Don't underestimate her:
She wants to take your minimum wage.
This morning on Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos pressed Michele Bachmann on her
"Literally, if we took away the minimum wage—if conceivably it was gone—we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level."
Now, note the "potentially" there—pigs could also potentially virtually fly if we took away the minimum wage. The question is how likely it is. But Stephanopoulos went and committed an act of journalism by following up on what Bachmann thinks might literally conceivably potentially virtually completely happen. What ensued was not short or pretty, but it made clear while that Bachmann does not want to say straight out "yes, I want to eliminate the minimum wage" as a presidential candidate, yes, she wants to eliminate the minimum wage.
First she talked about job creation, bouncing from that to her past as a tax attorney, her opposition to high taxes, her history as a job creator, the unemployment rate, her feeling of the pain of the unemployed, and her desire to get the economy on the right track.
Stephanopoulos followed up:
Stephanopoulos: I think that’s what everyone wants to get this unemployment down but do you still believe that eliminating the minimum wage could virtually eliminate unemployment?
Bachmann again declined to use the words minimum wage or eliminate, favoring instead references to "job killing regulations" and deploying the old "tremendous expansion of government" chestnut. But mostly we need to "lift the regulatory burden."
Stephanopoulos: Let me try one more time, so you are saying that the minimum wage is one of those regulations you’d take a look at, you’d try to eliminate it?
Bachmann: Well what I’m saying is that I think we need to look at all regulations, whatever--whatever ones are inhibiting job growth that’s what we need to --
Stephanopoulos: And the minimum wage is one of them?
Bachmann: All regulations George. I think every department. We have just too much expansion of government and so what we need to do is tamp that down so that the American people can keep more of what they make.
This is disciplined, disciplined Michele Bachmann. Stephanopoulos folllowed up three times after his initial question. Bachmann's answers stretched to nearly 400 words and not once did she say the phrase "minimum wage." The only time she mentioned wages was "higher wages."
Greg Sargent flags these comments, saying:
It has often been speculated that Bachmann may drag the 2012 GOP field to the right by forcing other candidates to try to match or even outdo her crowd-pleasing bumper-sticker extremism. Here’s a case in point. Bachmann thinks doing away with the minimum wage permanently could represent a legitimate solution to our economic problems and should be considered seriously. She thinks literally all regulations should be on the table. What does that mean? Do her rivals agree?
Sargent is absolutely right: Every presidential candidate, Republican or Democrat, should be on the record with their thoughts on the minimum wage. However, Bachmann's position is not out of the mainstream of Republican politicians, as we saw in 2010 when several GOP Senate candidates called for the minimum wage to be lowered or eliminated. And it's not just the politicians. There's a cottage industry of rightwing think tanks issuing reports saying that increases in the minimum wage, or the minimum wage itself, are harmful to the economy. (For the record, a study by economists at UC-Berkeley, UMass-Amherst, and UNC-Chapel Hill found no negative economic effects for states that have higher minimums than the federal level.)
At the Netroots Nation panel on the Republican primary field, Dave Weigel argued that rather than painting these candidates as crazy, we have to take seriously voters' economic anger, that if Republicans are the ones talking about the need for jobs and the economy, they will get the voters who care about that. I'm in partial agreement with him on that. Democrats do need to focus seriously on economic pain and the need for jobs or lose big chunks of voters.
However, Bachmann's position shows that you can talk about how crazy Republican candidates are and still be talking about the economy. Because wanting to eliminate the minimum wage is a substantive issue, one that goes against popular opinion and would hurt millions of working people. And Michele Bachmann wants to eliminate the minimum wage, and she's probably not alone in the Republican presidential field.