Representative Michele Bachmann, a Republican from Minnesota seeking her party’s 2012 presidential nomination, said benefits for federal entitlement programs must be cut to help balance the budget, while assuring current beneficiaries that they wouldn’t be affected. She spoke during an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the program with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Congresswoman, thank you for being with us.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN: Al, thank you.
HUNT: Nice to see you.
BACHMANN: Good to be with you today.
HUNT: Tough debate Thursday night, but the real big deal is the straw poll on Saturday. Are you going to win?
BACHMANN: Well, we hope to. We’ve been working very hard.
HUNT: Do you expect to?
BACHMANN: Well, we’re a little bit of an underdog, because I’ve only announced for the presidency less than two month ago. So we haven’t been here in the state working more than six, seven weeks. And so we’re working very hard, very pleased with the response that we’re seeing, and we’re hopeful.
HUNT: Let me ask you this. One person who won’t be in the straw poll and wasn’t in the debate is Governor Rick Perry. Now, you’ve heard this before. You’re both strong Christian conservatives, small-government economic types. The difference, his backers say, is he’s created jobs as a governor for 11 years. What does Michele Bachmann have that Rick Perry does not have?
BACHMANN: Well, I’ll tell you what I have. I have a doctorate and a post-doctorate degree in United States federal tax law. And I’ve spent my entire practice in the United States federal tax court seeing up close and personal how devastating high taxes are on businesses and farmers and families.
HUNT: But wouldn’t you say he agrees with you on that?
BACHMANN: He may. I’ve got the background on tax law and on the economy. I also am a job-creator. My husband and I started our own company. We have a successful small business that we’ve started from scratch. We figured out how to amass capital and how to create two locations in our business and how to employ people.
HUNT: So in jobs -
BACHMANN: That’s a strong skill, to know how to run a profit.
HUNT: On jobs creation, your record is - is more qualified than his?
BACHMANN: Well, I - we - we have created jobs. We’ve signed both sides of a paycheck. I get it.
HUNT: I think you’re saying he hasn’t in the private sector?
BACHMANN: I’m saying that I have in the private sector, but -but I think more important than anything, what we need in a president, we need someone who’s right on the issues, but we also need someone who has a proven record of fighting - even in the midst of adversity - on what we hope to accomplish, which is turning the economy around and job creation.
I’ve done that. I’ve been in Washington almost five years, and I’ve been on the tip of the spear and on the cusp of almost every big battle that’s come down that’s pro-free market.
HUNT: Including, most recently, the debt ceiling battle. And you said that the Standard & Poor’s downgrade proved that you were right. The S&P report also said there should be some balanced package of sharp spending cuts and revenue increases to rectify the credit rating. Is S&P wrong on that?
BACHMANN: I think they are. I disagree with the fact that we should be raising taxes. Clearly, we need to be able to have revenue, but the way that you can have revenue is have a pro-growth policy. We’re not seeing a pro-growth policy under President Obama.
What we do need to do is dramatically shut down the level of spending. We can’t accept the new normal in spending.
HUNT: You have said that you thought those federal bailout or rescue efforts were wrong and they wouldn’t have happened under a President Bachmann. Would we be better off today if Citicorp and General Motors had gone bankrupt?
BACHMANN: I think that the bankruptcy procedure has worked very well in this country for years. No one likes the idea of a large corporation failing, but it happens, because there’s a reason why those large corporations got themselves into a mess. Citibank, for one, made some very unwise loans. When you look at G.M., they made some very unwise union contract negotiation deals. Why should the federal government come in and prop up inefficient, burdensome deals that could never be met?
HUNT: So we would be better off - even though no one likes it, we would be better off if they had met the market -
BACHMANN: I think the free - I’m an unashamed apologist for the free market. I think if we would let the market work, I think we would have had a better, more efficient economy. And certainly, we wouldn’t have had the debt burden.
HUNT: You’ve called for dramatic tax cuts, even more than Paul Ryan called for, in the budget you voted for. Paul Ryan ends up with a deficit in 10 years of $338 billion. You want a balanced budget.
Tell us where you would cut. What - that goes beyond Paul Ryan, Medicare, Social Security, health research?
