Bachmann can’t name anything she’d cut from government.

This interview with Rep. Michele Bachmann demonstrates everything that’s wrong with Republicans’ current political rhetoric about reducing the size of government:

The good news is that Republicans are talking about cutting spending, rather than just cutting taxes. The former is too often ignored. The bad news is that there really doesn’t seem to be any real understanding of what to cut or what rationale should be used to decide what to cut, just a lot of “well, we’ll have to get in there and see.” Bachmann’s raison d’être is reducing the size of government, yet she’s apparently never given any thought as to how to go about doing so. All she can do is parrot some crazy urban legend about the president taking a $200M/day trip to India. It’s pathetic.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

29 replies on “Bachmann can’t name anything she’d cut from government.”

  1. Most of this is because Republicans know two things: (1) Democrats will block most of the spending cuts they propose, with the notable exception of defense spending, and (2) there is nothing that the House GOP will be able to do without Democratic compliance.

    In as such, there’s more of a battle of who has the hot potato of leadership right now. Obama doesn’t have it, the Senate doesn’t want it, and the House doesn’t know what to do with it.

    Perfect scenario for gridlock. If the economy was healthy, that would be great. But since the times call for pretty drastic changes in the way we do business, I doubt either the leadership or the goodwill exists in Washington to make anything better over the next two years.

  2. Nice excuse Shaun. How many years did the Republicans NOT say how to balance the budget before now?

    And if the Republicans say the American people want the deficit cut and the budget balanced – should they not put forth THEIR PROPOSAL for everyone to see and then see how the Democrats react?

    The Republicans are totally disengenous on this subject to the extreme. Charlatans and frauds.

    The Republicans bailed out of responsible budgets during Bush – making all kinds of excuses and now they are doing the same thing.

    Charlatans and Frauds that give the phrase Fiscal Conservative a bad name.

  3. If the Dems were going to block any spending cuts, then the GOP would be home free. They could name all kind of proposed cuts without any fear that they’ll be held to them. But they won’t name one substantive cut they’ll even try to make.

  4. Exactly right. If I were Shaun, I’d be ashamed to claim Republican credentials. They are charlatans and Frauds who since 2000 have abandoned their fiscal conservative principals almost totally and now like some spoiled brat – nothing but excuses and blame on others for what they won’t do.

  5. It’s hard to do because it involves tough decisions. Are you going to cut budgets at Justice or the Treasury or USDA? Are you going to reduce funding to the National Institutes? Or maybe reduce block grants to the states when they are already in a world of budgetary hurt? Defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting doesn’t amount to much. But closing the Department of Education and the attendant education funding to the states would be a money saver. Taking Defense off the table when it is the largest segment of discretionary spending doesn’t make a lot of sense to me if you are trying to really reduce costs. From a personal perspective, I don’t want them to do that as that spending helps fuel VA’s economy. But you can’t close a trillion dollar deficit by just trimming the fat on non-defense discretionary.

    If they want to really tackle long term deficits, they have to tackle health care costs. Medicare and Medicaid are the ones that are growing at a quick pace. And controlling costs on those would help the states too.

    They would be best served by letting Obama present his across the board 5% reduction in agency budgets. Or they could dust off Paul Ryan’s plan, redoing the entire US tax code, effectively ending Medicare and Medicaid, and whittling away at Social Security benefits. I think at the very least they should reintroduce it and put it to a vote.

  6. The shame about all of this is that now is a really great time to enact spending cuts, in terms of political will. Really, there’s not going to be a better time. And that could be a really interesting exercise. I mean, really, I’d enjoy the hell out of spending a couple of days in a room with some smart people learning about innovative ways to make government leaner and more efficient or, alternately, to generate more revenue through increased private enterprise. Every so often I’ll learn about some clever way that doing the opposite of what seems like a good idea is actually a better idea, in the vein of “Freakonomics,” and that’s a lot of fun.

    Republican leaders don’t seem to have any of that sort of spark, any of that interest in actually figuring out how to actually improve government. Maybe it comes from their distaste for government—it’d be like trying to improve the raccoon in your chicken coop when what you really want to do is shoot it—but that would be pretty bizarre coming from the people who actually comprise our government. Stranger things have happened, I suppose.

  7. a couple of points –

    we cannot deal with longer term deficits if we don’t deal with the ones we already have right now.
    we’re just kicking the can down the road.

