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    Apr 1st, 2010


    On the March 30, 2010 edition of “Reality Check on WCCO 4 News at 10, political reporter Pat Kessler fact-checked four claims Rep. Michele Bachmann made on CBS “Face the Nation” regarding healthcare reform.

    Kessler’s scorecard: “Wrong,” “False,” “Out of Context,” and “Not True” (0 for 4 — three strikes and a foul ball).

    Reality Check: Bachmann On Health Care Reform

    Pat Kessler reporting on WCCO
    March 30, 2010

    Health care reform is complicated enough on its own, but Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has made numerous claims that are at least misleading.

    On CBS’ “Face the Nation” last Sunday, Bachmann claimed several times the federal government now controls most of America’s economy.

    “Now we have the federal government taking over ownership or control of 51 percent of the American economy,” she said. “This is stunning. Prior to September of 2008, 100 percent of the private economy was private.”

    That’s factually WRONG.

    According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Congressional Budget Office and CBS News, the highest percentage of government spending compared to Gross Domestic Product was at the height of World War II, at 47.9 percent.

    The lowest was at the start of the Great Depression, when it was 9 percent. In 2009 it was 20.6 percent. In all that time, the GDP has never been 100 percent private.

    Bachmann also predicted “massive” job losses, based on what she said were calculations by the President’s staff.

    “President Obama’s own numbers, his own economic advisor, Christina Romer, said that Obamacare could cost the economy 5.5 million jobs lost,” Bachmann said.

    This is FALSE. It’s a grossly inflated miscalculation by health care opponents.

    Republican critics used 10 years of tax increases, and divided the number by one year of Gross Domestic Product, increasing job loss numbers by more than a factor of 10.

    Economists estimate job losses will actually be between 150,000 and 300,000 over 10 years.

    Bachmann also said health care reform will cost Minnesota companies.

    “The health care law will cost 3M potentially $90 million in the first quarter,” Bachmann said.

    This starts with a kernel of truth, but is OUT OF CONTEXT.

    Some companies will lose a 28 percent government subsidy they’ve been getting to keep retirees on their prescription drug plans. The companies were allowed to set up and depreciate those assets on their taxes. The change won’t cost companies cash, but it could lower earnings and affect stock prices.

    Citing a prominent medical journal, Bachmann said a large number of doctors are prepared to quit their jobs rather than submit to health care reform.

    The New England Journal of Medicine released a survey the week that President Obama signed Obamacare stating that over 30 percent of American physicians would leave the profession if the government took over health care. That’s very serious going forward,” Bachmann said.

    This is NOT TRUE. The New England Journal of Medicine denies it conducted or published the survey. It’s actually from a physician recruiting company, Medicus, promoting its services on the journal’s Web site.

    That’s Reality Check.

    Watch video: Bachmann on Health Care Reform (02:11)

    A spokeswoman for Bachmann said the Congresswoman stands by her statements, and provided the following additional data to support her claims.

    Original Bachmann quote: “Now we have the federal government taking over ownership or control of 51 percent of the American economy. This is stunning. Prior to September of 2008, 100 percent of the private economy was private.”

    Response from Bachmann staff:

    When you add up the bailouts and take over of General Motors Corp, Chrysler LLC, two of the country largest banks – Citigroup and Bank of America, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and American International Group Inc. — you get about one third of the economy, according to William Boyes, professor of economics at Arizona State University.

    If you then add the 1/6th of the economy that is assumed under government control by the health care legislation, as cited by the NY Times, you end up with more than 50% of the once private economy directly now under government supervision.

    Original Bachmann quote: “It will cost 3M potentially $90 million in the first quarter.”

    Response From Bachmann staff:

    On March 26th, Reuters reported the 3M numbers: “3M Co. will record a one-time non-cash charge of up to $90 million, or 12 cents a share, in the first quarter as a result of the U.S. health reform signed into law this week, the company said on Friday. The charge reflects lower tax deductions related to retiree drug benefits.”

    Original Bachmann quote: “President Obama’s own numbers, his own economic advisor, Christina Romer, said that Obamacare could cost the economy 5.5 million jobs lost.”

