Political Animal


August 10, 2011 10:45 AM How about a Bachmann-inspired stimulus?

By Steve Benen

In public, Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann spends much of her time railing against government spending. In private, Bachmann spends quite a bit of time requesting government spending.

A Freedom of Information Act request filed by The Huffington Post with three separate federal agencies reveals that on at least 16 separate occasions, Bachmann petitioned the federal government for direct financial help or aid. A large chunk of those requests were for funds set aside through President Obama’s stimulus program, which Bachmann once labeled “fantasy economics.” Bachmann made two more of those requests to the Environmental Protection Agency, an institution that she has suggested she would eliminate if she were in the White House.

Taken as a whole, the letters underscore what Bachmann’s critics describe as a glaring distance between her campaign oratory and her actual conduct as a lawmaker. Combined with previous revelations that Bachmann personally relied on a federally subsidized home loan while her husband’s business benefited from Medicaid payments, it appears that one of the Tea Party’s most cherished members has demonstrated that the government does, in fact, play a constructive role — at least in her life and district.

This isn’t the least bit surprising. Indeed, while Sam Stein uncovered important new details, this isn’t especially new — Bachmann’s love of government spending has been highlighted quite a bit in recent months.

What’s more, the phenomenon certainly isn’t limited to Bachmann — all kinds of right-wing lawmakers who swear public investments are fundamentally evil, including plenty of this year’s radical freshman class, have spent a fair amount of time pleading for more public investment in their states and districts, insisting the spending would be good for the economy. Rachel Maddow did a segment on this last year that still stands out as devastating.

The easy observation is to mock the GOP hypocrisy, but Bachmann gave me a new idea: how about a new stimulus package focused on granting Republicans’ requests for public investments?

Here’s the pitch: have the White House take the several hundred letters GOP lawmakers have sent to the executive branch since 2009, asking for public investments, and let President Obama announce he’ll gladly fund all of the Republicans’ requests that have not yet been filled.

This is especially important when it comes to infrastructure, a sector in which GOP members have pleaded for more investment in their areas. When pressed, these same Republicans will offer an explanation that “sounds like something out of the mouth of a Keynesian economist, rather than the musings of a congressman who proudly touts his support from the Tea Party movement.”

So, how about it? If these Republican lawmakers have identified worthwhile projects in need of government spending, which they themselves insist will boost the economy, why not start spending the money GOP officials want to see spent?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • just bill on August 10, 2011 10:52 AM:

    because i don't want to spend any money in republican districts until they stop being so unhinged and obstructionist.

  • martin on August 10, 2011 10:54 AM:

    And just in time for the 2012 election, the Republicans can start going after all the waste, fraud and abuse in all of those public works projects. Not the ones in their districts, of course, just in every other district in the country.

    Mr Captcha suggests we call them teinista cells, but that sounds a little too foreign.

  • Live Free or Die on August 10, 2011 11:00 AM:

    This is brilliant Steve. Do you know anybody in Obama's circle who would run with this.

  • c u n d gulag on August 10, 2011 11:01 AM:

    F*CK THEM!

    It would only encourage them.

    Give the money to Democratic districts - and starve THOSE beasts.

  • Grumpy on August 10, 2011 11:08 AM:

    Yeah, but... Al Gore's carbon footprint!

  • J. Hamster emo-Trollop on August 10, 2011 11:26 AM:

    Yes/No, please starve them! Let's give them what they espouse; austerity. It'll be like "Grim Hotel" from Forbidden Broadway.

  • Basilisc on August 10, 2011 11:32 AM:

    Excellent idea, Steve - smart, savvy, good economics and hard-hitting politics.

    He'll never do it.

  • MsJoanne on August 10, 2011 11:33 AM:

    There is an apparent lack of understanding where money comes from to fund those projects in their districts.

  • Trinity on August 10, 2011 11:34 AM:

    Interesting idea Steve. If only because they would tie themselves in knots to spin why they can't accept the funds. However, I'll be damned if GOP districts should be allowed to thrive on taxpayer dollars when their Reps are against revenue increases at all!

  • Luke Coley on August 10, 2011 11:41 AM:

    Hear, hear, Steve! Might I add another suggestion - that sometime after Labor Day 2012, Pres. Obama schedule a rally in each of those districts. Ideally, the rally should be held within camera-shot of the particular project (if possible). This should be done even in the reddest of red districts (like my corner of southwest Alabama).

