Bachmann Harms US Economy, Security with Scurrilous Charges about Obama in India

One of the great things about the victory of so many eccentrics in the congressional races of 2010 for bloggers is that we can look forward to at least two years of having lots of fun with them. Of course, old-time funny people have come back, as well, such as cut-up Michele Bachmann.

Bachmann is among those spreading the ridiculous rumor that President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia, including India, will cost $200 million a day. In 2010 dollars, President Clinton’s 10-day visit to Africa over a decade ago cost about $5 mn. a day. That is probably ballpark for Obama’s trip as well. The Pentagon called ridiculous the idea that a tenth of the navy (right wing fantasy radio alleges 34 battleships) will be diverted for the trip.

What Bachmann does not know (and what she does not know would fill a parallel universe) is that even if the allegations were true (which they are not, being off by a factor of 40), it might be worth it. Obama will be in India three days during the 9-day trip, so let us attribute a mythical $600 million to Obama’s stay there (again, a fantasy– it is more like $15 mn. in all likelihood–but let’s play the game).

India’s external trade with the United States in 2009 was roughly $37 billion. But India’s ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar, has just predicted that US-India trade will grow to the level of $50 billion a year by next March, i.e., it will increase 30% over 2009 levels. That would be an increase of roughly $13 billion over the 2009 total.

Obama isn’t going to India for his health. India is looking to expand trade, and its government is seeking to buy $30 billion worth of weaponry over the next five years. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh can buy it from Russia, or from France, or from the US. Obama is going to Delhi as salesman-in-chief to try to get as much of that sum spent on American-made materiel as possible.

Aljazeera English has a video report on the possible arms deals:

Some analysts think the US could gain $20 billion or so from India in arms sales alone. And then there are enormous potentials for developing civilian trade, as the already-envisaged increase in bilateral trade of $13 bn. over 2009 demonstrates. And since the new deals would be multi-year in impact, the trip would be paid for many times over.

So if Obama can seal deals with New Delhi worth many billions of dollars, obviously the foolishly alleged $600 million price tag would be well worth it (just so Michelle Bachman, Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh and the others peddling this drivel against Obama understand, a “billion” is a thousand times more than a “million.”)

In reality, Obama’s trip to India will be a real boon for the US economy and for America’s geostrategic position in Asia, and anytime you can send so competent, intelligent, informed and canny a leader as Obama from Washington out into the world, you’ve done yourself an enormous favor.

The thing I worry about is that the crazed right wingers bellowing about the (imaginary) cost of Obama’s visit to India will so offend the Indians that they decide it is better to deal with the less batsh*t looney Russians and French, and shut the door on rude and offensive Washington. If that were to happen, I say we drag Michelle Bachmann over to the nearest closed Boeing or Lockheed Martin factory and make her apologize to the unemployed workers she created.

Moreover, I find it extremely suspicious that the original allegation of the high cost of the trip originated, allegedly, with an official in the state of Maharashtra, Obama’s first stop. Although the state government of Maharashtra is in the hands of the Congress Party, many bureaucrats come from the Shiv Sena, a far right wing Hindu party that dominates Mumbai and is marked by anti-foreign sentiment which is in opposition to Manmohan Singh’s Congress Party (in power at the Federal and State levels). Unless we know who the anonymous official is, we cannot tell if he made an innocent mistake or exaggeration, or if he was deliberately attempting to provoke controversy around Obama’s visit.

If so, Michelle Bachmann, Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, and etc. are betraying the United States, acting so as to harm deeply our national security and economic interests, and possibly taking cues from foreign enemies of our country.

Anderson Cooper extensively refutes the harmful allegations about the cost of Obama’s trip idea.

Posted in India | 41 Responses | Print |

41 Responses

  1. The frustrating thing about this: Presidents travel for diplomacy. It’s part of their f—ing job description. Is the right wing that stupid?

    Sorry. I answered my own question.

    • It’s not stupidity. Rather, it’s an extreme form of narcissism.

      The wing nuts want control of the US. Their tactic is to criticize everything Obama does as WRONG. Thus, if he continues the Bush era TARP program, it’s WRONG. If he pushes through a stimulus, it’s WRONG. If he addresses the crises of unaffordable healthcare and corporate control of the medical service sector, it’s WRONG. The mere mention of any of his successes was treated as some unspecified evil during the recent election cycle adverts.