    Don’t confuse SS/Medicare with the discretionary budget. SS/Medicare are funded from FICA – which if you work you have a box on your pay stub that says FICA. That money gets collected every day, every week, every month and flows into the SS/Medicare funds which are paid out to current retirees – every day right now.

    The Demographics will require changes to these programs – on the funding or spending side or retirement age or means testing, etc… but it’s a problem that can be solved by basically picking from the choices available and there is time to do it.

    The deficit, on the other hand is a trillion dollars – every year – added to longer term debt.

    take a look at this chart:

    and find a trillion dollars to cut

    this is a tough reality and the Republicans – who traditionally have laid claim to be fiscal conservatives rather than tax&spenders – have abandoned the playing field.

    They debate vociferously about the “debt” but they refuse to honestly address what generates this debt – the annual structural deficit.

    You cannot begin to deal with the DEBT unless you are willing to balance the budget first and stop the red ink that accumulates into the longer term debt.

    The Republicans – to a man/women – with the exception of Paul Ryan are AWOL on this issue – and the American people are dumb as stumps to have voted them in when not a one of them has told them the truth about the deficit – and people like Bachman .. I wonder if she actually knows in the first place because when she is interviewed.. she acts like it’s someone else’s problem, not hers.

  8. LarryG, I have not confused discretionary with mandatory outlays, which is why I didn’t mention them in the same paragraph. However, they can be cut just as discretionary can. The programs can be altered; and thus, alter the mandatory payments. Both CBO and OMB have both said that long term deficits are primarily the result of health care costs.

    The current deficit is mostly the result of temporary programs (TARP, ARRA, Afghanistan) and more importantly the economy. Politicians cannot undo the Great Recession overnight. TARP is mostly over. ARRA ends mostly next year. Iraq and Afghanistan, I doubt we’re going to end those overnight either. But they are not permanent fixtures of our long term fiscal picture. The deficits produced by Medicare and Medicaid are though.

    Long term deficits cause for concern, short term deficits not so much. This, of course, is dependent upon the cheap credit that the government is getting. If QE2 spurs inflation and investors bail out of bonds, then debt service becomes more problematic. But hard to say whether that will happen. Bond investors don’t seem to be estimating inflation will be that high in the near term. Not that investors are always reliable predictors of what is to come.

  9. Waldo, why is 6.5% meaningful and/or horrid?

    As far as our government not buying other country’s debt, well we didn’t nationalize our petroleum industry and we aren’t a net exporter. I wouldn’t trade what we have to be China or Saudi Arabia either.

  10. @tx2vadem

    you’re wrong guy(gal). The trillion dollars is over and before and BEFORE the TARP/Stimulus.

    Look at the numbers guy. We HAD and continue to have a trillion dollar annual structural deficit NOT COUNTING the one-time tarp/stimulus.

    Dealing with this deficit is not a reason to ALTER the SS/MEDICARE programs either.

    Those programs can be changed and continue to successfully do what they were designed to do.

    This is another example of how people don’t know the basic facts. The ANNUAL structural deficit has NOTHING to do with TARP/STIMULUS nor FICA/SS/MEDICARE.

    If you disagree philosophically with the purpose of SS/Medicare then be honest enough to say that you’re making your argument on that basis and not deficits.

    Health CARE of the non-Medicare kind is a serious issue that does involve the deficit but Obama_Care has been scored by the CBO to REDUCE those costs.

    Now, usually the same folks who don’t know the basic deficit facts also disagree with the CBO projections for health care – even as they rely on the same CBO projection for debt and all I ask is that you either accept CBO projection in general or not and if you do’t believe CBO numbers then supply some alternate numbers from a CREDIBLE entity not the right wing media and blogs.

    and your last statement about long term deficits is a real laugher.

    First the proper term is debt – accumulated debt from annual deficits. We have annual deficits of more than a trillion dollars that gets added every year to the debt.

    There is no way to deal with the “crushing debt that we will hand out kids” if we refuse to deal with the deficits.

    When the Republicans say “cut” govt spending – they are talking about the annual outlays that cause the annual deficit.

