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Area small business owners bristle over Obama's 'you didn't build that' remark

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 25, 2012 - Amid the back-and-forth over what President Barack Obama said or meant with his “You didn’t build that” remark, Cathy Bononi of Webster Groves says the key point is that small business owners feel under siege from federal regulations and mandates.

Cathy and Larry Bononi own a small grocery, Freddie’s Market, which was started by his father decades earlier. “I watched my father-in-law and my husband work very hard,’’ Cathy Bononi said. “No one handed them anything.”

“We want to continue to have our small business,” Bononi continued, “But when you look at the regulations” and the health-care mandates, “we’re seeing that we’ll be another business eventually eliminated” unless there is change in Washington.

The Bononis were among a half-dozen business owners who participated in a Republican event on Freddie’s parking lot to highlight the controversy over Obama’s recent comment. The GOP has produced T-shirts sporting the remark, as well as signs declaring, “We DID build it!”

Wednesday morning’s event in Webster Groves was one of two held in Missouri, and among several dozen nationwide, organized by Republican groups in coordination with the campaign of the likely GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.

Event host Ed Martin, chairman of the GOP’s coordinated “Missouri Victory 2012” campaign (and a candidate for attorney general), dismissed assertions of the Obama campaign that Republicans have intentionally misrepresented his remark.

Obama points to his comments about infrastructure right before the “you didn’t build that” remark, which his campaign says make clear the word “that” refers to roads and bridges – not small businesses or their owners. (Factcheck.org has a post with a transcript of the president's remarks as well as a respose from Romney)

Martin contended that the full statement is even more damning, and still underscores the president’s view that government played a key role in private job creation – which Martin says is wrong.

Dave McArthur, a co-owner of McArthur’s Bakery, asserted that small business is being “crushed by big business” and out-of-touch governments on all levels.

“Washington, especially this president, doesn’t have a clue,” McArthur declared.

Larry Bononi said that roads and bridges are important, but his wife was among several speakers who emphasized that “taxpayers paid for that,” not necessarily the government.

To rebuild the economy, Cathy Bononi said, small business needs to see lower taxes, for itself and its customers, so that “people will start spending again.”

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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