At least until Rick Santorum’s soliloquy on hands, it was the strangest moment of the Republican National Convention Tuesday night: a small businessman from New Mexico stood at the podium and said—in remarks that were obviously vetted if not written by RNC organizers—that the Obama Administration had let him down... by not spending more money on his road signs.
The theme of the night—written on the walls and backdrops and hand-lettered signs, and laced through nearly every speech—was “We Built It,” an insistent jab at an Obama quote, “You didn’t build that,” which opponents heard as an insult to American ingenuity and bootstrappiness. The President doesn’t think people build their own businesses, the Republicans say, because he thinks the Government builds everything.
His comments, for those who haven't read them a dozen times, were: "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."
The President, and Democrats like Mass. Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren, make the point with more nuance: businesses big and small are built by people— call them business-builders if you like—who themselves rely on things we can only build together as a society, like roads, schools and police departments.
But one doesn’t need to hunt for nuance to hear the RNC speaker, Phil Archuletta, saying that the government quite literally keeps his business alive, or that he’s quite upset that there wasn’t more federal largesse flowing his way. “When President Obama came on board and pushed the stimulus,” he told the convention Tuesday, "I believed my business was going to explode with work. Unfortunately, it never happened." (His complete remarks are below.)
Today, liberal bloggers have fleshed out the details. The Huffington Post pointed out that “Archuletta saw over $340,000 in federal contracts under Obama in 2010, which makes up nearly half of the $800,000 he’s received in federal dollars over the past 10 years,” and Mother Jones reported that “Through the Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency, Archuleta secured an $850,000 Small Business Administration loan guarantee to build an 11,700-square-foot building for his company.”
No word yet on whether Archuletta will be invited to speak at the Democratic Convention, where perhaps he would have been a better fit.
Here are Mr. Archuletta’s full prepared remarks:
Phil Archuletta: Thank you, Governor. And thank you, Tampa! My story is the story of many Americans, just like Governor Sandoval's. From humble beginnings, I built a successful business. But today my business is at risk because of the Obama administration. For the last 40 years, my company has built the road signs on the Forest Service road system. In fact, in 1984, I was fortunate to receive the national award from President Reagan for being the most successful minority business in the United States. In 2004, President Bush made it possible for our company to manufacture signs for all federal agencies. When President Obama came on board and pushed the stimulus, I believed my business was going to explode with work. Unfortunately, it never happened. The Democratic Congress and the Obama administration created a new procurement process that harmed existing small business contracts, which devastated my business. I pleaded for help from my Congressman and Senators — all Democrats — and meetings were arranged with the Forest Service. They all listened carefully, they made promises, but nothing happened. Today, we are barely hanging on with the orders from the state of New Mexico — thanks to Governor Susana Martinez — and the few orders still coming through the Forest Service from our very loyal customers. I have heard the same story from other small businesses from all over the country.President Obama talks like he supports small businesses, but his actions are destroying us. His administration is putting us out of business. It is our turn to put them out of office! Thank you.
Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.