned businesses, the president has also vilified many of their owners as “members of the one percent” who do not “pay their fair burden in taxes.”
President Obama could not be more wrong. America’s family owned businesses donate billions of dollars a year to local charities, sustain charitable organizations such as local Kiwanis and Rotary chapters that save countless lives, and provide second chance and new opportunity to those in our society struggling by offering them employment and a steady paycheck. Our family businesses are so much more than businesses, but instead instrumental parts of the communities they call him.
Ronald Reagan once said that “miracles are made” at America’s family owned businesses, and he could not be more correct. By attacking and vilifying free enterprise, President Obama fails to realize that he is attacking the very fabric of who we are. Our free enterprise system largely consists of family owned businesses, and it is these businesses that shape so many of us into who we are today. He is attacking the owner of your local pizzeria, your local supermarket, your local hardware store, your local beauty salon, and countless other family owned businesses that you frequent on a daily basis.
Whether your local family owned business employs ten people or ten thousand people, every single one of the owners of these businesses or their employees wakes up in the morning with the same goal for the day: to provide opportunities for their children better than the ones they were provided while also providing goods and services that make the lives of those in their communities easier.
That’s something worth celebrating, not demonizing.