      Now, he is engaged in diplomacy. It’s WRONG

      These S***heads are not opposed to Obama’s policies, they’re opposed to Obama because he is WRONG.

      The stupidity rests with the Republicans and their rebranded Tea party who believe that if Obama does it, it’s WRONG.

  2. Go Obama! (to Asia to sell weapons)
    Yes we can! (make those arms sales)
    The change we need: a south Asian arms race.
    Truly a new dawn for Amerikan progressivism.

    • Is Juan comfortable writing: Obama is going to Delhi as salesman-in-chief to try to get as much of that sum spent on American-made materiel as possible.

      Is Obama comfortable knowing that’s what he’s doing?

      I would think yes to both questions: the American President is hired by the military industrial complex as salesman in chief. That’s how it is.

      This isn’t a sane response to American economic woes, it just prolongs an industrial imbalance that has dug the US into a hole.

  3. Strange that $5,000,000 just happens to be 214,000,000 rupees. I think someone has mixed up their USD and INR (although in a few years they will probably have parity). Also Indians use the lakh (one hundred thousand ) and crore (ten million) rather than million or US billion to desribe large numbers so confusion can arise there as well.

  4. These extremists want to destroy our nation. They’ve already locked up the Supreme Court, which has played a role in allowing foreign money to control politics and the banking system. For anybody who thinks such areas are still under American control, there’s a bridge that’s for sale cheap.

  5. Yikes. The realpolitik — or is it realeconomik? — embrace of making big arms sales to India, afraid of at least one other country the US makes big arms sales to, Pakistan, carries of whiff of David Broder, whom you were just lamenting earlier this week. Short-term rationality again trumps long-term.

    • The trip and the trade component is much more complicated than just arms sales. Obviously I personally would prefer that international arms sales be curtailed through a treaty. But as it is, somebody is going to sell India weapons.

      • You could excuse the selling of just about anything to anyone on this basis. The global arms trade (and the influence of the military-industrial complex) is an evil influence which needs to be argued against as a matter of priority – in order to reduce both demand and supply whereever possible.

        IMHO Its important not to fall into the trap Obama has fallen into of allowing the right-wing to set the agenda and ceasing to argue from a left-wing or humanitarian perspective. Just using any argument that comes to hand to argue against the right-wing nutters is not going to help.

        • Yeah, opposition to selling US-made military hardware to other countries is not in any political party platform to my knowledge. Nor is it a ‘progressive’ principle since leftist regimes have routinely done it. This perspective is so fringe it is hard for me to imagine where it is coming from.

        • The fact opposition to arms sales isn’t in any US political party platform is a function of the over-bloated power of the military-industrial complex in the USA and power of militarist ideology generally rather than the actual merits of such a policy. The idea that military sales are generally a bad thing might be a “fringe” idea in the USA (although I bet a lot of US citizens disapprove of this nasty trade) but its quite a commonly held view in other parts of the world, particularly of course those many areas where civilians have suffered the effects of such weaponry.

  6. What should be a concern, but is unstated, in coverage of the trip, India is India’s focus on greatly increasing its nuclear power and weapons industry, without adopting the Nonproliferation Treaty. Trade and investment is the hammer to drive the issue.

  7. Please see Rachel Maddow’s segment on this story last night, it’s too funny, akin to something the Daily Show would do:

    link to

    Bachmann’s source of the story wasn’t actually the anonymous official, but Fox, which by repeating the rumor serves as a citation of the figure, thus making it true for those who can’t spend 10 seconds to do a web search.

  8. I think this is a conversion/units error. If the 200B is in rupees, then in dollars it’s about 4B to 5B, which is reasonable.

  9. Funny, isn’t it, how “conservatives” believe in “spending money to make money” as far as regards business, and “you get what you pay for” in their private lives – but somehow, never extend those concepts to the activities of their government.

    • Funny, isn’t it, that conservatives believe in presidential presitge and respect for our institutions, but never extend these beliefs to the same offices when held by Democrats.

  10. Professor Cole! Citing a $30 billion arms sale to India as a good thing about Obama’s trip?!!!! A volatile region, with India and Pakistan potential belligerents, with India seemingly now opening up to a strategic alliance with China– just seems to me that if that’s all we have to sell, he’s better off staying home.

    • Finally, after reading all the comments so far, I come upon DOODAHMAN who has spoken the words that have been on my mind ever since I read the article yesterday.

