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Posted at 10:08 AM ET, 07/14/2011

Bachmann tosses all reason aside


My grandmother was illiterate. She was cossetted in an impregnable ignorance that made her confident in her judgment and unassailable in her opinions. She died many years ago, but I fear she has come back . . . as Michele Bachmann.

Bachmann, too, is certain about most of her views. She is particularly certain about what would happen if the debt ceiling were not raised: nothing. The United State would not go into default and the full faith and credit of the government would not be affected. Anyone who suggests otherwise is simply wrong, she says.

How does she know? Barring the possibility that she has once again heard from God, the answer is that she does not. Important members of the Republican Party either strongly disagree with her or confess that they don’t know what will happen — maybe nothing, maybe a catastrophe. In either case, prudence requires that the ceiling be raised. Who wants to roll the dice on the American economy?

Bachmann is an American nihilist. She is not in any sense a 19th-century Russian-style bomb thrower — she is much too conservative for that — but she is so virulently and mindlessly anti-elitist that she will almost reflexively reject what the elites want or propose. This is the case, of course, will all sorts of cultural issues — abortion, pornography and the role of religion in government — and it is now the case with the debt limit. Since the chairman of the Federal Reserve, many leading Republicans (Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, etc.), all of Wall Street, the editorial pages of the elite press and the entire Council on Foreign Relations want the debt ceiling raised, she is opposed.

The raisers, if I may call them that, offer oodles of reasons to support their position — from having to stop Social Security payments to literally defaulting on interest payments for Treasury securities. I will add a reason of my own. The failure to do what is both financially and morally required of the United States — pay its debts — would show such dysfunctional political leadership that others would hesitate to park their funds in this country. Your banker ought to be somber and cautious and not play chicken with the financial market.

Bachmann, for her part, backs her position mostly by simply asserting it. For support, she doesn’t cite facts, but rather her critics, the elites who predict disaster. This strikes a chord with many Americans, especially now. They were told to buy homes and work hard, and now their jobs are gone and their house has a padlock on it. As always, the villains are the (Eastern) bankers, who had taken over the role of railroads as bloodsuckers. Never mind that many of the bankers are no longer in the East, they still wear suits and graduated from elite colleges and often know which fork to use.

For all I know, Bachmann is right and the predicted debt ceiling calamity will be another Y2K “problem,” when computers the world were predicted to crash at the stroke of midnight, Jan. 1, 2000. That did not happen; many experts were wrong. But the experts are not always wrong or not even usually wrong, and even when they are, they can supply reasons for their mistake. What is scary about Bachmann is that she has done away with reason itself. She believes what she believes because she believes it. I have seen this before. Grandma, welcome back.

By  |  10:08 AM ET, 07/14/2011

 
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