  • MichaelF on August 10, 2011 11:44 AM:

    I agree with c u n d gulag. Loudly announce that you're giving Bachmann et al what they want: less government. And continue to give them less government until they beg for more government. In the meantime, spend the money in Democratic strongholds and/or areas leaning Democratic. As the saying goes, politics ain't beanbag.

  • Tigershark on August 10, 2011 11:45 AM:

    I like. Or in a bit of Costanza do the opposite, challenge every member of the House to cut one billion dollars in spending in their own district. Ergo, a 435 billion dollar reduction in Federal spending.

    They always seem to want to start cutting spending in some one else district. Perhaps they should start at home first.

  • T2 on August 10, 2011 11:53 AM:

    ordinarily, Bachmann's level of hypocracy would easily qualify her as the GOP frontrunner. However she can't top Rick Perry.....a guy running for president of a country he wants his state to secede from.

  • Texas Aggie on August 10, 2011 12:08 PM:

    Reminds me of an episode in Berlin during the period of the wall. The East Germans pitched a bunch of garbage over the wall into West Berlin. The West Germans were really bent out of shape, but what the government did was pitch a bunch of flowers back and erected a sign that said, "One shares what one has."

    Along with the money to republican districts, there should be at least an equal amount to Democratic districts, too.

    capcha seems to share my opinion about our acceptance of the republican abuse - sheati quiescence

  • Goldilocks on August 10, 2011 12:23 PM:

    Just out of curiosity: Do members of the Administration read your blog, Steve? I imagine they do, but it would be nice to know for sure. Any info on that?

  • Bill on August 10, 2011 12:26 PM:

    ... So, how about it? If these Republican lawmakers have identified worthwhile projects in need of government spending, which they themselves insist will boost the economy, why not start spending the money GOP officials want to see spent? ...

    Sweet idea!

  • square1 on August 10, 2011 1:25 PM:

    Sorry, folks, stimulus spending is dead. The administration is pushing for -- and has partially agreed to -- spending cuts that will dwarf whatever stimulus would be achieved. All you would do is reward the GOP by partially shielding their districts from the economic consequences of their actions.

    The time for these ideas was two years ago. Democrats could have crafted a stimulus package that would have either required Republicans to expressly request money for their districts or they could have broken the stimulus into 50 smaller bills, forcing the GOP legislators to vote against spending specifically for their states.

    In any case, there are any number of ways to embarrass the GOP, none of which Democrats employ.

    For example, the White house could reject the request of any legislator unless they signed a form sitting, in part:

    "in making this request, I understand that federal tax revenues and fees may be insufficient to fully fund the agency to cover spending authorized by law. I further understand that the U.S. Treasury may "borrow" some or all of the funds that I have requested by selling Treasury securities."

    Make Bachmann sign that.

  • Blackheywood on August 10, 2011 9:26 PM:

    Great idea the President should grant the request with publicity the public has ever seen.Then let's watch the GOP/Tea Baggers refuse the funds for their own districts after making their request in writing. Hopefully someone in President Obama administration will take these hypocrites on as well create some jobs for the American people.

  • smike on August 10, 2011 9:35 PM:

    This is the most excellent idea I have heard in quite some time.

  • Terri on August 11, 2011 1:17 AM:

    And the timing would be perfect. A majority of voters already blame the GOP for the debt ceiling debacle. This would help prove to them that the GOP are the obstructionists in this game. Hopefully, it would lead to their howls of protest that could carry over to the 2012 elections.

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  • brooklyn acupuncturist on August 11, 2011 5:54 AM:

    I agree with your viewpoint that the government needs to spend money to create jobs, However, I think the jobs should be specifically those that improve our infrastructure in some way, or spur on industry that will create jobs in the future, for instance, developing green power, hydrogen fuel, or U.S. based manufacturing. This is in effect, what FDR did to help us out of the economic crisis in the last century, and his legacy of roads, bridges, and Hoover Dam still live with us today. Pumping money into civic services, like police/fire jobs will help temporarily, but is in effect, a bit short sighted.

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  • Etaoin Shrdlu on August 11, 2011 8:33 PM:

    I suggest the opposite approach: the Democratic members of our new "super Congress" should comb the budget with a fine tooth comb and find every project and expenditure Republi-Cons love, and then eliminate it! Not just the old standbys (the military, etc.), but every pet project, earmark, or expenditure in a Republican district and (where both Senators are from the GOP) a Republican state. Hopefully this will make a greater cut in the deficit than even Boehner and Ryan proposed.

