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Vieira to Michele Bachmann: Why Won't You 'Mean Spirited' Republicans Extend Unemployment Benefits?

Michele Bachmann had a formidable task, on Friday's Today show, as she tried her best to explain to NBC's Meredith Vieira that Republicans wanted to keep taxes low on the job producers to create more jobs, but Vieira wasn't having any of it, as she accused her and the GOP of being "mean spirited" to the jobless for not being more generous on unemployment benefits.

Vieira argued that the unemployed think Republicans who are for "these tax cuts, even for multimillionaires but opposed to extending unemployment benefits that are helping the people who are hurting most" were being "mean spirited." Bachmann responded by correcting the cartoon image many have of those who earn over $250,000 a year as those who were "lighting their cigars with $100 bills" as she explained many of them were small business owners who create jobs and added that what the jobless really want most is a regular paycheck from one of those job creators, as seen in this exchange:

(audio available here)


MEREDITH VIEIRA: Well wait a minute! They feel the Republicans, they're all for these tax cuts, even for multimillionaires but opposed to extending the unemployment benefits that are helping the people who are hurting the most. To them, this is mean spirited. Why are they wrong?

MICHELE BACHMANN: But we're not talking about millionaires sitting in leather chairs lighting their cigars with $100 bills. We're talking about a carpet layer in Sheboygan, Wisconsin who employs his brother-in-law and his son. And they have $250,000 in gross sales. That's what we're talking about. Real people who aren't living large.

VIEIRA: Well you're talking about everybody. That and also people who are living large.

BACHMANN: But we're talking about everyone and what, and remember those people who are the job providers, those are the people that won't be able to provide more jobs. That's what people want right now. They want jobs, they want paychecks. That's the focus.

VIEIRA: But they also want their unemployment benefits Congresswoman. They also want that and you're opposed to that.

BACHMANN: People want a paycheck, they want paychecks more than they want unemployment benefits.

The following is the full segment as it was aired on the December 10 Today show:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Minnesota's Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is with us now. Representative Bachmann, good morning to you.

[On screen headline: "Deal Or No Deal? Will Tea Party Back President's Tax Cut Compromise?"]

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, (R) MINNESOTA: Good morning, Meredith.

VIEIRA: The clock is ticking on this lame duck Congress. You have what, one more week and then you adjourn for good. As Kelly just pointed out House Democrats say they're not gonna accept this, this compromise package as proposed. They will accept extending tax cuts, but not at this level. Is there any wiggle room here?

BACHMANN: Well you know maybe that's what we should do. Maybe we should make this very simple, at this point, and just extend the current tax rates as they are and let that be it and not deal with anything else. We may, we may need to just keep it simple. I'm a former federal tax litigation attorney-

VIEIRA: But they're saying no to that. No, no they're saying no to that. They don't want to extend the tax cuts as is, they're saying they want to set a level, level on them.

 

BACHMANN: And that's, that's kind of the problem right now because the real, that's the issue. Will taxes go up massively on January 1st or will they stay what they are? For, for those of us coming from the conservative perspective we don't want to see anyone's taxes go up. And the compromise that was forged wasn't rich enough for Speaker Pelosi and for the Democrats. They want the taxes up even higher and that's really where the line of demarcation is in this discussion.

VIEIRA: Well let me ask you about fiscal responsibility because that's something that's very important to you. If you extend these tax cuts we're hearing that we're gonna add, what is it, $500 billion to the deficit. So how do you justify that? You said you opposed extending unemployment benefits because that's gonna add $55 billion, but that's a lot less.

BACHMANN: Well remember it, it all begins with spending. And there's been dramatic overspending that has gone on. And so we've got over $1.4 trillion in overspending in '09, $1.3 trillion in overspending this year. We have to cut back.

VIEIRA: But how, how do you justify adding more money to the deficit? That much more?

BACHMANN: Well remember that money is, is, when people are allowed to keep their own money, that's considered a deficit. I don't, I don't agree with that definition. When people keep their own money, that's considered a deficit to government, but it's not a deficit to your pocket or mine. And so I think it's important that people can keep their money.

VIEIRA: Let me ask you about people who might be sitting there, watching this interview and they're frustrated because they feel while the Republican-

BACHMANN: I don't blame them.

VIEIRA: Well wait a minute! They feel the Republicans, they're all for these tax cuts, even for multimillionaires but opposed to extending the unemployment benefits that are helping the people who are hurting the most. To them, this is mean spirited. Why are they wrong?

BACHMANN: But we're not talking about millionaires sitting in leather chairs lighting their cigars with $100 bills. We're talking about a carpet layer in Sheboygan, Wisconsin who employs his brother-in-law and his son. And they have $250,000 in gross sales. That's what we're talking about. Real people who aren't living large.

VIEIRA: Well you're talking about everybody. That and also people who are living large.

BACHMANN: But we're talking about everyone and what, and remember those people who are the job providers, those are the people that won't be able to provide more jobs. That's what people want right now. They want jobs, they want paychecks. That's the focus.

VIEIRA: But they also want their unemployment benefits Congresswoman. They also want that and you're opposed to that.

BACHMANN: People want a paycheck, they want paychecks more than they want unemployment benefits. Right now unemployment is-

VIEIRA: If they don't have a job they want unemployment benefits.

BACHMANN: That's, that's right and that's what we want. We want people to have jobs. Right now it's historic. People have unemployment benefits for two years. It isn't just unemployment. It's also food stamps, it's also housing assistance. It's also all the other programs that go along with it. So the best thing we can do is grow the economy and to do that we need to keep rates low enough so that employers can hire more people.

VIEIRA: Let me ask you, before I go, the, the President has basically lost a lot of support within his own party but he's, has he gained some traction among Republicans by taking the position he's taken?

BACHMANN: Some but there are a lot of problems with, that the Republicans have with this bill too. Because there are tax increasers in this and it spends a lot of money that's not paid for. So there's not unanimity on the Republican side either and the clock is ticking, like you opened the interview with. We're getting very close. I'm a business owner. We've got to have tax tables. This is highly irresponsible. We have to get the work done, so people have certainty.

VIEIRA: Alright Representative Bachmann. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

BACHMANN: Thank you, Meredith.

-Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here