Bachmann Needs a Comparative Politics Class (and Some History and Logic, too)
Apparently, we should be more like China. Or something.
From this weekend’s debate comes this gem from Representative Michelle Bachmann in answer to a question about how she would reduce the debt:
I think, really, what I would wanna do is be able to go back and take a look at Lyndon Baines Johnson’s The Great Society.
The Great Society has not worked, and it’s put us into the modern welfare state. If you look at China, they don’t have food stamps. If you look at China, they’re in a very different situ– they save for their own retirement security. They don’t have pay FDC. They don’t have the modern welfare state. And China’s growing. And so what I would do is look at the programs that LBJ gave us with The Great Society, and they’d be gone.
This is one of those statements that makes it difficult to know where to begin, but here it goes, in list form:
1. Points for Honesty. It is clear that a lot of conservatives simply want to do away with the welfare state altogether as their means of addressing fiscal issues, so I guess she should get points for honesty, although the China stuff just creates a world of weirdness.
2. China is an Authoritarian State. So here’s the Comparative Politics 101 part of the tale. While it is true that China has liberalized in a number of ways in the last couple of decades, it does remains an authoritarian state run by (in case we have forgotten) the Chinese Communist Party. So Bachmann is saying that her desire to shrink the central government is to emulate the structure of state power in China? Trying to grasp the cognitive dissonance required to come to this conclusion makes my brain hurt.
What is especially amusing is that folks of Bachmann’s ilk will frequently rant about the horrors of Europeans social democracy (socialism!) and yet here she is singing the praise of the People’s Republic of China?
3. China has a Welfare State. While I am not well versed in the intricacies of Chinese welfare policies and do not know what taxes are paid, I am stunned the Bachmann simply asserts, our of thin air it would seem, that there are no welfare policies in China. This is not the case. I can’t say, for example, if there is a Chinese equivalent to Food Stamps, but it is not a Randian anarcho-capitalist paradise, either. She seems not to understand the power and significance of the Chinese state and the fact that a substantial amount of the economy is in government hands.
4. Correlation and Causality. Beyond making up things about Chinese welfare policy, the notion that somehow Chinese growth is linked to a lack of a food stamp program makes no sense. It is most rudimentary of logic errors (i.e., blithely asserting that correlation is causation). There is no logical reason, at least based on observable data, to suggest that presence of welfare policies means that an economy cannot grow.
5. A Basic History Lesson. The Great Society was put into place in the 1960s. The US economy has grown since that time (and quite steadily, too, not to mention at times fabulously well) including good times in the 1980s and especially the 1990s. So, the notion that the existence of Food Stamps and the like hampers growth doesn’t make sense on its face.
6. A Bit o’ Economics. Also, while it is true that China has experienced a period of sustained economic growth, the fact of the matter remains that it started from a highly underdeveloped condition. Further, even after all that growth, the GDP per capita in China is $7,600 and the US’s is $47,000. (See here for more discussion of such figures).
All of this leads to the question of whether Bachmann has any idea what she is talking about and how in the world could she consider China to be some paragon worthy of emulation?