Indeed, apparently this rather banal and oft-repeated observation about the interplay between government and business was considered such an insult to the business community, a community of which Mitt Romney is self-appointed lord and master, that the Mitt campaign felt compelled to respond with all possible force. And their response, consisting in part of an ad showing a John Galtish businessman being outraged by Obama saying such mean, anti-business things, sucks worse than the history off all the things that have previously sucked in the Mitt Romney campaign, and that is saying something.
Because that businessman complaining up there? He's a poster child for government assistance to businesses:
The New Hampshire Union Leader’s John DiStato today reports that in 1999 the business in question, Gilchrist Metal, “received $800,000 in tax-exempt revenue bonds issued by the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority ‘to set up a second manufacturing plant and purchase equipment to produce high definition television broadcasting equipment’…” In addition, in 2011, Gilchrist Metal “received two U.S. Navy sub-contracts totaling about $83,000 and a smaller, $5,600 Coast Guard contract in 2008…”So the guy the Romney campaign went to for their attack ad has a business has received $800,000 in tax-exempt bonds, another $500,000 or so in small business loans, does contracting work for the U.S. Navy, but he's pissed off that Obama said that government helps businesses. Say what you will, but that sounds like the perfect Mitt Romney voter, right there.
The businessman, Jack Gilchrist, also acknowledged that in the 1980s the company received a U.S. Small Business Administration loan totaling “somewhere south of” $500,000, and matching funds from the federally-funded New England Trade Adjustment Assistance Center.
“I’m not going to turn a blind eye because the money came from the government,” Gilchrest said. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m getting some of my tax money back. I’m not stupid, I’m not going to say ‘no.’ Shame on me if I didn’t use what’s available.”
By itself it would be a minor act of comedy, but the Romney campaign has apparently been basing their entire pushback on non-government-helped businessowners who, glory be, actually get government help. Last week he held an anti-Obama pushback at an auto repair shop, saying "this is not the result of government," etc., only to have have it undermined almost immediately:
[I]n an interview with Boston-based reporter Jon Keller of WBZ-TV, Maloney acknowledged that his business received some government help. “The only way I was able to come here, because I had no money, was with an industrial-revenue bond,” Maloney said in the interview. Industrial-revenue bonds are typically issued by local and state governments to attract new business to an area.... and his "We did built it!" rally today (good gawd, really?) featured, yes, multiple defense contractors. Because nothing says "government never helped my business" more than cashing regular checks from that same government.
There's at least two possibilities here. Possibility one is that the Mitt Romney campaign sucks so very, very badly at messaging that it didn't even occur to them that their multiple publicity stunts and advertisements touting business independence from taxpayers and the government should probably not involve businesses that have had significant assistance from taxpayers and the government. The other possibility, though, is that Mitt Romney's business friends are such a cloistered community that Mitt sincerely doesn't know anyone whose business hasn't gotten direct and substantial assistance from the government. He doesn't know any, and in the entire sphere of American businessmen who are Mitt Romney supporters, his entire campaign staff can't find any either. (To be fair, most of Romney's friends are from Wall Street, and there's not one damn person in the whole financial industry who could credibly be propped up as being "independent of government" in the last few years.)
So I'm not sure what's going on at this point, but the Mitt Romney campaign either needs better campaigners, better friends, or both. Propping up a bunch of defense contractors, small business loan holders, bond grantees and others who are willing to sneer at all the help America has given them makes both them and Mitt look like gigantic, pompous jerks.