BACHMANN: If I was president today, I’d call all the members of Congress back into Washington. I would say, number one, we are getting our AAA credit rating back, and this is how we’re going to do it. We’re going to announce to the markets that we will, under no circumstances, go into default. We will pay our interest on the debt. And, number two, we will pay our military salaries. And, number three, anyone who is currently a senior citizen on entitlement benefits, they will receive them. We’ll be crystal-clear.
But beyond that, we will reform the entitlement programs now, not five years from now, not 26 years from now, now. Anyone who is not yet on those programs, we’re going to change them.
HUNT: So if anyone’s 62 or 63, they would face Medicare cuts now?
BACHMANN: There would be changes in the entitlement system. Now, of course, we’d have to agree to them, but we all know what needs to be done. Whether it’s longevity issues or means-testing, that needs to be employed.
HUNT: But you would go beyond where Paul Ryan went on Medicare and you would address Social Security cuts, too?
BACHMANN: For Social Security, again, I want to be crystal-clear: Anyone who is currently a retiree would not be impacted. But for people who are younger than that age, that needs to be on the table. Everything needs to be on the table.
Because let’s face - face where we’re at - 43 cents out of every dollar we spend is borrowed. We can’t go down this road anymore, because, remember, this $2.4 trillion blank check we just gave the president, in exchange for $21 billion in cuts, that only gets us through next year. Next year, our problems are worse than they are this year, because in all likelihood, with President Obama in charge, the economy is not going to turn around.
Because remember what he said on Monday? He said the problem was the Tea Party, that’s why we were downgraded. So he misdiagnosed the problem. And he also said the solution is more spending, more taxes. So we’re not going to see the economy turn around. .
HUNT: The bond market, which is usually a test of creditworthiness, seems to be saying the S&P rating is irrelevant, the U.S. Treasuries are the best investment in the world. What is the bond market telling us?
BACHMANN: That there’s - there’s a malinvestment strategy available to them. They look at the value of the dollar. The dollar has lost 12 percent of its value under Barack Obama’s presidency. They don’t know where to go. You look at world markets, and world markets are negative right now. And this still remains the safest haven.
But it’s - it’s kind of like choose your poison. Where do you want to invest? And right now, it’s still considered the safest, but it’s not a great investment. It’s a very bad time. The American economy got an absolute punch in the gut this last week, if you look at what happened. And so people are trying to go to the safest place. That’s what it tells me.
HUNT: How would President Bachmann’s policy towards China be different than the Bush and Obama policies?
BACHMANN: Well, my - my policy toward China would be this. I would be a lot tougher on China when it comes to currency manipulation. We don’t see the president of the United States put -applying pressure to China -
HUNT: Would you slap tariffs on if they didn’t?
BACHMANN: That would not be something I would want to do, but I think that there’s a negotiation process that you can do. We just saw, for instance, China launch an aircraft carrier. This is a very serious issue, because now China is in the process of becoming a top-tier naval -
HUNT: Doesn’t every candidate say, “I’ll be tougher”? What would you do that would be “tougher”?
BACHMANN: It would be in the form of the negotiations and the strategies. And there’s things that you can do in negotiations and strategies that presidents know that are available to them that you do behind closed doors.
HUNT: Let me ask you a final question. You’re a devout Christian. Can a practicing homosexual or lesbian be a good Christian?
BACHMANN: You know, I’m running for the presidency of the United States. I’m not running to be anyone’s judge. And I think that I - I ascribe dignity and honor to all people, whatever their persuasion. I love people. That’s what it comes down to.
HUNT: But can they be a good -
BACHMANN: I don’t care who you are. I love people.
HUNT: Could they be a good Christian?
BACHMANN: That would be - that’s up to God to make that decision. It’s not up to me. Of course, I think that, if they have a faith, that is between them and God. That’s - I can’t intervene.
HUNT: Could you possibly have a lesbian or gay in your cabinet?
BACHMANN: I will have anyone who stands by the Constitution.
HUNT: Even if they were gay?
BACHMANN: That - that is my one and only test. No matter who they are, it’s the Constitution that I’ll look to.
HUNT: OK, Michele Bachmann -
BACHMANN: And merit.
HUNT: Michele Bachmann, good luck in Ames. Thank you so much for being with us.
BACHMANN: Thank you. Oh, thank you, Al. Thank you.
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