As President Barack Obama travels the country making the case for expanding government, one of his favorite tactics is sharing stories about private companies that would never have succeeded without public investment. In a speech last week in Seattle, Obama said:
“When I hear my opponent and some of these folks talk as if somehow nobody had anything to do with the success of these businesses and our entrepreneurs, I have to remind them that we — we the people — invested in creating the Internet that allowed Microsoft and Google and Facebook to thrive.”
Too bad for Obama, those “folks” turned out be right. It was the President who needed a reminder. In an editorial yesterday, The Wall Street Journal offered a short history lesson.
Microsoft—a product of the Internet? That may surprise Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who founded the software company in 1975. The company didn’t introduce its first Internet browser for another 20 years, and in the meantime it became the dominant computer software company long before the Internet became economically important. The irony of Mr. Obama’s error is that for much of Microsoft’s history the Internet was seen as a threat to its desktop dominance.
Given that dozens of aides review every speech that the Presidents delivers, it’s hard to believe that no one caught this glaring error. No wonder presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney wants to make the case that Obama and his aides doesn’t understand how the economy works. They really don’t.