AMES, Iowa — Casting the Wall Street protestors as misguided, Republican presidential contender Michele Bachmann on Thursday said their frustrations should instead be directed at Washington politicians who protect their allies and put unfriendly companies out of business.
Bachmann said politicians have far too much power and unfairly pick winners and losers. The Minnesota congresswoman, trying to recapture her once surging poll numbers, said she has watched lawmakers enact laws that intentionally shut businesses down.
"For your sake and for your future, America — and Occupy Wall Street in particular — needs to wake up and stop blaming the free market, stop blaming capitalism, stop blaming job creators for the failures created by selfish politicians," Bachmann told students at Iowa State University. "The problem is politicians who wink at their political donors and through the force of law put their competitors out of business."
Bachmann used her appearance in Ames to outline an economic proposal that would require all Americans to pay taxes. The Tax Policy Center estimates that some 46 percent of households this year will not pay federal income taxes.
"They need to be invested in the country," she said. "Even if they can only afford $10, they need to pay something."
Her position was a direct challenge to rivals Rick Perry and Herman Cain, who are advocating separate flat tax plans. Cain is also promoting for a national sales tax as part of his 9-9-9 plan.
Bachmann said she would not propose an absolute flat tax, but told reporters after that she would have at most three tax brackets, which she declined define.
Polls show Bachmann trailing behind other contenders in Iowa, which holds the first presidential caucuses in January. She won an early test vote in Ames in August. But her standing slipped as the GOP electorate rallied first around Perry, who had several weak debate performances, and then Cain, who has spent the last four days trying to redirect media attention away from allegations of sexual harassment filed by at least two women during his tenure at the National Restaurant Association.
With jobs and the economy as the top issues on voters' minds, Bachmann hopes her tough talk will help her regain her footing in a state that her advisers see as a linchpin in their strategy.