Sure, Matt Taibbi might think that Michelle Bachmann makes less sense than a huffer. But actually, he needs to understand the reason for the seeming incoherence: she's actually sending us all a warning of imminent doom from her faraway home, Planet Wingnuttia, which is floating out there in the far-right quadrant of the universe, somewhere in the vicinity of Uranus. And the reception gets kind of funny from that far out.
Last night on Sean Hannity's Fox show -- and earlier on Glenn Beck's show as well -- we got the message loud and clear. Beam her up, Scotty!
You see, on Planet Wingnuttia, Congress cannot empower someone from the Executive Branch to carry out its edicts because it's not written into the Constitution. At least, that's what she told Hannity.
Bachmann: I will say, Sean, our Constitution is to have a strict, enumerated powers of government. Government was never intended to have this sort of an incredible intervention in the economy. We are not a centralized, planned economy -- at least we're not supposed to be. We're free-market capitalism.
Of course, on Planet Earth, the specific empowerment of the Treasury Secretary by Congress to pursue business regulations is pretty much the way things have operated for most of the nation's existence under the Constitution that Bachmann seems to want to attach to her forehead and use as an antenna for receiving alien transmissions. If she thinks it's unconstitutional, why doesn't she challenge the law passed by Congress (and which Geithner is only dutifully fulfilling, as required by the Constitution), which is in fact the remedy provided by the Constitution for anyone who believes, as she apparently does, that the law is "unconstitutional"?
Because, evidently, she's a resident of Planet Wingnuttia, which enjoys diplomatic immunity in the House Republican Caucus.
Likewise, it seems that on Planet Wingnuttia, the proposal by China that the rest of the world go off the dollar as its chief unit of global exchange in fact actually means that the United States will have to go off the dollar too.
Now, down here on Planet Earth, China's proposal has nothing to do with what currency we use in the United States; it has to do with what kind of currency the rest of the world uses as its "reserve currency." We could pass Bachmann's law and throw a big fat national hissy fit if we wanted, and it wouldn't make a damned bit of difference. Because the proposal is one that would be decided by each and every other sovereign nation on the planet, choosing for themselves what kind of currency they choose to use.
But Bachmann keeps insisting that this is about a plan to "take the United States off the dollar" and institute a "One World Government" currency. The woman is channeling our late friend, Helen Chenoweth.
And then she and Hannity wrap it up sweetly:
Bachmann: We're going to keep fighting for our freedom, Sean.
Hannity: And against tyranny.
Maybe they should paint their faces blue, don kilts, and bellow: "Freeeedom!!!!!" They'd be more convincing.
Oh, and what exactly did Geithner actually say about the dollar when he supposedly "retracted" the next day?
"I haven’t read the governor’s proposal. He’s a very thoughtful, very careful distinguished central banker. I generally find him sensible on every issue," Geithner said, saying that however his interpretation of the proposal was to increase the use of International Monetary Fund's special drawing rights -- shares in the body held by its members -- not creating a new currency in the literal sense.
"We’re actually quite open to that suggestion – you should see it as rather evolutionary rather building on the current architecture rather than moving us to global monetary union," he said.
"The only thing concrete I saw was expanding the use of the [special drawing rights]," Geithner said. "Anything he’s thinking about deserves some consideration."
The continued use of the dollar as a reserve currency, he added, "depends..on how effective we are in the United States...at getting our fiscal system back to the point where people judge it as sustainable over time."
Meanwhile, be sure to read Matt Yglesias on this:
This falsehoods here are coming so fast and loose that it’s hard to know where to start here. But to get to the main point, most countries hold “reserves” of various kinds—foreign currency and gold. Most countries, right now, primarily hold dollars. Euros are also popular, and Yen and British Pounds somewhat less so. The United States of America does not, obviously, hold any dollars in our reserves. We actually have quite a lot of gold. And different countries vary their practices in this regard. But most countries mostly hold their reserves in dollars. So the dollar is, in effect, the “global reserve currency.” The IMF also issues something called Special Drawing Rights that countries can use as a reserve asset. SDRs work as a kind of meta-currency, with their value based on a basket of major world currencies. A Chinese official suggested that it might be good for the world to tilt away from such a heavy reliance on dollars as the reserve currency of choice, since this leaves countries exposed to policy decisions in the United States, and toward something more SDR-like that would be balanced between dollars and euros and yen and pounds and so forth.
This has nothing to do with replacing the dollars in your bank account—or Michele Bachmann’s—with a new currency. Nor would it be the creation of a One World Currency. And to be clear, while the United States could prevent the IMF from formally creating any kind of new internationalized reserve currency, there’s nothing we can do to stop foreign countries from weighting their reserve baskets away from dollars. It’s just not up to us.