U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann said she would reduce Medicare and Social Security benefits for all but current recipients as part of an effort to reduce the federal deficit.
“We will reform the entitlement programs now, not five years from now, not 26 years from now, now,” Bachmann said on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt” airing this weekend. “Anyone who is not yet on those programs, we are going to change them.”
Bachmann, seeking the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2012, also said her experience in creating jobs in the private sector gives her an advantage over Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry, who is set to announce his own White House candidacy today in South Carolina.
“We have created jobs. We’ve signed both sides of a paycheck. I get it,” Bachmann said, in a reference to a mental health care practice she founded with her husband, Marcus.
Her comments came on the eve of the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames, an event that analysts say will winnow the Republican field that wants to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012.
Bachmann also said she would have allowed Citigroup Inc. and General Motors Co. to go bankrupt rather than intervene with a federal government bailout. “I am an unashamed apologist for the free market,” Bachmann said.
On the issue of entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security, Bachmann advocates cuts that would go deeper than those proposed earlier this year by Representative Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, and approved by the U.S. House.
Ryan’s plan would have excluded people who are 55 and older from any changes in benefits. Bachmann voted for it.
Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, called for reducing the deficit by $4.4 trillion over 10 years, with cuts including replacing Medicare with guaranteed benefits to pay for private insurance. Ryan’s plan would use means testing to give reduced payments to senior citizens with high incomes.
Bachmann said Social Security and Medicare spending should be reined in with reductions through means testing or eligibility age. “We all know it needs to be done,” she said.
The Minnesota Republican said Americans are poised to reject Obama’s re-election bid in favor of a challenger “who has the backbone to turn the economy around.”
Bachmann, who has a following among Tea Party supporters, is working to expand her base among Republican fiscal conservatives to compete in the presidential race against early frontrunner Mitt Romney, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts.
She said her strengths include experience with U.S. tax law and her background in running a business. “We figured out how to amass capital and how to create two locations in our business and how to employ people,” she said. “That’s a strong skill, to know how to run a profit.”
On the issue of government bailouts, Bachmann said that while “no one likes the idea of a large corporation failing,” they do so because of their own bad decisions. “Citibank for one made some very unwise loans,” she said. “When you look at GM, 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?” she said. Had the government allowed big banks and automakers to fail, she said, “we would have had a better, more efficient economy and certainly we wouldn’t have had the debt burden.”
GM last week reported second-quarter profit of $2.52 billion, its sixth consecutive quarterly profit. The automaker made $6.17 billion last year. Its bankrupt predecessor, General Motors Corp., lost $82 billion from 2005 to 2008.
The U.S. took a 61 percent ownership of GM as part of the automaker’s government-led bailout and bankruptcy reorganization in 2009. The Treasury sold shares equal to a 28 percent stake in a November initial public offering.
Bachmann was asked to explain why the bond market has rallied while Standard & Poor’s has downgraded U.S. debt -- one of only three ratings agencies to do so.
“It’s kind of like, ‘choose your poison,’” she said. “Where do you want to invest? And right now, it’s still considered safest, but it’s not a great investment.”
Bachmann said she would be “a lot tougher on China” on the issue of currency manipulation than Obama has been. Pressed for details, she said the specifics would be in “negotiations and strategies” that presidents execute behind closed doors.
Bachmann, a Christian who earned her law degree at Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Oral Roberts University, was asked if a homosexual can be a good Christian.
“I’m running for the presidency of the United States,” she said. “I’m not running to be anyone’s judge.”
“I love people,” Bachmann said. “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. I can’t intervene.”