An Interview With Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann

Back in 2006, when I led the Rightroots effort in the blogosphere to help get Republicans elected, one of the candidates we raised money for was Michelle Bachmann. Happily, she was elected and since then, she has been ferociously fighting for conservative causes in Congress and has become one of the Left’s primary targets. Last week, I had a chance to do a short phone interview with her. What follows is a slightly edited transcript of our conversation.

The Republican Party is obviously in pretty lousy shape right now. Why do you think that’s the case and what do we need to do to turn it around?

I think we absolutely can turn it around. You might say that the Democrats are at their apex now and the Republicans are at their nadir — and that’s happened before. We’ve switched positions where the Democrats have been at the nadir and the Republicans have been at the top.

But, I think the one key to remember is that conservatism is not dead. No matter how much the mainstream media, the liberal elites or anyone else wants to say it is — it just has to be reignited. …We squandered our opportunity to lead the country because the policies and the principles that we all saw work so well in the 1980s weren’t followed during the early part of the Bush years and on as we went.

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You cannot grab the hearts and minds of the American people when, for instance, Republicans are putting into place a government takeover of the local public school classroom. At that point people look askance at Republicans and say, “Why in the world should we back you when you’re governing like liberals?” — and so you can understand why people would reject what it is that Republicans were selling.

Now on occasion you’ve said a few controversial things, most of which have been blown way out of proportion by your political enemies. I’m just going to ask you about one of them and give you a chance to elaborate so people know exactly what you meant. On the Chris Matthews show you said,

“I wish the American people would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America. I think people would love to see an expose like that.”

Now personally, I would love to see an expose like that. But talk about that a bit. What did you mean? What were you driving at there?

Well, Chris Matthews had asked me if I believed that members of Congress were anti-American and my response was, “That’s not for me to say.” That’s not for me to judge. If the American media is doing their job they can make that determination and they can figure it out.

Okay, let me ask you to expand a bit on a quote of yours, “Where freedom is tried the people rejoice, but where tyranny is enforced upon the people, as Barack Obama is doing, the people suffer and mourn.” Talk about that a bit…

Well, I think all we have to do is just look around and pick up a newspaper. There is a lot of suffering that’s going on. The recession continues to move forward and we saw that GDP contracted 6.1% in the first quarter. That’s suffering. By many measures, we’re not seeing a pro-growth economy. In fact, I had just heard something last night on the radio that said that we had three consecutive quarters of contraction. That hasn’t happened for a number of years and I think that brings pause to a lot of people.

I just got off the phone with my local Chamber of Commerce back home and we have automobile dealers worried what is going to happen to the future of their business, financial planners worried about what’s going to happen to theirs, a banker worried about the stress test. We saw stocks falling today on the stock market.

I know President Obama had said that there were glimmers of hope. I would love to join him in looking for glimmers of hope anywhere we can because I prefer to see the glass half-full — but, I think the reality is that dramatic government intervention in the marketplace has the unintended consequence of diminishing the opportunities for the private sector to thrive while government continues to expand and grow.

We can’t think that government at the federal level could grow 25% and think that won’t have a diminution effect on the growth of the private sector. The private sector is where we really see innovation and that’s really the question that’s before us today: will government subsidize inactivity or will government subsidize risk taking? I think if you look throughout American history, the people of our country are far better off when we are in the business of seeing risk taking and growth in our economy.

Now you’ve called Barack Obama one of the “greatest dividers” we’ve ever had in the history of our country. Why do you believe that’s been the case? Why do you think he has been so divisive?

…We are one country and we have equal opportunities as a people. No matter what our circumstances were at birth, no matter what family we came from, we each have the opportunity with our own talents and abilities to be able to make something of ourselves and join this great American dream.

What is not good is when government embraces policies that pits one American against another American. That’s what we’re seeing now with the economic class warfare that we’re looking at — with fewer and fewer people paying taxes and an increased tax burden being born by an ever shrinking pool of Americans. All Americans benefit from government services, whether it’s national defense or the roads, and it’s just fair that all Americans participate in the tax system.

I am a federal tax lawyer and today it’s about 40% of Americans pay nothing in federal income tax. Under President Barack Obama’s plan that number could increase to over 50% of the American people who will pay nothing with another, I believe 11%, who would pay a very small amount of their income in federal taxation which would then heap the tax burden on people on the other end of the spectrum.

There is a very real moral consideration that we have to take into account. If the government chooses to punish those who have found financial success in our economy we will see a profound difference in the number of Americans that are choosing to strive for the American dream. There are also moral implications involved if we see the government discouraging entrepreneurship and the government taking over an area of industry.

The greatest moral implication is the one that I think, right now, we’re seeing whereby young people are looking at a tremendous tax burden for their peak earning years. For those who are 19, 20 years of age right now, they’re looking at an unprecedented level of taxation if the government continues to spend at the level it is and they are responsible for paying off that debt.

Our parents suffered, sacrificed, scraped to get by, and did without so that we could have an education, so we could have whatever it was that they were providing for us. We are the generation that’s not only eating all of the seed corn that our parents saved up for us, we’re also consuming everything that we’ve produced today, and we’re consuming as a nation the future earnings of the next generation. That’s unconscionable and that is, I believe, the greatest moral issue of our day.

Excellent answer by the way. You sit on the House Financial Services Committee which is headed by Barney Frank. Many conservatives believe Congress in general and Barney Frank, in particular, deserve the lion’s share of the blame for the housing crisis that’s hammered our economy. What’s your opinion on that?

Well the Financial Services Committee has been the center of the storm and the center of the universe so to speak with this financial meltdown that the United States has been facing — and I believe that the legislation that was adopted by government, in many ways, has led to this current housing crisis. I think that among the contributing factors from the federal government have been the federal government pushing Freddie and Fannie to take on secondary housing loans that were not a good bet — and much of this is done through igniting the Community and Reinvestment Act with amendments that were passed in the 1990s — which forced banks to make loans to people who had either no intention or no ability to be able to pay off those loans and certainly had very risky credit histories.

We also saw at the same time that those sub-prime loans were also made to people that didn’t indicate a strong likelihood of being able to pay those loans back. It’s not just sub-prime, but it was prime loans as well, because government set the stage. The federal government subsidized Freddie and Fannie to the exclusion of other secondary mortgage purchasers, also the Community Reinvestment Act, and also with an easy money policy with the Federal Reserve.

Money was very easily lent by the Federal Reserve, which left low interest for too long. I’m a big fan of low interest rates but they weren’t warranted for that amount of time — and so government created the housing bubble. Now after that collapse government is creating a new bubble and I would call it a government bubble — and we may see that bubble burst down the road — and once that bursts, I think that could be far worse than what we’ve seen before.

Last question, do you think Janet Napolitano should resign?

I have very real concerns about Janet Napolitano. I believe that she needs to come before Congress and answer questions about the right wing extremist report. She states that she will not use the word terrorism to describe a radical jihadist that seeks the destruction of the United States and certainly the deaths of innocent Americans…At the same time, she is willing, in a report, to name people who don’t like big government, who prefer state and local government, returning war veterans, as right wing extremist domestic terrorists. They….use that word to describe Americans who may hold views that are at variance with the administration’s, but certainly, by no stretch of the imagination, could be they construed as a threat to this country. That’s very concerning.

Also her apology that she gave — my understanding is that she had stated that she was sorry for the response of people to her report — not necessarily for the report that they wrote. I think she should come before the committee. I think she should answer questions about that report — and if need be, resign.

Outstanding, thank you for your time, I really appreciate it.

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