Kent Conrad Was The Deficit Hawk Who Loved To Spend


With Senator Kent Conrad’s career finally (and thankfully, for the good of the nation) in the books the North Dakota media, always deferential to Conrad and his “Team North Dakota” cohorts, is busy eulogizing his career.

Conrad will be heralded as independent minded, even though he obeyed partisan orders when told, as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, to stop budgeting for three years. He’ll be given glowing praise as an influential leader on fiscal issues, even though by his own admission he’s ending his career “not in the room” for some of the most important fiscal negotiations of his career. He will garner applause as a warrior for North Dakota, even though his citizenship in the state stopped being anything more than a paperwork fiction years ago.

And, of course, his acceptance of “VIP loan” discounts from one of the worst subprime lending offenders in the country in exchange for ushering through bailouts at the pinnacle of the housing bubble will be carefully whitewashed.

These facts don’t fit Kent Conrad’s narrative as his friends in the state media like to tell it. Were the state’s newspapers and television stations as influential as they once were Conrad would probably be celebrating re-election right now instead of doddering into retirement, disgraced and ineffective.

None of this would be particularly noteworthy, except this excerpt from the Bismarck Tribune’s version of the Great Kent Conrad SlobberfestTM caught my eye given the magnitude of the cognitive dissonance on display:

His conservative detractors took umbrage when Conrad was labeled a “deficit hawk.” They could not make the connection between the senator’s conservative economic rhetoric and his votes for spending programs authored by Democrats.

Conrad saw the need to be fiscally responsible, but he also saw the need for social responsibility, just as he saw the need for a federal safety net for farmers at the same time he worked to create a long-term plan for reducing the federal debt.

Just so we’re clear, it was ok for Conrad to be a total hypocrite and partisan hack on the whole “deficit hawk” think – the label that best describes how Conrad has tried to portray his career – because that was about “social responsibility.”

So Conrad was a “deficit hawk.” Until some new spending program came along that rang the right “social responsibility” bells (more like “get Kent re-elected” bells), and then fiscal discipline took a back seat.

That sounds like a succinct summary of everything that’s wrong with this nation’s finances. Maybe one day we’ll wake up and realize that this parochial attitude, this “let’s cut everyone else’s spending but not ours” position, is how a country gets $16.5 trillion in debt.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • The Whistler

    Conrad went to Washington to fix the deficit. What he did was expand it many fold.

    • yy4u2

      As you know, when a lefty wants to fix something, they want more money and/or more time.

    • noblindersonme

      Yeah CONRAD alone was responsible ! Gawd what idiocy! 99 other senators went there saying much the same things and almost all of them bragged about bringing home the bacon for their constituency and their constituents LOVED them for it!!! Mitch McConnel for one was always at the top of senators who brought home the pork for his state! Republican congressmen after republican congressmen took that course , even hot breath Michelle Bachman bragged about it when she campaigned.

      Are you really suggesting the deficit would not have expanded many fold had Conrad NOT been there! What the hell is wrong with you whistler!

      It is one thing to accuse Conrad of being culpable in this deficit crisis , but it’s quite another to be blind to all the other folks involved including the Amercian citizen who always had their hands out , and I am certain that includes You too!

      ( remember I debated you on the worthiness of the 2 wars we just fought and you could not of defended them more, which is fine but it still came with a price tag , a 1 trillion $ price tag , a debt you have not been willing to come to grips with! So you are just as responsible for the expansion of that debt as any one else ! freedom aint free! ) (also Conrad went to congress a couple of decades ago , in that meantime guys like ultra conservative Tom Delay came and went and they had more influence than Conrad did and they spent like drunken sailors , But Oh! Conrad was only responsible for the many fold expansion of debt!!!!)

  • Taco

    As I said of Conrad when I was stationed at Minot AFB, we were keeping ND “safe from democracy.”

  • nimrod

    Conrad and Dorgan were the deciding votes on the balanced budget amendment in the 90’s, thus they are solely responsible for all deficits since. Back then they promised the people the supported a balanced budget amendment, but since the vote was close they voted against it, and our citizens were stupid enough to keep voting them back in, as well as replacing him with someone just as bad this year.

  • Thresherman

    Interesting that they could cite examples of spending he approved but did not cite any examples of cuts that he voted for. I doubt that he voted for any that were not part of the so-called Peace Dividend or were cuts in military outside of that which affected ND military bases.

  • kevindf

    “Had he run this year, we suspect he would have won easily again.” Who do these clowns think they are fooling?