Bachmann Offers Big Numbers, Little Proof

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) on "Face the Nation," March 28, 2010. CBS

Updated 3:40 p.m. March 29th

In the past when talking about the health care bill that was just signed into law by President Obama, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has referred to the bill as "tyranny."

On Sunday, she told "Face the Nation" anchor Bob Schieffer she meant it.

"[N]ow we have the federal government taking over ownership or control of 51 percent of the American economy. This is stunning. Prior to September of 2008, 100 percent of the private economy was private."

Bachmann offered no facts to back up her assertion that the government owns or controls 51 percent of the U.S. economy.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis data since 1929, the highest percentage of government spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product was during World War II when government spending was 47.9 percent (in 1944). The lowest level of government spending as a percent of GDP was 9 percent in 1929 at the outset of the Great Depression.

At no time during this period was the United States' GDP 100 percent private.

The 2009 level of federal government spending was 20.6 percent.

For more information from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, click here.

Dave Dziok, Bachmann's communications director, responded on the issue of the 51 percent claim in an e-mail. He wrote: "William Boyes, an economics professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, estimates that the government now owns or controls businesses that generate about one-third of U.S. economic activity. With the passage of the health care bill, which makes up about 18 percent of the economy, government's involvement in the private sector has eclipsed the 50 percent threshold."

On the 100 percent of the private economy claim, Dziok writes, "that has nothing to do with the numbers...from the Bureau of Economic Analysis regarding the level of government spending as a percent of GDP. She was stating the fact that the federal government has seized control of private businesses like General Motors and AIG. She wasn't talking at all about government spending."

"Today the federal government has taken either direct ownership or control of banks, the largest insurance company in the United States, A.I.G., Freddie [Mac] and Fannie [Mae]," Bachmann said on "Face the Nation," still offering no sources for her statistics. (Dziok wrote that "she had very limited time to source everything live on TV.") "The federal government owns over 50 percent of all home mortgages and now the direct student loan industry."

Language was added to the health care bill that Mr. Obama signed into law last week that changed the student loan industry.

"Chrysler, GM," she continued. "With the health care industry that's an additional 18 percent of the private economy which means government would be making decisions over our lives from cradle to the grave."

Bachmann said she knew that much of the increase in government spending occurred during the Bush administration and agreed that Mr. Bush's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was the beginning of the surge in government spending. However, she disagreed with Schieffer's suggestion that TARP may have saved the economy from another Great Depression.

"I voted against the $700 billion bailout," said Bachmann. "That was really the mother of purchasing out A.I.G., purchasing the banks, also purchasing Freddie and Fannie, purchasing GM and Chrysler. That hasn't helped to turn our economy around. Remember, when President Obama told Congress you have to pass my trillion dollar bailout or we could get unemployment as high as 8 percent? Here we are still at 10 percent unemployment levels."

Bachmann was presumably referring to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Mr. Obama signed into law on Feb. 17, 2009. The $787 billion stimulus bill is different from the TARP bank bailout signed by Mr. Bush.

"We need an exit strategy and we need to get back to private ownership so that we can have a productive economy," said Bachmann.

When asked if she thought Mr. Obama was anti-American, Bachmann did not say definitively whether or not she thought so. "I think it is very serious when the federal government directly owns car companies. That is not the American way. Or when the American economy directly owns 50 percent of all America's mortgages or has direct ownership or control of the health care industry," she said.

"[The health care law] will cost [Minnesota-based company 3M] potentially $90 million in the first quarter," she added. "President Obama's own numbers, his own economic advisor, Christina Romer, said that Obamacare could cost the economy 5.5 million jobs lost. That will not bring us back to economic health going forward but that's what you expect when you have massive tax increases, massive Medicare cuts, massive premium increases. You will have massive job loss."

Continuing, Bachmann said it was time for Republicans, independents and disaffected Democrats to support repealing the health care law that Mr. Obama signed last week.

"I went to the House [of Representatives] floor the first thing on Monday and put a bill in that would repeal Obamacare," said Bachmann. "So did my colleagues, Steve King of Iowa. Also Parker Griffith of Alabama."

She added, "The New England Journal of Medicine released a survey the week that President Obama signed Obamacare stating that over 30 percent of American physicians would leave the profession if the government took over health care. That's very serious going forward."

The New England Journal of Medicine has denied it conducted or published the survey cited by Bachmann.

Dziok, her press secretary, wrote in an e-mail that "I know they're doing what they can to distance themselves from the survey done by Medicus, but the fact of the matter is the New England Journal of Medicine has lent both its name and crest to the newsletter in which it was published."

"I think that we need to repeal Obamacare," Bachmann continued in the interview. "We need to be all about the American people. That's why I oppose Obamacare and why I believe we must repeal it."

She closed with, "Repeal most certainly is in the best interest of the people because this bill will lead to economic harm if it's left in place."
  • David Riedel

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