Bachmann’s Crazy Talk Express

July 2, 2011

Some commentators (e.g. Mark McKinnon writing in the Daily Beast) are pleading for us to take Michele Bachmann seriously.  However, they do not always make clear if we should credit her candidacy or her ideas.  She might be politically successful, but she will never be a credible leader and her political ideas are simply crazy talk.

McKinnon quotes Bachmann speaking about America’s economic problems as follows.

“I don’t believe that the solutions to our problems come from Washington. More than ever, Washington is the problem, and the real solutions will come from our businesses, our communities, our schools, and the most basic and powerful unit of all—our families.”

It seems impossible that simple ignorance could produce, in such a short statement, so many errors of fact and judgment.

Bachman does not believe “the solutions to our problems come from Washington.”  However, Washington was certainly the solution to the recent banking crisis.  No other entity, certainly not Business, could have bailed out the nation’s leading banks.  So crucial and so successful was Washington’s rescue package that the nation’s most successful investor, Warren Buffett, publically thanked the government in a New York Times op-ed titled “Pretty Good for Government Work”.

Bachman says that “More than ever, Washington is the problem.  However, the government played no role in precipitating the banking crisis, except that it failed to regulate the mortgage brokers and investment banks that did create the crisis.  The phrase “Washington is the problem” was made famous by Ronald Reagan, who began the era of deregulation.  We can certainly suspect that had the Government not been hobbled by years of deregulation, under regulation, and lax regulation, it might have prevented the financial crisis.  In his testimony before congress, Allan Greenspan agreed that as chairman of the Federal Reserve, he had been too lax in regulating banks and had placed too much faith in the supposed self-correcting nature of the market.  He said, “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief.”

Bachman says that “the real solutions will come from our businesses, our communities, our schools, and the most basic and powerful unit of all—our families.”  What is it about recent history that would give anyone a shred of hope that business is the solution to any problem, much less the current economic slump that it created?  Furthermore, the nation’s major economic problem is high unemployment and it is unlikely in the extreme that international corporations, even those based in the U.S., will hire American workers when they can hire labor more cheaply abroad.

Charles E. Wilson, President of General Motors and President Eisenhower’s Secretary of Defense, famously remarked that he thought “what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa.” Because our corporations are now international players, Wilson’s remark is no longer true either in its specific or in its general, metaphorical sense.

As for our communities and our schools, because of the business-induced economic downturn, they are underfunded and barely able to provide basic services, much less provide a solution to the nation’s current economic woes.

Similarly “the most basic and powerful unit of all—our families”, are in no position to help.  It is not clear how Bachmann thinks families could increase employment when nearly 10% of them are being undermined by unemployment.  If Bachman believes that the American family is important, she should be (but is not) a champion of government programs that strengthen most of America’s families: progressive taxation, day care, health care, etc.

The misrepresentations packed into this short quote are unlikely to be the result of ignorance.  At best, they are cynical propaganda.  At worst they are the ravings of a crazed charlatan.


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