Remember all those mini-movies that summarized a broad topic in two minutes or less? Whether the subject was the Civil War, the magical things that happen when you multiply by ten, or the complete history of Western Civilization, these mini-films covered everything in one rapid-fire shot after another, giving you a whole lot of information - and a splitting headache - in a very short period of time.
The first minute or two of this Michelle Bachmann Today show interview is like that. She runs through the entire litany of disproven conservative cliches about the economy in 100 seconds or less without even getting short of breath. If someone ever wants to make one of those two-minute movies and call it The Ideas That Crushed the American Dream, Rep. Bachmann's written the script.
Fire it up and watch her go! We'll sound the bell every time she floats a discredited idea. Ready?
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Raising taxes for the wealthy shouldn't be "on the table," says Bachmann, because "tax rates are high enough (ding!), and history shows (ding!) that when we raise taxes, particularly on job creators (ding!) we actually bring in less revenue (ding! ding! ding!) rather than more."
Forget what I said about two-minute movies. Michelle Bachmann could cover Western Civilization in ten seconds.
I was on a talk radio show from St. Louis yesterday with a guy from the Heritage Foundation who used the same "history shows us" line. What history actually shows is that we lost jobs after the Bush tax cuts, even before deregulation brought down the economy. History also shows us that our periods of greatest economic prosperity occurred when taxes were higher than they are now.
And the history of the Great Depression shows that it took government investment to get people working and the economy growing. FDR listened to the Bachmannites of his time in the late 1930's, and everything started falling apart again. That's what history shows.
And "job creators"? Oh, please. Wall Street financiers have regained their pre-crash parasitical economic stranglehold, seizing nearly 40% of corporate profits. They're getting rich by not creating jobs - and sometimes by destroying them through destructive hedging. Somehow,with corporate profits at historic highs and taxes at historic lows, people in the real world are taking the world's longest unemployment gut-punch.
If these guys are "job creators," where are the jobs?
"The question is," continues Bachmann, "do we want more revenue or more taxes? Because the two don't go together."
No she didn't! Unh-unh! Oh no she didn't! Did she just bring out the Laffer Curve?
Yes, she did. Mm-hmm. Michelle Bachmann just brought out the most discredited theory in modern economic history: the notion that people will stop making money if taxes are too high, so overall government income will fall and not rise. There's only one thing that contradicts that theory: The economic history of every single nation on the planet.
Economists like the name "Laffer curve" because this theory is always good for a laugh.
"You could actually confiscate (ding!) all the wealth that people make at $200,000 or more," says Bachmann, "and that would only yield about six or seven months of revenue to run the government." Hey, that's half the whole cost of government! She's selling the idea pretty well!
They love that word "confiscate." And I love the way these conservatives say they'd lay down their lives for their country, but if you ask them to pay four pennies on the dollar on six-figure income,that's dictatorship! Think of it: The highest tax bracket under Dwight D. Eisenhower was 91% percent. He must be the greatest dictator of all time!
They love that song that talk about the people who died defending this country, takes their name in vain, and then says "I'd gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today." Ah, you know the one ... "There ain't no doubt I love this land" - just not enough to pay for it. Not cash money, anyway.
All that's being proposed is a four-and-a-half percent increase on income over $250,000. And you know what's funny? Bachmann and her colleagues are the same people people who think we can't afford to pay thirty million per year to reduce the damage from coastal storms and floods. These floods cost more than $11 billion per year on average, every year - and they think we can't spare the dinero. And yet they'll give away hundreds of billions in tax revenue like it was peanut butter in a roomful of stoned billionaires.
Bachmann goes on in this vein for what seems like forever, but which in reality only four minutes or so. (This seemingly paradoxical phenomenon is the product of what physicists call the "Time Dilation Effect," in which time appears to be moving more slowly as the flow of bullsh*t approaches the speed of light.) For the Representative from Minnesota it's "confiscate" this and "take 100 percent" of that ... on and on and on ... until all of the ridiculous rhetorical tricks that got us into this mess are on rapid-fire display.
Well, almost all. She left out one. The only cliche she forgot to repeat was "If you could go back in time one day for every dollar the government spends, you'd be face to face with Jesus." Since the GOP's cutting $600 million for law enforcement, somebody's going to get shot. Guess they'll wind up face-to-face with Jesus too.
"Already again," she says later, "the top 1% of income earners pay about 40% of all taxes." (That's not the right number, but whatever.) But why do the top 1% pay a large share of taxes? Because the top 400 families in America are richer than the bottom fifty percent of the entire country! So of course they pay a big chunk of income tax, even after they're coddled with tax breaks galore.
She sure has a lot of talking points, but it's a funny thing: When it comes to answering a question like Matt Lauer's, about the CBO's report on the devastating financial impact of their Medicare cuts on seniors, suddenly she "hasn't had a chance to look at the study."
"But it's important for us to understand," says Bachmann, "that individualism (ding!) and personal responsibility (ding!) have always been a bedrock of this country."
When it comes to the whole "devastating financial impact" thing, I'll take that as a "yes." (And note: You can't have "a" bedrock. There's just bedrock.)
There's more, but you get the gist. Some people think she's a little nuts, and they even get a little personal about it. (Her eyes do have an odd glint, a kind ofgrown-up Children of the Damned quality, but that could be anything.) Nuts or not, her ideas are definitely radical. Even so, as my friend and colleague Dave Johnson points out, Rep. Paul Ryan's proposed budget is even too extreme for her.
That's the state of play these days on the Right. Whenever the radicals start attacking each other, that means the movement is officially going crazy. Think Stalin vs. Trotsky. Or the Judean People's Front vs. the People's Front of Judaea. ("Splitters!") It's Bachmann/Ryan Overdrive time. This schism on the American Right means the whole movement has finally gone full-tilt crazy. Wait, you say. How can you be so sure? How do we know that they've gone over the edge?
We know it because history has shown us.