No one can accuse Thomas Donlan of taking President Obama out of context within a column-length dissection of the “you didn’t build that” speech in the latest Barron’s. Donlan quotes the president’s comments at length, then offers Obama’s response to ads from Republican Mitt Romney criticizing the president’s offending sound byte.

What makes the Romney distortion — if it really is one — so believable is the president’s ominous path of logic to the wrong conclusion: The president’s theme implies that success is a matter of luck. Success depends on the support of our whole society and all our forebears, so the successful have no particular claim to the fruits of what is not really their labor, but society’s bequest. Indeed, he leaves us to conclude that the unsuccessful have as good a claim, or better, since there are more of them. That’s democracy.

We object. While Obama credits government with construction of roads and bridges, government did not create them except by using citizens’ taxes. The citizens, especially including the high-income citizens who pay most of the taxes, built the nation’s communal property, and everyone is paying to use that property, directly or indirectly. Moreover, government was an instrument of the citizens’ will, not an independent actor. That too is democracy.

The president says that government spending, borrowing, and investing makes business success possible. But the “incredible American system” works the other way around: Without business success, creating jobs, wages, salaries, dividends, and capital gains, government would have nothing to spend.