    The only problem is that since 2000, they have refused to make cuts in govt – and now refuse to specify what they would cut – and purposely confuse the deficit with the debt and SS/Medicare with income tax funded govt – as a DISTRACTION to the actual facts…

    and you know what? It works. The average person who says the Republicans know how to fix govt cannot cite the basic facts about the deficit and the debt and yet they fervently believe that know.

    Abject ignorance is driving our politics.

  11. Why is 6% interest horrid? Because it is added on to our debt every year and every year that we continue to have a deficit – the interest goes up even further and becomes a bigger and bigger part of the deficit when in turns increases the longer term debt.

    I said a trillion earlier. The number right now is 1.5 trillion.

    We really have no choice but to cut the deficit and balance the budget unless we want to have China buy more and more of our debt.

    The Republicans have steadily demagogued the debt issue by telling people that eventually China will own so much of our debt that they will affect our policies.

    That might be true but you cannot reduce this debt without dealing with the annual deficit and the annual STRUCTURAL (year after year) has NOTHING to do with stimulus/tarp nor SS/Medicare but the simple reality that we spend a trillion more per year on govt and military than we take in – in income taxes

    Both parties are at fault. But we know the Democrats reputation of not being fiscal conservatives usually while the Republicans claim the high ground of fiscal conservatism.

    The only problem is that the Republicans have not practiced fiscal conservatism since 2000 and since that time have basically lied about the problem – using it as an excuse to change the way that SS/Medicare work instead of getting down to brass tacks on the deficit that has nothing to do with those programs.

    These are the guys whom the America people just voted to do the next budget.

  12. I agree. There is NO magic – just the stark reality of the debt – exploding because of our deficit on steroids and the blatant demagoguery of using debt to get elected at the same time they refuse to say – like Backman did – what they would cut to get rid of the deficit and balance the budget.

  13. this is the non-military part of the govt – funded by the income tax:

    Note that out of the 20 govt agencies none of them exceed 75 billion in annual budget and that 3/4 of them have less than a 50 billion budget.

    We have a 1.5 TRILLION annual budget BEFORE we ever did TARP/STIMULUS.

    How are you going to get 1.5 trillion in cuts out of the non-military part of the budget?

    One more thing – most all of these agencies have been the same size for a decade.

    What has grown is the military, justice, Homeland Security and the two wars.

  14. The smaller government canard is rarely an viable platform. The only safe answer is to cut someone else’s government program. When is the last time someone in the 5th district said that NGIC was too big? Never.

    If a politician is going to use their political capital it won’t impress voters if they did it to save 100m on a government program in nowheresville. People get worked up over the national debt (for right-minded reasons) but I doubt if they would reward fiscal responsibility in subsequent elections.

    That said, it is disingenuous of politicians of any stripe to run on a smaller government mantra and not have one plank to the platform to accomplish it.

  15. @Duane:

    A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.

    –Alexander Tytler (apocryphal?)

  16. re: ” That said, it is disingenuous of politicians of any stripe to run on a smaller government mantra and not have one plank to the platform to accomplish it.”

    Most Dems do not run on such a platform. Most of them are honest about the taxes required to pay for govt services or if you do’t want to pay those taxes then identify the cuts necessary to balance the budget.

    It’s the Republicans who run on a small govt plank but don’t deliver the goods. It’s a cynical and hypocritical position in my view.

  17. ” A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.”

    A Democracy is by definition what the people decide they want in the way of govt and services.

    20% are not allowed to decide for the other 80% no matter how noble they think their positions are but it’s totally fraudulent to say you want a small govt but won’t identify the cuts necessary to make it happen. That’s just rank demagoguery.

  18. re: ” A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury”

    ” The following unverified quotation has been attributed to Tytler, most notably as part of a longer piece which began circulating on the Internet shortly after the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election[9]:

    A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

    From bondage to spiritual faith;
    From spiritual faith to great courage;
    From courage to liberty;
    From liberty to abundance;
    From abundance to complacency;
    From complacency to apathy;
    From apathy to dependence;
    From dependence back into bondage.
    There is no reliable record of Alexander Tytler’s having made the statement.[9] In fact, this passage actually comprises two quotations, which didn’t begin to appear together until the 1970s.[10] The first portion (italicized above) first appeared on December 9, 1951, as part of what appears to be an op-ed piece in The Daily Oklahoman under the byline Elmer T. Peterson.[11]”

  19. This thread is very amusing. Several comments, presumably from liberal Democrats, suggesting how stupid American voters were on Tuesday. These same voters who were so enlightened 24 months ago. When they vote your preferred candidate into office, they’re really smart. Othewise, they’re fools.

