Political Animal


March 07, 2012 5:50 PM From 50,000 Feet—Or Mars?

By Ed Kilgore

Conservatives have begun to figure out that they’ve really stepped in it by making the administration’s contraception coverage mandate a big issue. So they’re struggling to reframe it.

Who better to turn to for this task than that fair and balanced message-meister from Minnesota?

If you couldn’t stand to watch the video, I’ll summarize: The Blaze’s Will Cain asked Bachmann for a “50,000 feet” perspective on the contraception mandate issue, making it about ObamaCare rather than, well, contraception. And Bachmann promptly served up an idea from way out there: the claim that Kathleen Sebelius might one fine day announce that the federal government would no longer allow reimbursements for hospital delivery of more than one baby per family.

Even The Blaze’s panelists couldn’t quite believe Bachmann was just making up, out of whole cloth, the suggestion the administration might want to adopt China’s notorious “One Child” policy. But when you think about it, it’s no more preposterous than the “death panel” smear, which God knows how many people believe. So you can hardly blame Bachmann for giving it a try.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Steve on March 07, 2012 6:18 PM:

    The irony is that the reason there can never be a "one child" law in this country is because of the Supreme Court's decisions on reproductive freedom that conservatives hate so much. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that you can have as may kids as you want, obviously. But the conclusion follows very naturally from the "right to privacy" cases.

  • Memekiller on March 07, 2012 6:28 PM:

    "the federal government would no longer allow reimbursements for hospital delivery of more than one baby per family."

    This differs from the GOP conscience provision how, exactly? Is it only because the Federal Government is pushing pregnancy that she's okay with it in that instance?

  • Jon on March 07, 2012 6:31 PM:

    It's because we liberals like abortions so much, of course. That's why we favor birth control as well, because we like abortions. I know it's a little confusing, but that's why we have Michelle here to help explain it all.

  • ComradeAnon on March 07, 2012 7:34 PM:

    Wanna bet that some wingnut proposes this for Medicaid? Never overlook good wingnuttery going to waste.

  • SYSPROG on March 07, 2012 7:51 PM:

    Neither Bachmann's or Palin's brain is wired correctly. They hear 'some' words but it jumbles around up there and they come out with amazing s#$%. Honestly. They shouldn't try so hard against the ACA...they're gonna need it.

  • JMG on March 07, 2012 8:37 PM:

    Much of the Republican Party has become Jonestown. If given power, it's only a matter of time before they start the cataclysm they long for.

  • james on March 07, 2012 9:44 PM:

    Reminds me of something that happened in the mid-80s. My employer announced that, as a cost-control measure for its health insurance premiums, we would no longer hire smokers. Employees who smoked would have two years to quit or be dismissed. The insurance would cover smoking cessation programs. Our insurance group had 250 members. This was an independent state agency.

    I didn't smoke, but I objected to the provision. I asked the HR director what the issue was. She said we (the group) had overutilized our health plan in the previous year -- the insurer had paid out more in coverage than it had received in premiums.

    I asked her if we had had any smoking-related health situations, such as lung cancer. She said no. I pressed her a bit more for what really caused our over-utilization. She wouldn't say. Finally, I said, "We had 12 pregnancies last year. That's what did it. So why aren't we banning sex? Or putting a limit on the number of babies our employees can have?"

    She sighed, and said, "Believe me, if the insurance company could do that, they would!"

  • DRF on March 08, 2012 6:56 AM:

    Bachmann is a crackpot who has a pattern of saying outrageous and untrue things.

    However--in this instance, her comments have been mischaracterized and the point she made is by no means crazy. She did not predict that Sibelius or anyone else would be prohibiting coverage for more than one child.

    What she did say is that, if the Federal Government has the power to require private insurers to cover certain items such as contraceptives, then theoretically it has the power to require coverage of anything and, logically, the power to prohibit coverage of certain items. (That's where her example of prohibiting coverage of a second pregnancy comes in.) Her point is correct; the example is extreme (which she acknowledged).

    There's a legitimate issue lurking here--is it a good idea for the government to be interfering with the private insurance market's fashioning of insurance programs? Of course, states do this regularly. Whatever one thinks of this issue, it's certainly worth discussing.

    I am astonished to find myself defending Bachmann. But Kilgore and others do us no favors when they distort her, or any other person's, entirely sane point in order to make fun of that person. We all react with outrage when Fox News or other commentators on the right distort a statement made by the President; let's not stoop to the same level.

  • ajay on March 08, 2012 7:19 AM:

    In Bachmann's defence, there is very little oxygen at 50,000 feet.

  • Prof on March 08, 2012 8:43 AM:

    My state university's CBA includes what I fondly call a "one-child policy": it has a very generous six-month paid leave for parents who are having a child (including through adoption). But you can only take it one time, and you cannot split it into two 3 month leaves, for example. (Of course, you can also take sick leave if you have more than one child, but still, the policy is both wonderful and not a little bizarre.)

  • johnny canuck on March 08, 2012 9:13 AM:

    "There's a legitimate issue lurking here--is it a good idea for the government to be interfering with the private insurance market's fashioning of insurance programs? "

    and the answer -yes- the insurance company's were fashioning coverage to deny coverage for preexisting conditions; retroactively denying coverage; and not providing, because they had no incentive to, preventive care, etc.

    For states to do it leads to a race to the bottom, so yes this was one of the fundamental purposes of the ACA to answer that question yes.