    And if the Republi-Cons protest they want any of that put back? Offer them a tax increase to do it!

  • June on August 12, 2011 10:42 PM:

    Democrats are often cursed as "the tax and spend party"
    Republicans just spend by charging the credit card up with no intention of paying it back.

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  • Camel54 on August 17, 2011 10:46 AM:

    Just a note to those of you suggesting that doing this is a bad idea simply because it helps their districts, I disagree. Though we are in the minority here in Red District, Red State, USA, there are many liberals, progressives, Democrats, whatever living here and we don't want to see people unemployed in our communities whether they vote with us or call us socialists. We don't want their children to suffer just because the parents vote against their self-interests. If the Dems framed it with the right messaging, i.e. did not stop hammering the point that the spending comes from Repubs and if the Repubs flip-flop on it, the Dems can use that too, if they frame all of that correctly (which they will likely fail to do) it's a win/win. Even if they don't, it helps people and that's what matters.

  • Brendan on August 17, 2011 2:32 PM:

    Dems shouldn't refuse to do this until Republicans begin cooperating; that way, they can position themselves as the adults who will give concessions to the other party to better the country as a whole. Excellent idea. Claims the high ground, and will benefit the economy. Short-term political pain for long-term economic (and therefore political) gain.

  • cabdriver on August 19, 2011 10:57 AM:

    I'm...bewildered...at the people who reject this, simply because it entails funding Republican districts.

    No, actually, I'm not bewildered- it's indicative of a tendency I've seen among the Demolibs and Republicons who have bought into their own partisan nonsense.

    People like this actually believe that "red state/blue state" garbage that's been foisted on them so literally that they really think that politics in a democracy is more like some cream-puff civil war (with the inevitable stalemate, unless the guns get brought out) than artful persuasion that gets the desired results.

    Imagine, people are opposed to this idea because they imagine that it's "rewarding their enemies".

    Are the Democrats among you that clueless about how democracy works? You think there isn't some crucial margin in Republican districts (they're hardly 100% Republican, I might remind you) who wouldn't be pleasantly surprised and elated to have their economic misery relieved by the support of a Democratic president for projects in their home districts?

    And I might as well bring up the fact that the entire country benefits from infrastructure projects. Unless, of course, you're a jet-setting bi-coastal who sees the rest of the place only in flyovers.

    I think it's a good idea to vet the requested projects for blatant pork. But in many places in this country, our infrastructure is crumbling. (Yes, I said OUR infrastructure- both "colorados" AND "azules". And "verdes", y all of the other colores, homie.) And the population of this country is adding something like a million people every year. We- and the natural systems that support us- need more wastewater treatment; improved waterworks maintenance; a more efficient electrical grid; long-term soil conservation projects; levee, bridge, and road maintenance and improvement projects that not only provide jobs but improve the long-term underpinnings and fortunes of the economy. Oh, and they ward off disaster.

    And there are people who don't want to do it, because they're married to the idea of being passive-aggressive vindictive partisans. Imagining they can obtain leverage over their opposition in Congress by punishing the constituents in the opposition districts, instead of helping them out with the Obama Infrastructure Renewal Initiative of 2012.

    How well do you folks understand democracy? For that matter, how well do you understand basic garden variety chess?

  • cabdriver on August 19, 2011 11:01 AM:

    Correction to above:

    "Unless, of course, you're a jet-setting bi-coastal who sees the rest of the place only in flyovers."

    Scratch the first three words, and make that "EVEN IF..."

    Think about it.

  • Jerry M on August 21, 2011 2:17 PM:

    I believe it would be a mistake for rejecting this because it funds repubs districts. I think all the requests made by repubs should be made available for all to see and they should be confronted with them.

    Ask Bachmann why she rails against gov't while feeding at the trough. Ask them all. They get elected in their local districts because of the money they get. Make them explain why teachers, women, children and the elderly should have to suffer while she is getting stimulus money for her district.

    Ask Perry how he would have balanced the Texas budget without the stimulus. Then ask him how he plans to do the same for the Fed gov't when there is no stimulus available for the Feds.

    Show them to be the hypocrites they are. Make them explain how it is that they push Keynesian policies in their districts while trying to push austerity onto everyone else.

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