    I love watching leftwingnuts when they’re out of power. It’s a great spectator sport! ;-)

  20. Several comments, presumably from liberal Democrats, suggesting how stupid American voters were on Tuesday.

    Maybe we’re reading different comments? I don’t see much of that here.

    These same voters who were so enlightened 24 months ago. When they vote your preferred candidate into office, they’re really smart. Othewise, they’re fools.

    I haven’t seen much evidence that we’re seeing voters changing their behavior, only that different voters were motivated to come out to vote than two years ago.

  21. Here’s a short quiz on “enlightenment” of the deficit and the debt. 5 out 6 will get you legitimate Conservative credentials.

    1. – what was the debt at the end of Bill Clinton’s Presidency?

    2. – what was the debt at the end of the Bush Presidency?

    3. – what is the CURRENT DEBT?

    4. – What is the CURRENT Annual Deficit that is being added to the CURRENT DEBT

    5. – what did the one-shot TARP ADD to the Debt?

    6. – What did Obama’s stimulus/related ADD to the Debt?

    If you cannot answer these questions – you don’t understand the deficit and the debt.

    Bonus Question: Did the guy/gal you vote for this election tell you the answers to the above questions and his/her plan for reducing the annual deficit to reach a balanced budget?

    If your answer to all of the above is “I don’t know”…

    then what exactly DO you Know?

    Because you really don’t know the FIRST THING with respect to the govt, deficits and debt.

    What’s the solution to this? Oh about 10 minutes of looking online for the answers…..

    Oh.. you want the answers? Why? some of you would just say they are scurrilous left wing lies, eh?

    here they are:

    1. – about 6 trillion dollars
    2. – about 10 trillion dollars
    3. – about 13 trillion dollars
    4. – about 1.4 trillion – annually
    5. – less than 100B
    6. – probably a trillion – ballpark

    so Obama will add an extra trillion – not chump change but it’s a one-shot deal

    whereas the ANNUAL deficit is not. Every year, it’s going to add another trillion + to the longer term debt.

    There is no way to “fix” the longer term debt without dealing with the annual deficit.

    Now how many Republicans have said what specific cuts they think should be done to reduce the deficit?

    Answer = 2

    Ron Paul and Paul Ryan.

    Did Boehmer or Cantor or McDonnell tell you ?

    How about the Republicans who won election in Va on Tuesday?

    Which of them told us what cuts they thought needed to be made?

  22. “the American people are dumb as stumps to have voted them in”

    “The average person who says the Republicans know how to fix govt cannot cite the basic facts about the deficit and the debt and yet they fervently believe that know….Abject ignorance is driving our politics.”

  23. I.Pub, both your sample comments come from the same poster. Is that how you substantiate your claim that “several comments, presumably from liberal Democrats, [your plural, indicating more than one commenter].” Plus no evidence to substantiate your claim that the folks who voted in Perriello two years ago are in fact the same folks that voted for Hurt this time…aren’t you usually better than this, or am I thinking of someone else?

  24. Just happened to catch a few minutes of Eric Cantor on Fox this morning, when Chris Wallace asked of specific cuts to discretionary spending he just said how important it was to cut spending and reduce the debt without offering anything specific.

  25. CBO is referenced several times. So, I thought it would be useful to refer to their report of the Long Term Budget Outlook.

    I think the question that we should be asking ourselves is whether now is the right time to implement contractionary measures like cutting spending. Republicans use the same argument to argue against tax increases. The same argument applies to spending cuts as well. In the short term, we need to revive our economy. I don’t think we want to sink into decades worth of high unemployment. And if we just keep growing at the slow rate we are now, high unemployment is the future.

    If now really is the time to tackle structural deficits, then the revenue picture needs to be looked at as well. And in that case, making the Bush tax cuts permanent would not help with addressing structural deficits. And we would need to address defense spending inclusive of our engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will be interesting to see what they come up with even on the $100 billion.

  26. Um guys, we are talking about Michelle Bachman here. It’s possible she doesn’t KNOW the names of any federal govt. department aside from DOD and she wouldn’t want to cut that.
    She’s got crazy eyes, I’m just sayin’.

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