Americans in the private sector who have achieved financial success did so due to “blind luck” and a “generation of women doing someone else’s laundry and looking after someone else’s children to get you here,” Barack Obama said in unearthed 2005 comments.
Obama also argued for a larger role for government in health care, retirement and national infrastructure.
He made the statements at the Harvard Law School Association “Celebration of Black Alumni” Award Luncheon on Sept. 17, 2005. He delivered the keynote address and was the recipient of that year’s award.
During a question-and-answer session after his address, Obama spelled out what he called a “major ideological battle taking place right now in this country.”
“And I think we can win it if we can articulate it,” he added.
Referring to the free-market system, Obama posited that “the other side has an easier job because their argument is essentially what is, you know, labeled the ownership society is actually pretty easily articulated. It says, ‘We are all in it by ourselves.’”
He continued, in reference to his version of free market doctrine: “So if you’ve got a health care problem we are gonna set up a health care account. We’ll put $5,000 in it, and from that point on you are on your own. You worry about health care inflation.
“Retirement? Retirement account. Figure out how much you can save. It doesn’t matter that your wages haven’t gone up in four, five years. It doesn’t matter that you are being squeezed by all sorts of costs from $3-a-gallon gasoline to the costs of higher education for your child. You figure out how to save.”
Obama took a direct shot at successful Americans, mocking their achievements as “blind luck.”
“There’s a certain attractiveness in its simplicity, that idea (of an ownership society). And it’s particularly attractive, I think, for those of us who are successful, because it allows us to be self-congratulatory and say, in fact, the cream rises to the top.
“You know. Look how well we did. Everybody can do what we did. Denying the role of blind luck that played in getting everybody here. Or the sacrifices of a generation of women doing someone else’s laundry and looking after someone else’s children to get you here.”
Obama then touted the role of government in industry.
“Where there (are) market-based solutions to problems we embrace market based solutions. But the market fails sometimes and where it fails we have got to help people because that is what has always been done. … You know the railroads didn’t just appear.”