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Calvin Schaible, Published September 11 2011

‘Hawk’s’ talons are dull

I am amused by the Forum Editorial Board. The basis for my amusement is their campaign to promote a narrative of Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., that portrays him as a “deficit hawk” and a “debt expert.”

I had to chuckle at the “prairie rose” they gave Tracy Potter. Potter was given the honor because he confirmed Conrad’s status as a “deficit hawk.” While Potter is certainly entitled to his opinion, does simply saying something make it true? Apparently, with the Forum Editorial Board, Potter has achieved Moses-like status. He came down from the mountain and confirmed for us all Conrad’s status as a “deficit hawk.”

The problem with The Forum narrative is that it is so easily and obviously proved false. All one has to do is look at Conrad’s legislative record. One has to wonder why The Forum is invested in promoting a narrative that is not accurate. I will give the Forum several substantive examples of where Conrad’s record proves he is no “deficit hawk.”

It is matter of historical fact that in the mid-1990s, three senators – Conrad, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Sen. Mark Hatfield, R-Ore. – were given national recognition on the Balanced Budget Amendment. Had one of these three voted for the amendment, it would have gone out to the states for ratification. Just think of how the Balanced Budget Amendment might have been serving us today had we passed it.

Over the years, Conrad has continued to be one of the major foes of the Balanced Budget Amendment. I am sure most North Dakotans believe that a true “deficit hawk” has to be a supporter of the Balanced Budget Amendment. Why has The Forum never given Conrad a “leafy spurge” for his steadfast opposition to the Balanced Budget Amendment?

It is a matter of historical fact that when Conrad voted for Obamacare, he voted for a $2 trillion entitlement over 10 years without identifying revenues to pay for it. In the minds of most North Dakotans, this will not qualify as a “deficit hawk.” Is The Forum OK with voting for entitlements and not identifying the revenues to pay for them?

It is a matter of historical fact that Conrad is embarrassing our state as he serves in his role as Senate budget chairman. He has shown a reckless disregard for our nation’s laws. Each April, the law requires the Senate to propose a budget to Congress so that they can begin budget deliberations. Conrad’s committee has not submitted a budget in more than two years – over 800 days and counting.

In the minds of most North Dakotans, working off a budget and setting priorities is necessary for one to qualify as a “deficit hawk.” For the past two years, Conrad has failed in this regard. Is The Forum OK with Conrad thumbing his nose at our budgetary law? Doesn’t The Forum believe Conrad deserves a “leafy spurge” for the disrespect he has shown for our nation’s laws?

From my point of view, Conrad’s record proves he is no “deficit hawk.” However, I am interested in better understanding the narrative that The Forum Editorial Board apparently wants to advocate.


Schaible is an occasional contributor to The Forum’s commentary/opinion pages.