    Response from Bachmann staff:

    From gop.gov: “Section 441 imposes additional job-killing taxes, in the form of a half-trillion dollar ‘surcharge,’ more than half of which will hit small businesses; according to a model developed by President Obama’s senior economic advisor, such taxes could cost up to 5.5 million jobs”

    Original Bachmann quote: “The New England Journal of Medicine released a survey the week that President Obama signed Obamacare stating that over 30 percent of American physicians would leave the profession if the government took over health care. That’s very serious going forward.”

    Response from Bachmann staff:

    As far as the New England Journal of Medicine piece goes, they’re doing what they can to distance themselves from the survey done by Medicus, but the fact of the matter is the New England Journal of Medicine has lent both its name and crest to the newsletter in which the survey was published. Nowhere in their newsletter do they make the disclaimer that what’s contained within it has nothing to do with the New England Journal of Medicine. In fact, quite the contrary seeing as how their name is all over it. The NEJM may not have conducted the research itself as they’re stating now after the fact, but it’s certainly misleading on their end to have their name all over a publication like the one that was released with the results and then distance themselves from everything contained within it afterwards. They can’t have it both ways.

    By the way, it is interesting to note that the link contained in the Media Matters report cited by Mr. Riedel no longer links to the newsletter with the results of the survey as it did prior to Rep. Bachmann’s Communications Director bringing the matter to CBS’ attention. Our office called the NEJM on it, and they’ve since taken down the newsletter in question.

    ——

    Related report

    Bachmann Offers Big Numbers, Little Proof

    Minnesota Republican says gov’t controls majority of U.S. economy, and she plans to repeal health care

    Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) talks to Bob Schieffer on _Face the Nation,_ March 28, 2010.
    Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) talks to Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation,” March 28, 2010.  (CBS)

    By David Riedel
    CBS News
    March 28, 2010

    In the past when talking about the health care bill that was just signed into law by President Obama, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has referred to the bill as “tyranny.”

    On Sunday, she told “Face the Nation” anchor Bob Schieffer she meant it.

    Video

    Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) speak with Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation.” (12:36; Bachmann interview starts at 06:24)

    “[N]ow we have the federal government taking over ownership or control of 51 percent of the American economy. This is stunning. Prior to September of 2008, 100 percent of the private economy was private.”

    Bachmann offered no facts to back up her assertion that the government owns or controls 51 percent of the U.S. economy.

    According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis data since 1929, the highest percentage of government spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product was during World War II when government spending was 47.9 percent (in 1944). The lowest level of government spending as a percent of GDP was 9 percent in 1929 at the outset of the Great Depression.

    At no time during this period was the United States’ GDP 100 percent private.

    The 2009 level of federal government spending was 20.6 percent.

    For more information from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, click here.

    Dave Dziok, Bachmann’s communications director, responded on the issue of the 51 percent claim in an e-mail. He wrote: “William Boyes, an economics professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, estimates that the government now owns or controls businesses that generate about one-third of U.S. economic activity. With the passage of the health care bill, which makes up about 18 percent of the economy, government’s involvement in the private sector has eclipsed the 50 percent threshold.”

    On the 100 percent of the private economy claim, Dziok writes, “that has nothing to do with the numbers … from the Bureau of Economic Analysis regarding the level of government spending as a percent of GDP. She was stating the fact that the federal government has seized control of private businesses like General Motors and AIG. She wasn’t talking at all about government spending.”

    “Today the federal government has taken either direct ownership or control of banks, the largest insurance company in the United States, A.I.G., Freddie [Mac] and Fannie [Mae],” Bachmann said on “Face the Nation,” still offering no sources for her statistics. (Dziok wrote that “she had very limited time to source everything live on TV.”) “The federal government owns over 50 percent of all home mortgages and now the direct student loan industry.” …

    “Chrysler, GM,” she continued. “With the health care industry that’s an additional 18 percent of the private economy which means government would be making decisions over our lives from cradle to the grave.”

    Bachmann said she knew that much of the increase in government spending occurred during the Bush administration and agreed that Mr. Bush’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was the beginning of the surge in government spending. However, she disagreed with Schieffer’s suggestion that TARP may have saved the economy from another Great Depression.

