We were looking forward to our conversation with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. With the Iowa Caucuses just weeks away, we believed we would be able to present CYInterview followers with some insight into where she stands on fiscal issues.
The candidate for the Republican presidential nomination has been doing double duty: out on the stump, running for president and, at the same time, touting her book Core of Conviction.
We asked our questions within the same overlapping context within which the congresswoman has been presenting herself to the American people. She wants to be president and is working at selling a book. We wanted answers on information presented in her book, as well as about her candidacy.
Our main goal was to engage Congresswoman Bachmann in a conversation about her being a – self-touted – consistent conservative. Our main point of focus was to be on fiscal issues seeing that the candidate has been amply covered when it comes to her social views.
CYInterview followers will know that featured columnist Jay Bildstein has been putting forward his set of ideas on how to effectuate positive change in the USA, both economically and otherwise. Jay’s premise is that our leaders – the president, vice-president and Congress – must lead by example. He says it would be the best way to demonstrate to the American people that our leaders in Washington are sincere about taking action in the best interests of the nation. Great things happen when people are inspired by leaders who walk their talk.
At the core of Jay’s ideas is a 50% pay cut for the president, vice-president and Congress. Certainly, this particular act of fiscal discipline would do almost nothing, dollar-wise, to reduce the federal budget deficit and debt. In the scope of the nation’s finances, it is an infinitesimal amount of money.
However, this type of action would demonstrate that the politicians in D.C. were willing to lead by example, accepting financial pain before they delivered it unto the American public. It could serve as a rallying point to deal with the nation’s budget woes.
Who better then self-proclaimed, consistent conservative, Michele Bachmann to agree with this idea?
As you will see in this CYInterview, that does not appear to be the case.
During our conversation, the congresswoman claimed she voted for and took a 5% pay cut this year (2011,) something we cannot find proof of anywhere. And we looked. Congress did cut its budget, but it is clear from Jay’s question, that he was talking about their pay. So far as we can tell there was no congressional pay cut, yet Congresswoman Bachmann claims one.
Ms. Bachmann attempted to avoid committing to Jay’s 50% congressional/presidential pay cut concept by talking around the issue, stating the need to cut everyone’s pay in the federal government by 50%, as well as removing certain governmental departments.
Logically, Jay came back and offered that whatever cuts would have to be made in Washington, it would make most sense to lead by example and immediately introduce a bill to cut congressional salaries. When Jay asked for a direct answer to his question, what followed was an interruption by one of Congresswoman Bachmann’s handlers, asking if there were any questions about the book.
The book is all about being conservative. The Congresswoman is running for president. She purports to be a fiscal conservative. Why not answer the question directly?
We could have pressed the issue, but our feeling was that the non-answer was an answer in and of itself. You decide.
The CYInterview was conducted on November 30th. Since then we researched whether members of Congress received a 5% pay cut this year. As mentioned above, we found nothing to support that assertion.
You can read and or listen to the entire CYInterview with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann below:
Listen to the entire Michele Bachmann CYInterview:
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Chris Yandek: This is Chris Yandek . Featured columnist Jay Bildstein is on this call with me. We are welcomed to bring to CYInterview Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Her new book out is called Core of Conviction: My Story. Congressman [sic] thank you so much for joining me today. Where are you today? I believe you’re in Iowa before we begin.
Michele Bachmann: “I am in Des Moines, Iowa right now. I just did an interview with MSNBC and some other interviews. Now I’m just about to go up to Cedar Falls, Minnesota [sic] or Iowa where I’ll be speaking at the University of Northern Iowa and I’ll hold a townhall with the students there. Then I’ll be on my way to Waverly, Iowa to the Pizza Ranch and also to Charles City, Iowa to the Pizza Ranch and I’ll hold townhall meetings there as well today.”
CY: In Core of Conviction, I think you try very hard to express your beliefs and positions, but at the same time, you try to get across that you understand other people have different points of views. Do you feel like that’s one of the things you really haven’t had a chance to show people?
MB: “I think that’s true. A lot of people don’t realize that I grew up in a Democrat home and a Democrat family. We had one Republican in my family. And when I was growing up, we just assumed that we were all Democrats and I actually worked on Jimmy Carter’s campaign when he was running for President in 1976 and it was after he was elected and I saw the effects of his policies both on foreign policy and domestically that I decided that his policies didn’t match up with what I had believed my entire life. I became a Republican. I worked on Ronald Regan’s campaign and I never looked back.”
Jay Bildstein: Uh, Congresswoman Bachmann, in your book and on the stump you portray yourself as a fiscal conservative. Now for the most part we lack individuals in Washington who are willing to lead by example, to inspire the nation by applying budget cuts to themselves first, demonstrating they’re true fiscal conservatives. Now we need shared sacrifice. If people believe Congress and the president are living the good life while the rest of the nation is suffering, nothing’s gonna get done.
Here’s the first part of my solution. We’ve discussed this with some members of Congress here on CYInterview as well as one of your opponents for the Republican Presidential Nomination. Congress, the president and the vice president must take a 50 percent pay cut. That would be leading by example. I’ve said this before, a good general leads his troops from the front and in the corporate world salespeople prosper when they do well. They suffer when they don’t. That said, Ms. Bachmann, you currently serve in the United States Congress. You don’t have to wait to become president to take action. Will you introduce a bill to Congress to cut its salary by 50 percent as well as cutting the salaries of the president and the vice president by 50 percent to demonstrate leadership. Yes or no?
MB: “Well, I’ve already demonstrated that type of leadership because I have voted and I have already received a cut in my pay this year in the amount of five percent. That’s something that we wanted to do to lead by example and that’s what we have done. The best thing that we can do to lead by example is to actually turn the economy around and grow it and that’s, those are my policies that I want to move forward. I think if we go with a pay cut for 50 percent for both the president, the vice president and the Congress, we shouldn’t stop there.
We should extend that pay cut by 50 percent to all federal employees because today, the average federal employee makes double what their counterpart makes in the private sector and I think that’s what the bill should say. The bill should say that every federal employee takes a 50 percent pay cut and also we need to have a pay cut in the benefit packages as well which aren’t in line with the benefit packages in the private sector. But I think we need to even go farther than that. I want to actually eliminate federal departments altogether, like the Department of Education, the EPA and other departments that are well beyond the Constitutional scope that was envisioned in Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution.”
JB: Well, let’s talk, though, concrete actions right now. Obviously it’s gonna be a tough sell to get a 50 percent pay cut on federal workers unless Congress, the president and vice president apply it to themselves first, to lead by example. Look, Congress people right now make about $175,000 a year. The average American makes about, under $40,000 a year. Right now the United States of America as you said borrows almost half its money to live.
Wouldn’t it be a bold and historic statement if to start this movement in a concrete way, not just talk, you went into Congress, you introduced a bill and you called it the lead by leading bill, the fiscal control by leading bill and said, ‘You know what? We do have to remove these agencies. We do have to cut down the federal payroll, but we’re gonna do it first to ourselves, we’re gonna do it with the president and vice president to prove we’re serious.
We’re not gonna be a bunch of Marie Antoinette’s saying you know they don’t have bread, let them eat cake. I mean, the president has been out on the golf course how many times in the last two and a half years, over 70 while people are suffering. Will you go to Congress and start the ball rolling and at least push for a bill that cuts Congress, the president and vice president’s salary in half, as the starting move to what you want to get done?
Alice Stewart [Michele Bachmann’s PR person]: “Hi Chris. This is Alice. Uh, um, I don’t know if there was another, a new question in there, but this interview’s about the book so if you have a question about the book, we’ll be happy to talk about that.”
CY: Yeah. Sure. I’ll be happy to finish with one question. Sure. Sure.
AS: “Ok. Do you have a question about her book Core of Conviction?”
CY: Yes. Absolutely.
AS: “Ok. Go ahead.”
CY: Congressman [sic] I want to say, you know in closing, what was really interesting in the book, you know, um, your biological farther left you and your mother, um, early on in your life and I wonder how that lesson and how that experience, you know, shaped you and the family you would later have with your husband?
MB: “Well, thank you for asking a question about the book. I appreciate it. Some of the Core of Conviction values that I learned is the importance of family and I think sometimes when you have breaking and suffering in your life, you really, you learn to appreciate what you don’t have and I’m thankful that when I was a young girl I had an intact family, but I know what it is to go through that heartbreak of a divorce and the ensuing poverty that came as a result of that and that encouraged me to want to have an intact family.
And I’m grateful that I married a wonderful man. We’ve been married for 33 years. I didn’t forget the challenges of that time in my life and so my husband and I have broken hearts for kids that go through those kind of challenges. So we reached out and brought 23 foster children into our home to love and to raise, we did and we also saw that in the midst of their difficulties; they often fall through the cracks at public school. So we decided to work together, some other families. We started the first K-12 charter school in the country for at risk children and it’s still going on. We’re very proud of that and I also saw because of my foster children, that’s why I entered public policy because I was worried about the politically correct, dumbed down federal education standards that were being imposed on them in my state.
So I led an education reform movement in Minnesota unlike any other in the United States and we actually became the only state to repeal our federal education standards and replace them with true academic standards to help kids no matter what their background so that they could succeed and compete in the marketplace of ideas. I’m extremely grateful for that success. It wasn’t Republican or Democrat. It was about helping kids and I was able to succeed and unite people under that flag of helping kids and that’s something I’m very proud of.”
CY: Last question, very quickly, are you going to seek reelection in Congress if you do not end up winning the Republican nomination?
MB: “I’m focused now on winning the presidency. We think we’re poised right now in a very good place to be victorious and I’m excited about that. And people can learn more about my plan of action by reading Core of Conviction.”
AS: “Thank you Chris. I appreciate your time.”
CY: Thank you so much.
AS: “Have a good day. Bye.”
You can purchase a copy and find more information about Michele Bachmann’s book Core of Conviction: My Story here.
Michele Bachmann’s official website is at http://www.michelebachmann.com
You can email Chris Yandek at ChrisYandek@CYInterview.com