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You didn’t build that: Obama says government should be ‘creating opportunity’

NEW LONDON, CT - MAY 18: U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the 130th graduation at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on May 18, 2011 in New London, Connecticut. Obama is expected to make a major speech to the nation on Thursday which will address recent events in the Arab world including the death of Osama bin Laden. It is a tradition that the president speaks to a graduating class at each of the nation’s four military academies during his term. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

President Obama, who recently said “if you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that,” declared in a new interview that it is the job of the federal government to “create opportunity” for American workers.

“[T]hose of us who believe the government can be a force for good when it comes to creating opportunity for folks who are willing to work hard and play by the rules to get into the middle class, we have an obligation to make sure government works,” Obama told CBS during an interview that aired this morning on Face the Nation.

The president indicated he was repeating the argument from his convention speech, but he never told the nation so bluntly that the government has such a dynamic role in the economic success of the American people.

Instead, Obama offered a more passive view of government. He opened by conceding that “not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington,” before saying that “government has a role” in the nation’s success because of the need for good teachers. Obama also stated his “belief that those of us who believe government can be a force for good should work harder than anyone to reform it so that it’s leaner and more efficient and more responsive to the American people.”

His comments during the CBS interview recall the Roanoke speech that prompted The Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone to say that “Obama believes success is a gift from government.” As Obama argued:

“There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back,” [Obama] began, defending his policy of higher tax rates on high earners. “They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, ‘well, it must be because I was just so smart.’ There are a lot of smart people out there. ‘It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.’ Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. 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.”