KING: A new change in tax law offers a benefit to mothers who breast feed and has some conservatives complaining of a new nanny state. Here's Republican Congresswoman, a Tea Party favorite, Michele Bachmann on "The Laura Ingraham Show".UPDATE: From Media Matters on her 1st CNN appearance as an official CNN contributor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I have given birth to five babies and I breast fed every single one of these babies, but to think that government has to go out and buy my breast pump for my babies (INAUDIBLE) you want to talk about the nanny state. I think you just got --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Literally --
BACHMANN: -- new definition of the nanny.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: First lady Michele Obama told a group of reporters last week she wants to aggressively promote breastfeeding as a way to reduce childhood obesity. It's not the first time she's focused on this issue. Here she is talking a few months ago at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation event.
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MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: And because it's important to prevent obesity early, we're also working to promote breast feeding, especially in the black community -- where 40 percent of our babies never get breast fed even in the first weeks of life. And we know that babies that are breastfed are less likely to be obese as children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Smart advocacy or too much lecturing, interference from the White House.
Joining me from St. Louis, radio talk show host, Dana Loesch. She's the editor in chief of the conservative "Big Journalism" blog. And in New York, lactation consultant Leigh Anne O'Connor.
Dana, to you first -- is Michelle Obama trying to create a nanny state in your view?
DANA LOESCH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I kind of have to answer yes and no with this. And I don't think it's necessarily Michelle Obama that's trying to do this. I don't necessarily think it's the first lady, but rather some of the actions that the administration has taken.
Look, I am all for breast feeding. I myself breast my children until they were well passed a year. And I think it's fantastic and advocacy for that. I'm a very vocal support it.
But at the same time, from a conservative perspective, I have to question what the White House is doing, because breast pumps actually fall under medical devices, which as you know, under the health care law, those devices are going to be hit with a massive excise tax. So, don't make something tax deductible that you're taxing, just don't tax it. That's sort of the first criticism I think I have over it.
But the second thing and this I don't think necessarily pertains to the first lady, but the way that the White House is kind of positioning itself towards this -- as far as breast feeding is concerned, I realize that the White House is trying to exert some influence over businesses to offer, to be more breast-feeding friendly -- again, fantastic. But I don't think it is the government's role to direct business in that. Leave that choice up to the individual businesses, to the parents, to the individual, period.
KING: Leigh Anne, what do you think? Should this -- should the first lady be encouraging this? She's not an elected official or government employee per se, but she's the president's wife. When she speaks, one assumes she is speaking on behalf of the president. At Dana noted, there are some other government actions involved as well.
LEIGH ANNE O'CONNOR, LACTACTION CONSULTANT: Well, we know that breast feeding is important, and one of the biggest barriers to continued breast feeding is working. So if we support these women by giving them -- by letting their flexible spending dollars be used for this equipment, we're not paying for breast pumps. What we're doing is giving women -- letting women use their pre-tax dollars to have this equipment cared for and then they can continue breast feeding. And that's what we want.
It would -- the difference is, how much does it cost for these tax breaks versus the $13 billion that it would cost us in health care because women aren't breast feeding?
KING: Let me look -- let me actually lay out for anyone watching you who hasn't heard the change in the tax code. Let's show what it does. This is an IRS announcement from one week ago, "Recognizes breastfeeding supplies as medical expenses worthy of reimbursement through those flexible spending accounts." Some of you probably get through your employer, health saving accounts, you set money aside tax-free and you can use it on health care expenses. It recognizes breastfeeding supplies as a worthy medical expense. It also authorizes breastfeeding supplies to be itemized as a deduction when you deduct your medical expense if you reach the threshold on your taxes.
I want you to listen to Congresswoman Bachmann. She was on "Good Morning America" this morning talking about her take on the change in the tax code.
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REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: My quarrel isn't necessarily with the whole topic. I've given birth to five children myself. I strongly believe in breastfeeding. But I think what this points up again is that the tax code is used by government as social engineering.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: If you follow that argument, Dana, am I fair to say -- if you take away deductions for breastfeeding devices, we should also take them away deductions for home ownership? Because that's, you know, if that's social engineering, it's social engineering, too, isn't it?
LOESCH: Well, you are talking to someone who thinks -- who subscribes to the Jimmy McMillan theory that things are already too high as is. I won't go in the full effect of that. But you get where I'm going with it.
I just -- I look at deduction -- again, breastfeeding is fantastic but the government, it's already kind of making it a little bit difficult for moms anyway with all of the excessive taxation. And we have 19 new taxes with the health care law. These excise taxes -- I think this is going to cost businesses in excess of over $20 billion a year, which is going to skyrocket, not only the cost of these breast pumps which I used when I was a nursing mother -- but also a lot of other related accessories to motherhood.
So, I just -- I think it's kind of a weird way that the administration is going about it. And again, with the businesses -- if businesses want to attract better employees and more employees by offering perks like breastfeeding rooms and pumps and all of that stuff, then if they want to make a smart business move, they should be allowed to make that decision for themselves without necessarily the government kind of exerting influence over that.
KING: How about that argument, Leigh Anne, that this should be the power of the marketplace, that a competitive business wants to hire you away from where you work right now and say, hey, come here, look what I will do to you to make your life better? O'CONNOR: Well, I think it's important that companies do get a tax break for offering breastfeeding rooms and breastfeeding supplies and time off for mothers to express their milk. It makes a huge difference. There's a huge return on investment on creating these opportunities for women and for their families, and you're going to retain employees.
It's -- and businesses don't know this until maybe somebody says, hey, this is -- this is important. This is going to make a difference locally and globally.
KING: Dana Loesch, Leigh Anne O'Connor, appreciate your time on this important debate tonight. We'll see you both at another time.
When we come back --
O'CONNOR: Thank you.
KING: Thank you both.
Recently-minted CNN contributor Dana Loesch claimed that breast pumps will be subject to the "massive excise tax" on medical devices under the health care reform law. In fact, the law exempts medical devices that are "generally purchased by the general public at retail for individual use."
From the 02.17.2011 edition of CNN's John King, USA.