      Obama, prostituting himself to his corporate “masters”.

  11. militarism is our import and export to the world – not a valid goal for any visit to India.

    otherwise, you are a beacon for us.

  12. Hahaha, BATTLESHIPS? We don’t even have battleships in service! The ones still around are friggin museums!
    Heh, morons.

  13. Heheheee.. “billion” is a thousand times more than a “million.”
    Seriously, why aren’t they complaining about our 500 million dollars vatican city, sorry, “Embassy” that Ikenberry is building in Afghanistan? Is it like, like a really big, magical wonderland where we can all get together inside with the Afghanis and sing kum ba yah instead of bombing the heck out of their children?

  14. I am pretty disgusted by the article. Selling arms is a dirty business, and explaining that it’s great because of great profits is shameful.
    “Obviously I personally would prefer that international arms sales be curtailed through a treaty. But as it is, somebody is going to sell India weapons.”
    This fine argument was, probably, known to many of those embarking on a criminal activity: “Obviously I prefer that this activity would not exist. But somebody
    will do this anyway. So – what’s wrong if it would be I who makes big money?”

    • Well, I just don’t agree that all arms sales are bad. It is legitimate for a country to want to be able to defend itself, and there are aggressors like Saddam Hussein that would be glad to grab parts of other countries when they are helpless.

      I love you guys, but some of you are just being really, really naive.

      • According to the World Health Organisation “about 49 per cent of the world’s underweight children, 34 per cent of the world’s stunted children and 46 per cent of the world’s wasted children, live in India.”

        It is really, really naive to think selling India $20 billion of weapons systems is about defending her people.

        Martin Luther King recognised “I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”


        “Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.”

        Seeing Obama’s arms sales trip, where he cancelled a trip to the Golden Temple because he might be expected to wear a turban, Martin Luther King (and Gandhi of course) will be spinning in their graves at Obama’s betrayal of the cause of anti-racism, justice and peace in the world.

        • Rural India and some of urban India is still desperately poor. However, they are so despite decades of Nehruvian socialism, which was unable to lift them out of poverty or to stop them from being stunted. If Manmohan Singh can keep up 8 and 9 percent growth a year, eventually, the stunting will stop. You have to get ahead of the population growth. If your population growth is 3 percent a year and your economic growth is 3 percent a year, the net increase in per capita income is zero, which is what India did until roughly the mid-1980s.

          India’s gdp in nominal terms is over $1 trillion a year. In that context, $30 bn. for arms over five years is trivial. That would be $6 bn. a year. If you took it and just gave it to all Indians equally, it would be $6 or so a year for each, for 5 years in a row, which would hardly lift them out of poverty or stop the stunting either.

          I have already said that I dislike the arms trade and would be glad to see an international convention limiting it. But the implications you are drawing from a few poorly thought through statistics and emotional appeals are incorrect.

        • This is a complex area but actually, $6 a year per person (equivalent to Rs266) could make a big difference to the poorest indians and to child malnutrition.

          Some illustrations –

          77% of indians spent 36 cents (Rs16) or less a day on total consumption (2004-05) link to

          5% of rural indians spend less than Rs8 per day(2004-05)

          Many Indians can’t afford 2400 calories per day. It costs about one rupee for 2600 calories.

          So if this money was focused on reduction of child malnutrition rather than militarising society and stoking up an arms race a massive difference could be achieved.

        • But $6 a year is only 1.6 cents a day. I’m sorry, but you are just incorrect that this sum could affect the standard of living of India’s poor.

          South Korea went from being dirt poor in 1945 to being among the wealthiest countries in the world today, and it had plenty big military budgets and arms purchases. There simply is no correlation of the sort you are trying to draw. It is an intellectual canard.

        • If the $20 billion, being spent on American weaponry was focused on child malnutrition this would have a big effect, particularly for those families concerned, and this is the point I’m trying to make.

          Overall, military spending has a negative effect on GDP growth. North Korea is actually the most extreme example with its 31% of GDP spent on the military. With an arms race, all you need is for war to break out once and all that GDP growth is up in smoke, literally.

          GDP growth in India hasn’t led to a reduction in child malnutrition because of lack of land reform and a lack of political action with a political class focused on “superpower” status and enriching itself and a small elite.

