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Rick Olek, Published May 07 2011

Childish, partisan ranting

One of the reasons leaders on both sides of the political aisle have not been able to put together a plan to bring down our nation’s debt is that the issue is fraught with political consequences. There are those who will throw mud at anyone who attempts to fix this critical national issue. James Hanson, and his letter “Conrad is deficit hawk in name only,” is an example of this. This kind of childish behavior helps no one.

It is this bitter, partisan atmosphere in which people seem to forget that we have been here before and succeeded. Remember, we had four years of budget surpluses beginning in 1998 under a Democratic president and a Republican Congress. Democrats and Republicans worked together; we balanced our budget and got our economy back on track. We even started paying down debt. And Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., played a leading role in that process.

I met and talked with President Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in 2008. When he found out I was from North Dakota, he said, “Sen. Conrad is one of the smartest fiscal senators we have in the U.S. Senate.”

Sadly, unwise choices by President George W. Bush turned those record surpluses into record deficits. He pushed through large, unaffordable tax cuts and waged two wars without a plan to pay for them. Continuing these disastrous policies, while our economy collapsed, led to a more than

$1 trillion deficit in 2009. For years, Conrad and leading economists warned that this would happen.

Since the economic downturn, Conrad has worked to enact a series of measures that were necessary to put our economy back on track as soon as possible. They worked. Our economy is in a steady recovery.

Now we must turn our attention to making our economy solid in the long term. Conrad is leading this charge.

Having worked on the budget compromise in the mid-’90s that brought America a surplus, Conrad knows how to achieve this goal. He is working with a bipartisan group of six senators to come up with a comprehensive, balanced, and long-term deficit- and debt-reduction plan. The Group of Six, as they are known, are aware that there will be opposition from those who benefit from the status quo or who seek to gain political advantage while our nation suffers. They will not succeed in distracting them from their goal.

Conrad fought for the creation of a national fiscal commission to tackle our country’s long-term debt crisis and served on it. He is recognized by budget experts and members of both parties as a leader on this issue. He has been honored by his peers and leading economists. It is they who call him a “deficit hawk.”

The fact is, Conrad has spent his entire career in public service fighting deficits and warning of the danger of excessive government debt. I am confident that he will not allow name-calling to distract him from securing our nation’s economic future.