Sunday, June 26, 2011

In which Michele Bachmann misunderstands government spending

When Michele Bachmann says that she didn't benefit from federal money, as she told the LA Times, her justification is that the money didn't go directly into her pocket, i.e. that "…the money that went to the clinic was actually training money for employees. The clinic did not get the money. And my husband and I did not get the money either. That's mental health training money that went to employees."

She's reframing the issue to answer a question of whether or not she directly profited, which isn't the question. It's a dodge, and she should be called on it — she was willing to spend the government's money on her training programs rather than spend her own money.

Likewise with the farm subsidies to the farm she co-owns. That she hasn't taken a payout doesn't mean that she doesn't benefit from the subsidies to the property she owns — that's like saying you haven't benefited from a free new wing on your house because you haven't sold it yet.

By misrepresenting how she benefits, Bachmann lies about how government works. Government spending is almost never a direct individual payment, except in the so-called "entitlement programs." Instead, policy goals are achieved through tax breaks and grant or subsidy spending. It's that type of government spending which politicians such as Bachmann cast as normative, expected and not to be included in the moral calculus of conservatism.

It's a lie that enables hypocrisy and the ongoing war against the middle class (a much more real beast than any war against Christmas).

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