CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When he takes the stage Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention, Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal will try to offer a successful CEO’s case that President Obama has been good for the economy and business.
That will include pushing back against a big Republican line of attack — the “We Built It” slogan repeated over and over at the GOP convention in Tampa last week.
The “We Built It” line is based on a comment that President Obama made in a campaign stop this summer. In a speech arguing that everyone benefits from public education, roads and other infrastructure, Obama said, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
The GOP has replayed the quote repeatedly, saying it showed Obama’s contempt for the hard work of business owners. But several nonpartisan fact-checking organizati0ns have pointed out the GOP’s framing of the quote has been misleading and out of context.
Sinegal, who retired this year as Costco’s CEO, said in an interview he will address the GOP attacks in his speech Wednesday at 6:50 p.m. Pacific time.
Naturally, he will back Obama’s view that businesses benefit from public infrastructure – and that even successful corporate executives owe some measure of credit to American institutions, such as public schools.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t had the opportunity to have been afforded a great education at a state university,” said Sinegal, who graduated from San Diego State University.
“You’d have to be a fool not to recognize that you got a lot of help along the way,” he said.
Besides that, Sinegal, a longtime Democratic donor and Obama supporter, said he plans to argue the case that the president has done “a pretty good job” under harsh circumstances.
“Are we better off than we were four years ago? I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Sinegal said. Four years ago, the economy was shedding jobs at an alarming rate, he noted, but now there have been 29 straight months of private-sector job growth.
“Not as much as we want, but we’re moving in the right direction,” Sinegal said.
He praised Obama in particular for saving the U.S. auto industry and its hundreds of thousands of good jobs. It was an example, Sinegal said, of the notion that prosperity flows from the consumer spending of the middle class, not the fortunes of the rich.
“It doesn’t do any good for Costco to have the lowest price on a 70-inch TV set if nobody can afford to buy one,” he said.