NBC's Lauer to Bachmann: 'Shouldn't We Put Some of the Burden on the Wealthy?'

Interviewing Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann on Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer pushed for tax increases in the 2012 budget: "...the President's expected to call for raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans – some estimates say that could raise some $700 billion, why couldn't that money be used to pay down the debt?"

Moments later, Lauer added: "...like Congressman Ryan is suggesting, Medicare needs to be revamped....that affects the elderly and the poor...why shouldn't the burden be equally shared? Why shouldn't we put some of that burden on the wealthy and corporations?"

Bachmann confronted Lauer's liberal assertions with reality:

...when we raise taxes, particularly on job creators, we actually bring in less revenue, rather than more....We could actually confiscate 100% of the wealth that people make at $200,000 or more and that would only yield about six to seven months worth of revenue to run the government. In fact, we could take 100% of the profits of all the Fortune 500 companies, that would only give us 40 days to run the government. And we could take the 400 billionaires in the United States, confiscate all their wealth – in excess of a trillion dollars – and that would only get us to mid-August.

Still, Lauer was undeterred: "But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says when they look at this [Republican budget] plan they think that, in the long term, this is going to cause people to actually pay much more of their own health care costs out of their own pocket. Do you agree with that?"

Here is a full transcript of the April 13 interview:

7:10AM ET

MATT LAUER: Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann from Minnesota is the founder of the Tea Party Caucus in Congress. Congresswoman Bachmann, good morning. Thanks for joining us again.

MICHELE BACHMANN [REP. R-MN]: Thanks, Matt.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Budget Battle; What Would Bachmann Do to Cut the Deficit?]

LAUER: We are hearing some conflicting messages here. We just heard Mitch McConnell say raising taxes is a non-starter, it's not on the table. John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, said recently, 'I'll put everything on the table. I'm not interested in raising taxes on the American people, but if it takes leaving it on the table to have the conversation, I'll have the conversation.' So is raising taxes on the table?

BACHMANN: I don't think it should be on the table because tax rates are high enough already. And one thing that history shows, Matt, is that when we raise taxes, particularly on job creators, we actually bring in less revenue, rather than more. And so the question really is do we want more revenue or do we want to increase taxes? Because the two don't necessarily go together.

LAUER: They don't necessarily go together, but if you do raise taxes – for example, the President's expected to call for raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans – some estimates say that could raise some $700 billion, why couldn't that money be used to pay down the debt?

BACHMANN: Well, for instance, the President, it appears, will be calling to raise taxes on people making $200,000 a year or more. We could actually confiscate 100% of the wealth that people make at $200,000 or more and that would only yield about six to seven months worth of revenue to run the government. In fact, we could take 100% of the profits of all the Fortune 500 companies, that would only give us 40 days to run the government. And we could take the 400 billionaires in the United States, confiscate all their wealth – in excess of a trillion dollars – and that would only get us to mid-August.

LAUER: But when we're talking-

BACHMANN: So we could do all of that and that still wouldn't even approach the problem we have.

LAUER: But when we're talking about a long-term way of approaching this situation, and if, in fact, like Congressman Ryan is suggesting, Medicare needs to be revamped – and let's face it, most people agree that's a major issue and it's got to be seriously looked at – but that's something that affects the elderly and the poor. And if that's on the table, then why shouldn't the burden be equally shared? Why shouldn't we put some of that burden on the wealthy and corporations?

BACHMANN: Well, remember, again, already the top 1% of income earners pay about 40% of all taxes into the federal government. So if you want to talk about fairness, the top 1% are paying 40% of all of the income. Again, I think the Paul Ryan plan should maybe be called the 55-and-under plan, because any of the changes are going to impact people who are 55 years of age and younger, not people who are 55 years of age and older.

LAUER: But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says when they look at this plan they think that, in the long term, this is going to cause people to actually pay much more of their own health care costs out of their own pocket. Do you agree with that?

BACHMANN: Well, I'll have to look at that study and I'll have to look at that report. I can't comment on it because I haven't read that study. But I think, certainly going forward, it's important for us to understand that individualism, personal responsibility have always been a bedrock of this country. And when we move away from that, that's when our budgets get in trouble.

LAUER: Before I let you go, quickly, the President is expected to address a couple of other issues today. For example, defense spending makes up about 50% of discretional spending in the budget. Should that be cut? And what about Social Security? Would you be in favor of raising the retirement age?

BACHMANN: Well, I think it's important to say that – to distinguish that the defense budget does not take up 50% of the budget. The discretionary portion is actually a very small part of the budget. Two-thirds of our budget deals only with the entitlements – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. And that is really the-

LAUER: But would you be open to cutting defense spending?

BACHMANN: Pardon me?

LAUER: But would you be open to cutting defense spending?

BACHMANN: Oh, there's no question. We need to look at defense spending to see where there is redundancy and waste in programs and whether certain programs actually make sense for the Defense Department or weapons procurement. We need to focus on areas that we need to shore up our defense, but nothing should be off the table, including defense.

LAUER: Including Social Security as well?

BACHMANN: Well, on Social Security, we need to make it safe and secure for the future. And I think that will be a very long discussion in this town.

LAUER: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Congresswoman, thanks for your time again. I appreciate it.

BACHMANN: Thanks, Matt.

— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC