Bachmann on Taxes: 'People Who Can Afford to Pay More Need To'

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The Minnesota congresswoman wants to end the Earned Income Tax Credit and says she's open to tax hikes on the rich

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With AP reporting that Michele Bachmann wants to eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit, a move that would mean a substantial tax hike on the working poor, it is very likely that all of the following will happen. 1) In some press appearance or televised debate, Bachmann will be asked to defend her proposal. 2) She'll respond that it's important for even the poorest Americans to contribute to the commonweal some token amount -- $10 is the figure she typically suggests. 3) She'll neglect to mention that the working poor already pay much more than that in non-income taxes. 4) One of her rivals, Mitt Romney, will use the opportunity to boost his general election chances, assuring the American people that he is against raising taxes on the working poor. 5) And if I know the GOP, it'll all end when someone quotes President Reagan, who called the tax credit "the best antipoverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress" after expanding it during his 1986 tax reform effort.

What's strangest about this report is that last week, Bachmann explained that she was modeling her tax plan on the 1986 reform. "In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan enacted tax reform that created a period of unparalleled prosperity. I intend to increase our competitiveness by following his blue print for tax reform," she said.

This week, she isn't just anti-EITC, she's perhaps intent on some rich taxpayers contributing more to federal coffers, maybe. I'm a little hazy on the details because the widely syndicated AP story reads as follows:

Her plan includes elements that are close to billionaire Warren Buffett's call for tax fairness -- a turnaround for Bachmann. In August, she dismissed the idea in front of tea party-packed crowds in South Carolina. "We do believe, unlike Warren Buffett, that taxes are high enough already," Bachmann said at the time. "I have a suggestion: Mr. Buffett, write a big check today." Bachmann now says Buffett had it right, though she disagrees on the details. "I think that people who can afford to pay more need to pay more, and they at least can't pay less than people at the lower and middle income levels," Bachmann said.

Bachmann adviser Brett O'Donnell said that's a jab at General Electric Co. for paying a lower overall tax rate like other big companies, such as Marathon Oil Corp. and not an effort to get people with incomes above $250,000 to pay higher rates, which Democrats have sought.

So a call for tax hikes on actual people? A jab at GE? Or a call for tax hikes on actual people axed by a horrified adviser who pretended it was a dig at GE?

You be the judge.

There's this too. "Her plan calls for three tax brackets -- down from six -- but she hasn't detailed where they would fall," AP reports. "O'Donnell said the lowest would be set so low enough that it's a trade-off for people now eligible for the earned income tax credit." Again, is Bachmann eliminating the EITC because she believes that everyone should pay income taxes? Or is she just replacing it with something that leaves the working poor no worse off? It's very hard to parse, but then again, Bachmann is a former IRS attorney, so she comes by it honestly. "I went to the inside to learn how they work because I wanted to beat them," she once told a crowd.

Is this how?

Image credit: Reuters
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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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