    “I voted against the $700 billion bailout,” said Bachmann. “That was really the mother of purchasing out A.I.G., purchasing the banks, also purchasing Freddie and Fannie, purchasing GM and Chrysler. That hasn’t helped to turn our economy around. Remember, when President Obama told Congress you have to pass my trillion dollar bailout or we could get unemployment as high as 8 percent? Here we are still at 10 percent unemployment levels.”

    Bachmann was presumably referring to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Mr. Obama signed into law on Feb. 17, 2009. The $787 billion stimulus bill is different from the TARP bank bailout signed by Mr. Bush.

    “We need an exit strategy and we need to get back to private ownership so that we can have a productive economy,” said Bachmann.

    When asked if she thought Mr. Obama was anti-American, Bachmann did not say definitively whether or not she thought so. “I think it is very serious when the federal government directly owns car companies. That is not the American way. Or when the American economy directly owns 50 percent of all America’s mortgages or has direct ownership or control of the health care industry,” she said.

    “[The health care law] will cost [Minnesota-based company 3M] potentially $90 million in the first quarter,” she added. “President Obama’s own numbers, his own economic advisor, Christina Romer, said that Obamacare could cost the economy 5.5 million jobs lost. That will not bring us back to economic health going forward but that’s what you expect when you have massive tax increases, massive Medicare cuts, massive premium increases. You will have massive job loss.”

    Continuing, Bachmann said it was time for Republicans, independents and disaffected Democrats to support repealing the health care law that Mr. Obama signed last week.

    “I went to the House [of Representatives] floor the first thing on Monday and put a bill in that would repeal Obamacare,” said Bachmann. “So did my colleagues, Steve King of Iowa. Also Parker Griffith of Alabama.”

    She added, “The New England Journal of Medicine released a survey the week that President Obama signed Obamacare stating that over 30 percent of American physicians would leave the profession if the government took over health care. That’s very serious going forward.”

    The New England Journal of Medicine has denied it conducted or published the survey cited by Bachmann.

    Dziok, her press secretary, wrote in an e-mail that “I know they’re doing what they can to distance themselves from the survey done by Medicus, but the fact of the matter is the New England Journal of Medicine has lent both its name and crest to the newsletter in which it was published.”

    “I think that we need to repeal Obamacare,” Bachmann continued in the interview. “We need to be all about the American people. That’s why I oppose Obamacare and why I believe we must repeal it.”

    She closed with, “Repeal most certainly is in the best interest of the people because this bill will lead to economic harm if it’s left in place.”

    —— 

    SIDEBAR

    Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) speaks at the Conservative Political Action conference (CPAC), on February 10, 2011 in Washington, DC. The CPAC annual gathering is a project of the American Conservative Union. (credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
    Poor Bob Schieffer — another victim of “The Bachmann Effect.”

    That’s when you try to conduct a rational conversation with someone who turns out to be a nut and you find yourself off-balance and befuddled by the visceral shock of what you’re hearing – yet you can’t escape, because of the formal, public setting.

    Behold… The Bachmann Effect!

    By Eric Kleefeld
    Talking Points Memo
    March 24, 2009

    When Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) talks, people listen — even if they’re not entirely sure what they’re hearing.

    I’ve now discovered at least three examples of a curious phenomenon: The Bachmann Effect. When Bachmann is out there talking about the issues in an adversarial setting, her opponents find themselves on a very unsure footing — mainly because they’re shocked and befuddled to hear what she’s saying.

    Check out these three examples, in reverse-chronological order:

    The first was from today’s Financial Services hearing, when she demanded an answer from Tim Geithner as to what the constitutional basis was for his actions in the bailout. The second is from a debate this past October with her Democratic opponent El Tinklenberg. And the third is from an appearance on Larry King Live during the Republican Convention, in a peculiar exchange with James Carville.

    These three individuals don’t know each other, and yet on three separate occasions you’ll see the exact same facial expression each time.

    ——

    INDEPENDENT FACT-CHECK

    PolitiFact.com

    The Bachmann File

    “The New England Journal of Medicine released a survey the week that President Obama signed Obamacare stating that over 30 percent of American physicians would leave the profession if the government took over health care.”

    False

    ——

    FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — April 1, 2009

    Honors for Michele Bachmann

    One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that Rep. Michele Bachmann was the featured politician on the MSNBC program 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’s “Hypocrisy Watch.”

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