Tea Party Congresswoman Michele Bachmann Earns an ‘F’ in American Economic History





BELIEVER IN STATE INTERVENTION: Alexander Hamilton, who served as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury under President George Washington, sent a report to Congress on December 5, 1791 entitled, “On the Subject of Manufactures,” which argued in favor of keeping tariffs on imported goods and urged that tax money be used to subsidize the growth of American industry.


I can’t help but notice that every time Tea Party Congresswoman Michele Bachmann opens her mouth, she sticks her foot in it. Bachmann did so at a recent Orange County gathering when she claimed to “believe in the free market system that created America and helped it grow.”

I’m sorry, but anybody who has ever bothered to study American economic history–much less read the writings of the handful of rich white lawyers, merchants, and slaveholders who founded this country–will discover they weren’t as giddy about “free markets” as Bachmann would have you think.

In fact, one of the first things George Washington did shortly after he was elected president was sign into law the Tariff Act of 1789, which imposed duties on imported goods. Its purpose was two-fold: to raise revenue and protect domestic producers from much cheaper foreign competitors.

The author of this legislation, Alexander Hamilton, who served as Secretary of the Treasury in the Washington administration, later sent a report to Congress in 1791 entitled, “On the Subject of Manufactures,” arguing tax money collected as tariffs be used to subsidize American industry.

It was Hamilton’s scheme of state protection and subsidy of an emerging capitalist class–in complete violation of “free market” principles–that many economists credit with helping transform the United States from a small agricultural nation to a major industrial superpower by the end of the 19th century.

So the next time you open up your wallet or purse and whip out a ten dollar bill to pay for a bag of groceries, you’ll now fully understand the reason why Hamilton’s face has been printed on this currency since 1929. And you can be rest assured that Bachmann’s mug will never ever be there.

About Duane Roberts