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This should go without saying — which means, of course, that it has to be said — but any presidential candidate whose position is flat-out opposition to raising the debt ceiling under any circumstances should be immediately asked:

So which 40% of the federal government do you plan to permanently cut starting on August 2nd?

Demagogues like Michele Bachmann are allowed to earn swooning cheers from tea party crowds with cross-of-gold-like proclamations that “I. Will. Not. Vote. To. Increase. The. Debt. Ceiling.” — but are then allowed to avoid answering the obvious followup question. Keep in mind: Bachmann’s position isn’t that she wants a balanced budget in 2020, or 2015, or even next year. She wants one starting in two weeks. That means big cuts in at least one of three areas: Social Security, Medicare, and the Pentagon. If she plans to keep any of the rest of the government around, it means even bigger cuts in those three areas.

For some reason, the press has long been willing to give a pass to conservative crazies because, hey, that’s just how they are. (In Bachmann’s case, it also helps to have a flying wedge of bouncers to keep pesky reporters at bay.) Still, she has to answer questions eventually. And the first and only question she should be asked, over and over and over again, is: Which 40% of the federal government do you plan to permanently cut starting on August 2nd?

She’ll never reply, of course, since her adoring crowds might be slightly less adoring if she was willing to tell them the truth about what her priorities are. But it would still be nice to see professional reporters act like profesisonal reporters and refuse to stop asking until she gives a real answer.

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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