I know this is the silly season of presidential politics, but Rep. Michele Bachmann may have just ascended to a new height of inanity.
In Saturday's GOP primary debate in South Carolina, Bachmann made the following statement:
I think, really, what I would want to do is be able to go back and take a look at Lyndon Baines Johnson's 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 situation. They don't have AFDC [Aid to Families with Dependent Children]. They save for their own retirement security. 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.
The word on the street is that the Bachmann campaign has "stabilized" from its post-Ames freefall. Lord knows why. She is wrong, and so confused, on so many levels, it makes one's head spin. Let's count.
- For starters, America doesn't have AFDC, either. It was replaced in the 1996 welfare reform law with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
- Whether you want to call it AFDC or TANF, the program originated with FDR's New Deal. Bachmann appears to believe that "The Great Society" is limited to public-assistance programs for the poor, such as food stamps, and does not include ... oh, I don't know, things like Medicare.
- China is growing not because it doesn't have food stamps. (I can't believe I just wrote that sentence.) China is growing because its government is pursuing a highly aggressive, export-led industrial policy strategy that, if you sat down to explain it to her, would make Michele Bachmann vomit.
- China, of course, does have a lot of programs that fall under the rubric of public assistance. That's because China is a developing nation, most of whose citizens are poor by Western standards. The average Chinese person devotes three times as much of his income to food compared to an American—not as bad as Nigeria, but pretty bad.
- China may not be a "modern welfare state," per Michele Bachmann's definition, but it would very much like to become one. According to an official People's Republic of China government panel convened in 2007, China will "build a socialist welfare society with Chinese characteristics" by the year 2049. I'm not exactly sure what such a society will look like—let's ask the Tibetan monks who just received pensions, health insurance, and living allowances—but I'm pretty sure Michele Bachmann will hate it.
- What I'm calling Misplaced China Envy is fast becoming a new meme on the crazy right.
I wonder what's next.
- See a collection of political cartoons on the GOP hopefuls.
- See photos of 2012 GOP hopefuls on the campaign trail
- Read about GOP rhetoric vs. reality at the foreign policy debate.
Corrected on 11/15/11: An earlier version misstated when welfare reform was passed. It was passed in 1996.