WASHINGTON, D.C. First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006, Michele Bachmann has spent much of her time in Congress concentrating on tax issues and matters related to the size of the federal government. In this interview with the Christian Examiner Newspaper Group, Congresswoman Bachmann discusses health care, how she handles criticism and the importance of her faith.
Christian Examiner: What issues are you concentrating on right now?
Michele Bachmann: The number one issue we're working on is the issue of health care reform. We have a positive alternative that actually would lower costs and create greater access to more Americans.
I'm a former federal tax lawyer. What we could do is change the federal tax code so that rather than government or an employer owning people's health care, people can own their own health care. And have health care affordable by changing the tax code so that people can set aside tax-free money to purchase premiums, co-pays, everything from hearing aids to vision to dental.
Then anything that doesn't coverthe tax-free money that people set asidethey can fully deduct on their income tax return.
From there, we would change the law so that people could purchase health insurance from any state. A lot of people don't know that the federal government prohibits people from buying health insurance outside of the state they live in. If we change those artificial barriers so people can truly have competition and purchase health care anywhere they want in any amount of policy they want, more people will buy health care.
And then have true lawsuit reform. That might impact about 95 percent of the American people. There are people who simply can't buy it. The other five percent. They have physical problems or whatever, and then we pick that up through tax credits or whatever. We can solve it that way.
We should at least try a truly competitive approachfree-market approachbefore we go with this very heavy bureaucracy of the federal government taking over cradle to grave government-controlled health insurance. It will cost trillions and trillions of dollars at a time when we simply can't afford it.
CE: Besides health care, what do you think some of the big issues will be in 2010?
Bachmann: I think number one will be job losses for people. President Barack Obama said to expect unemployment to stay at about 10 percent this year and through the rest of [next] year. That's not good news.
And there's no question the spending has been beyond what anyone could imagine. President Obama has expanded the size of spending this year 22 percent. And that's led to $1.4 trillion in debt. We have never seen this explosion of debt in the history of the country. Because President Obama, in just eight month's time, has accumulated more debt than all previous 43 presidents combinedfrom George Washington through George W. Bush. That's an astounding figure.
I think that going forward, dealing with stopping the spending, cutting taxes on people, and also try[ing] to get economic growth in the private sector to encourage job formation. That's truly the number one priority for government.
CE: What's your assessment of President Obama's administration so far?
Bachmann: I think it is jaw dropping when you think that under his watch, the federal government has taken ownership or control of the private economy. People know that something has really changed. The federal government now owns or controls 30 percent of the private economy. Just over a year ago, you couldn't say that. Just over a year ago, 100 percent of the private economy was private. Today, 30 percent is owned or controlled by government.
That's why if this health care bill passes, government will control an additional 18 percent of the private economy or 48 percent of the private economy. At that point, we're no longer a free market capitalist system. It really changes up what kind of country we are. And that's why I believe President Obama, when he said that he wanted to transform America, he certainly has succeeded in that goal.
But I think his vision for transforming America into a redistribution of wealth, more socialist-based government is not what the American people were asking for. I think it is shocking to Americans what has happened under his watch.
CE: How does your faith fit into your role as a congresswoman?
Bachmann: Faith is central to my life. It has been the center point of my life really since I was a child. But at 15 years of age, I made a commitment to Christ. And at that point, I think I really understood the centrality of faith to my life. It wasn't that I wasn't a believer prior to that, but I didn't have faith as a central focus. That informs my way of thinking.
CE: Why do you think we hear so much negative talk about faith and public policy?
Bachmann: I think for many reasons there are people who don't want faith to influence the public square and want to quiet that voice. I think that's probably where that would stem from. People who oppose faith and what faith may stand for, I think people just want to silence that voice.
That would be a real mistake, because faith has so benefitted the United States from its very inception. And to quiet voices of the faith, I think would really not be representative of who the people are in our country.
CE: You are no stranger to criticism. How does that affect you?
Bachmann: Criticism is part of the job. It goes with the territory. I think for me, the most important thing is to discover what the truth is about a matter, make a decision about what my view is on a certain position, and I think at that point I need to advocate for what I believe is the best solution for people that I represent in Minnesota.
And then go forward in confidence if I feel like I have information. I'm an open-minded person. If new information comes to change my mind, I change my mind. We should not be ashamed of advocating for what we know to be true or right or in the best interest of people.
CE: How best is it for citizens to get their voices heard in Washington?
Bachmann: The best is personal contact. If an individual could personally look at or speak to a representative, that is the best form of contact. The next best would be a phone call to that member's office. And then probably from there it would be a written letter. And then from there probably an e-mail.
And it's good to join together with like-minded people and ask for a meeting with a member of Congress or with an elected official. And in a very polite way, let the individual know what you believe, but back it up. Bring back-up information about why you believe what you believe. And then also, make the representative explain to you his or her position, not just give a position but explain why it is the better position.
I just encourage more people to stay engaged, because elected officials need accountability and the best accountability comes from our citizenry. That's what our founders envisioned.
CE: Anything else you want to add?
Bachmann: I just want to say thank you so much to the faith community for praying for me, holding me up in prayer and my family. I want people to know that that means the world to me. My number one line of defense is prayer and the power of prayer. And what keeps me steady and my axis and my world is daily devotions with the Lorddaily reading of His word, daily prayer.
And if there's anything that the Lord has impressed upon me is that I need to stay in a position of repentance of my own personal sins and confession. I need to confess my sins before the Lord regularly and stay in a position of repentance, which means to change, to turn away from sin.
I wish I wasn't a sinner, but I am. And so I need to continually stay in that place of humility before the Lord, and confessing my sin before Him and turning away from my sin.
I will error because I'm human, but I'm impressed upon by the words of Solomon: The sum of all knowledge is thisto fear the Lord and keep His commands. And that's where I want to be, where I'm fearing the Lord and keeping His commands. By God's grace, not by my efforts but by grace.