  • Peter C on March 08, 2012 9:34 AM:

    Sorry DRF, but you are making the argument that she is 'reasonable' because what she imagines is 'possible'. But a mind which makes no distinction between 'possible' and 'plausible' is not fit for public service. Would the Federal government EVER institute a 'one child policy' that could service a general election, EVER???? Not on the planet we inhabit.

    HOWEVER, while we have a system where the health insurance most Americans get is merely the product of a cost-benefit calculation of our employers, and the REPUBLICANS are pushing an amendment which gives the employers (who, they say, PAY for it) the ability to deny contraceptive care OR ANY OTHER PROCEDURE on 'ethical' grounds alone, I can imagine an insurance company imposed 'one child policy', especially if we've shrunken the size of government and drowned it in the bathtub. Afterall, before the Affordable Care Act, big employers could refuse to offer ANY healthcare to minimum wage employees, which left these people no coverage for hospital delivery beyond Medicaid (which Republicans would eliminate in a heartbeat if they could).

  • beejeez on March 08, 2012 9:48 AM:

    In response to DRF's earnest point: If the point of health care reform is to see that everyone is covered, then the government has to establish minimum standards for what the mandated insurance should cover. Now you can argue that contraception shouldn't be part of that minimum, and indeed those who oppose it may win that point.

    But it's not outlandish for the government to propose mandating this very popular and cost-efficient component of the overwhelming majority of private insurance plans, a component that could not more intimately be associated with women's overall health. How else should a representative government proceed? If Bachmann posits that Obamacare could lead the government to limit the number of children we have, there's a contrary libertarian extreme: Why must male insurers pay to cover the more expensive health bills of women? Why isn't that an intrusion on our personal liberty?

    We all pay to insure things we may never have to use ourselves. I'm not an obese alcoholic smoker, but I realize that for insurance to cover me if I get lung or liver cancer, it's going to have to cover obese, alcoholic smokers, too.

  • RalfW on March 08, 2012 10:01 AM:

    I agree with beejeez that having the gov't establish minimum coverages is hardly a shocking takeover. Saying that birth control is in the minimum plan is not the same thing as saying "we won't pay for baby #2." It's just not.

    A floor, in this case, is most certainly not also ceiling, and does not even predicate the existence of a ceiling.

    Oh, and as a Minnesotan (not living in the 6th, thankfully), can I just say, La Bachmann is nuts. And paranoid. I think she believes every word she says in these whackanoodle theories.

  • "Fair and Balanced" Dave on March 08, 2012 10:13 AM:

    The Loon is state bird of Minnesota so the people of the 6th Congressional district decided to elect one.

  • boatboy_srq on March 08, 2012 10:14 AM:

    @Peter C:

    Two hundred years ago a US civil war over "states' rights" / slavery wasn't especially plausible. We could argue all we wanted, but we weren't about to split up. The Missouri Compromise eight years later supposedly settled that argument permanently. Look how that turned out.

    One hundred years ago a US military "second to none" wasn't remotely plausible: the US wasn't at all interested in spending the funds, and wasn't looking past the Western Hemisphere for threats. It took WW1 to make the US try to build a Navy that would fit that mold, and WW2 to expand the other services. (I think this is one aspect of the Reichwing fascination with low taxes that they just don't get: all those ages they revere, where taxes were phenomenally low, the MilInd machine was minuscule at best, and the public policy trends were isolationist/non-interventionist: Jefferson was hard pressed to fight the Barbary Pirates, and we had a tough time defeating geriatric/impoverished Spain in 1898 since we didn't have much in the way of standing forces - and only entered that fight thanks to Hearst and the USS Maine. If we shed the DoD and all its contractors, the tax paradise they want would be eminently achievable - but they miss the one and demand the other and forget the correlation.)

    Thirty years ago a religious litmus test for one party's Presidential candidate wasn't plausible. The Moral Majority was almost laughable, and the fundie vote was only just swinging toward Conservatist positions (and with plenty of resistance from within as well as without).

    Twelve years ago a Homeland Security apparatus that spied on US citizens, infiltrated Society of Friends meetings looking for terrorists, and generally made living, obtaining identification, travel, etc. just plain uncomfortable just so we'd all feel "safe" was dystopian fiction. All it took was nineteen religious nutjobs with box cutters to turn the unthinkable into the all too real.

    "Plausible" as a test of public policy isn't particularly persuasive when viewed in the long term. It may be valid TODAY, but that may not be true in as little as a decade.

    OTOH, Bachmann has a knack for finding the LEAST plausible consequence of a particular policy and presenting THAT as a potential outcome. Given the Reichwing tendency to find all those potential outcomes, one does have to wonder exactly what scope THEIR policies encompass for all us non-true-believers.

  • Gandalf on March 08, 2012 10:33 AM:

    The fact that we're debating Bachmann's blitherings in a sane fashion is relly amazing. Remamber she proclaimed that the federal govt had all these gulags to put unbeleivers into ar something and even provided access tp alist of the sites. One of which I happened to have spent considerable time at and so had to laugh my ass off at her as being how shall we sayit'completely fucking nuts".

  • MuddyLee on March 08, 2012 12:22 PM:

    Has anybody ever interviewed any of Bachmann's foster children to see what life was like in the Bachmann household? Maybe this cannot be done because of privacy regs, but it would interesting.