  15. A little of topic but in the same swamp.

    “In an interview with National Journal out this week (last week), Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was asked what his party’s main political job will be after next week’s election. He gave a surprisingly stark answer: ‘The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.’ ” (Quote from Oct 29 Wall Street Journal)

    Definition: trea·son
    1. the offense of acting to overthrow one’s government or to harm or kill its sovereign.
    2. a violation of allegiance to one’s sovereign or to one’s state.
    3. the betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith; treachery.

    Now, one need not parse Mr McConnell’s words to understand his meaning. He is dedicated to destroying the Obama presidency regardless of the substance of Obama’s actions in office, and regardless of the needs of the nation. Though no one, other than those who write dictionaries and the maniac left, would characterize Mr McConnnell’s remarks as treasonous, it might be useful to ponder how his remarks might be a violation of allegiance to one’s sovereign or to one’s state, or the betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith; treachery.

  16. Well argued. One point of disagreement. No need to invoke a parallel universe to contain what Michelle Bachmann doesn’t know. Our own universe is vast enough.

  17. Finally, something Washington does let Obama do: bring jobs to the US and suck $20 billion out of the material welfare of India. The idea that the US is just another player in the arms trade is ludicrous – that’s like saying the Fox conglomerate is just a TV station.

  18. What I find is a President who is interested only in foreign policy in so much as it serves American war aims or the President’s war aims. I am just not sympathetic. I find a President consumed willingly by military objectives.

  19. Lies spewed by the right are nothing new..The Dems lost control of the message but it seemlies and distortion

    This seems to have taught them something..They are not letting the crap slide and the media has started to join the correction team..

    Bachmann and limpbow, beckie , the quitter are all being called out for the absurd distortions….not just letting it slide but slamming them! Note the oreilly is whinning now with the above. They have no solutions but to add $3.3 trillion to the deficit by extending tax breaks to the rich…

    Explain and refute: HCR the best :

    The best HC discussion I have heard…ht­tp://vid­e­ocafe.cro­­oksandliar­­­t­her/bill­-m­oyers-j­our­nal-me­dias­-dist­ortio­n-he­al

  20. In Bachmann’s world, America is the only important country, Europe was important until it betrayed God’s Covenant With The White Man, and Asia, South America and Africa are and will always be backward worthless places until our missionaries convert them to Pentecostalism. Ergo, India and China are not important, much less the future.

    Just try and get a Tea Partier to accept that a massive shift in economic power is going on in the world and that it’s towards countries that resisted US control, not its crashed lackeys in Rumsfeld’s “New Europe” or some Pentecostal-infested madhouse like gay-bashing Uganda. They have no idea that modern megalopolises are appearing overnight in the deserts of Western China, or that we’ve already lost control of Central Asian fossil fuels to the SCO, or that Brazil stood up for Iran. They just can’t accept that anything occurs until Fox tells them how it vindicates American values.

  21. Once again the Prof excuses imperialism in action.

    The there are the possible free trade deals the authentic left and protectionist right are warning about.

  22. Dear Professor Cole

    The trouble with all these rumours is that they get picked up by other press and repeated.

    Here is Heffer in the Telegraph repeating everything you have complained of.

    link to

    anger was further stoked by the President’s decision to leave yesterday on a long trip to India and the Far East. Although it is being sold here as some sort of trade mission – though he is likely to find that whatever America might want to sell in that region, the locals can make it just as well and at a small fraction of the cost – his departure is viewed as an escape from the line of fire.

    He is also being heavily criticised for going to a country with a recent history of terrorist outrages, necessitating a security operation that is adding a further large chunk to his country’s national debt. As well as his taking 500 staff, 13 aircraft and four helicopters have already flown in a fleet of cars and communications equipment, and no fewer than 34 US warships are said to be hovering off the coast. Some of his critics here were already drawing comparisons with the court of Louis XVI just before the French Revolution, and this hasn’t helped.

    His Republican opponents are on the march against him. But so are elements within his own party. America’s latest unemployment figures were confirmed yesterday still to be 9.5 per cent, large parts of whole cities are derelict, and average incomes are tumbling. A president elected to give hope to precisely these people has not only failed, but seems to become ever more apart from them. The Democrats are worried.

  23. In 2007, overpaid Blackstone Group head Stephen Schwarzman spent somewhere between $10 and $15 million on his own birthday party. My guess is that Michelle Bachmann — certainly on the shortlist for Stupidest Moron in Congress — would champion billionaire brats blowing millions on such frivolous nonsense.

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