Mike Kelly and the Unwarranted Survival of “Individual Success” Stories

Mike Kelly, owner of a GM car dealership franchise, and soon-to-be Member of the House of Representatives (that is a person who draws a federal government paycheck), suggests in a Washington Post article that he is solely responsible for his lucrative fortune. This error-filled thinking occurs in “individual success” tales.

There’ve been times when I didn’t even take a paycheck out of here for six months. There’ve been times I cashed in my pension to put money back in the shop. There’ve been times I mortgaged my home to keep this business alive. I’ve been to the edge of the abyss and looked in and there’s nobody there to help you – nobody there.”

He conveniently forgets the massive contributions of others that allowed him to build a business.  Some illustrations of this follow.

  • Familial possession of capital. The dealership was started by his father, who had to have enough capital (or access to it) to afford a franchise.  Not everyone can manage this. [Note:  Mr. Kelly mentions that the government restructuring of GM got him into politics.  Where was he when GM was struggling before the financial crisis?  It is GM’s business decisions against the franchise owners that he should focus his anger on, not the government. At the very least, he still has cars to sell.]
  • Economic capital of past generations built the infrastructure and society that permits a business to be able to function (educated pool of people, health care, reliable system of laws, roads for people to drive on, etc.).
  • Banks. Without an extension of credit, there would be no business, period.
  • Economic strength of the U.S. middle class. Though under attack, without a middle class, there is absolutely no way that a mass manufacturer of goods can stay in business.  Mr. Kelly should think about this as he considers spending cuts to nondefense expenditures as a Representative.
  • Power of the United States owning the world’s currency, the dollar.