Michele Bachmann is a regular fixture on the cable news circuit. When it comes to print, however, she takes a more measured approach; she declined a phone interview with the New York Times last month, insisting on a Q&A via email. She gave City Pages the same deal. Here's what she had to say:
City Pages: Your appearance with Rep. Ron Paul surprised some folks. At first blush, it would seem the two of you might come down on very different sides on a lot of issues. Have you been in contact much with Dr. Paul? What's the correspondence been like?
Michele Bachmann: I think you'd be hard-pressed to find two people, let alone two congressmen, that agree on every issue. But, when it comes to transparency at the Federal Reserve and accountability to the taxpayers for how we spend their money, Dr. Paul and I are certainly on the same page.
I'm proud to say Dr. Paul and I stood firm and voted "no" on every bailout and so-called "stimulus" package put before us. In the Financial Services Committee, on which we both sit, Dr. Paul and I have worked together on transparency and accountability in government spending, and I fully support his bill to audit the Federal Reserve. Dr. Paul has been working on this simple act, auditing the Reserve, for 26 years. His hard work is a lesson in dedication and perseverance on behalf of the people.
Again, we may not agree about everything, but my approach to policy has always been to find the areas of comity and build on them. Working with Dr. Paul on issues of fiscal responsibility has been a very rewarding experience, and one I will continue to look forward to.
CP: Have your talks with him had any effect on how you see some issues? Are there some things that he's discussed, either publicly or in private, that have opened your eyes to an issue that maybe was flying under your radar before?
Bachmann: He's certainly opened my eyes to how I look at communicating about certain issues. I think a lot of members of Congress would automatically assume that young people—college students, for instance—would have no interest in fiscal or monetary policy. But it's simply not true. Look, young adults are not stupid. Many of them live paycheck-to-paycheck, make loan payments, pay rent, work, and, somehow, fit in classes and homework. And they can see that while they're scrimping, the government is peddling away their futures.
The first generation that will inherit the bill for all this massive spending and borrowing is just reaching an age where they really have a say in their future. This year alone, Congress will increase federal spending by more than 20 percent, and next year Congress will increase welfare spending by 33 percent—all the while, the private economy is shrinking and jobs disappear. For college-age students, some experts have estimated that by their peak earning years, 25 percent of their income will be taxed just to pay for Social Security, and over 25 percent of their income to pay for Medicare. That is 50 percent—and that doesn't include what they'll pay to cover Medicare part D. And then don't forget state taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and energy taxes.
Dr. Paul has translated a message of fiscal conservatism into something that young adults recognize and apply to their everyday life. And he's engaging them as full participants in this debate about their futures.
CP: At the town hall meeting at Northrop, Dr. Paul expressed views that aren't typically associated with your stances. His anti-imperialistic tone and candid criticism of America's drug war are two that come immediately to mind. Have your views on these two issues changed in any way? If not, has your correspondence with Dr. Paul made you see the reasoning behind those views?
Bachmann: Again, Dr. Paul and I are two individual members of Congress, and we don't share all the same ideas about all the issues. But when it comes to protecting the taxpayers—today's taxpayers and tomorrow's—we're very much in sync.
CP: A few of your comments have elicited controversy in recent months, particularly among Democrats. Could you elaborate on your stance regarding death panels? Do you still maintain that, under the Democrats' plans for health-care reform, illegal immigrants will enjoy access to taxpayer-subsidized health care?
Bachmann: Look, I'm one of the members reading the various bills and proposals. I'm reading the plain language of the bill and I'm also looking at that language in context. Government-run health care will most certainly lead to rationed care, and rationed care will most certainly impact the most vulnerable populations first and worst.
But while remarks about these issues make the headlines, the key, broad issues get shortchanged by the media. The point to take away from all of this is: Who controls your health care? Should you control it? Should you own your health care, make your own decisions, and carry your policy regardless of your employer? Or should the government? I think that people should own their care, and all of my positions on health care reform empower the individual health care consumer.
The system now isn't perfect by any means, and I've supported real bipartisan reforms, like my Freedom of Health Care Choice Act. Congress has a host of options for making care more affordable and more accessible and for giving people control over their care. Instead of supersizing government health-care programs, we should be making the changes that empower consumers.
CP: There also seems to be a sizeable cross section of the electorate energized by the ideas you and like-minded leaders are putting forth. In what ways have you noticed this rise in support anecdotally? Are more campaign contributions heading your way?
Bachmann: Though demonized by some on the left, my ideas are good, old-fashioned Minnesota common sense. Every day I hear from constituents letting me know that I have their support, while my office gets calls from across the nation urging me to keep up the fight. One thing is clear: People are very uneasy about the sweeping changes the administration and congressional leadership are forcing into law, particularly when the Democratic leadership doesn't allow us the time to work through the legal language of these bills. Minnesotans take more time reading the Sunday newspaper than we do looking at some of these thousand-plus-page pieces of legislation.
Congressional Republicans are trying to get bills online for 72 hours before being voted on. We trust the people to be a part of the debate, and we can only hope that the powers-that-be in Washington will let the people engage as well.
CP: How do you foresee the GOP evolving in the next couple of years, and how do you intend to push it in the right direction?
Bachmann: I can't speak for the entire Republican Party, but I'm encouraged by the renewed civic participation this past year. And I'm particularly encouraged by how the people are coalescing around a renewed sense that the Founding Fathers may have been on to something so many years ago when they wrote the Constitution. Those principles of liberty and prosperity were timeless for a reason.