Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sen. Jon Tester promises to push for balanced budget -- after the election (when he has more flexibility?)

Sen. Jon Tester made a bit of a splash with the help of an unsurprisingly uncritical print media, saying that his "biggest priority after re-election would be to push a bipartisan balanced budget solution that has so far languished in Congress."

Just out of curiosity, I did a search of the archives of the Billings Gazette from January 1, 2007 (around the time Tester took office) until January 1, 2011 (when the Montana Democratic playbook dictates that their U.S. Senate candidates are to be transformed into sounding like conservative Republicans for the final two years of their term.) The search was for "Jon Tester balanced budget."

I did not find a single news report that detailed Sen. Tester's labors to balance the federal budget. Given that Sen. Tester votes with President Obama close to 100% of the time and given that President Obama has broken the bank with unprecedented increases of debt, this was hardly surprising. Something may have slipped past me, but one would expect that Sen. Tester's "biggest priority" would have shown up many times during those first four glorious years after taking office -- and surely from 2008 - 2010 when Democrats controlled all branches of the federal government?

It is important to note that the words "balanced budget" are today code words for "tax increases" in the Democratic lexicon, so even Sen. Tester's election year (re)conversion to the cause of fiscal austerity should be taken with a grain of salt.

The political point to note is that for years, it was only Republicans who (officially, anyway) called for a balanced federal budget -- it was Democrats who openly advocated for Keynesian deficit spending (with a devilish twist -- unlike Keynes, they have advocated for just as much deficit spending in good economic times as in bad.)

So from a political point of view, calling for a balanced budget makes a Democrat sound a bit like, well, a Republican -- especially if you don't read the find print. And sounding like a Republican in the year or two before an election is precisely what Democrats running for the U.S. Senate in Montana specialize in.

We'll see if Montana voters buy into Sen. Tester's game this election. They've bought into it from Sen. Baucus for decades, so Sen. Tester is hardly foolish to give it a whirl.

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