By Dustin Hurst | Watchdog.org
HELENA – U.S. Sen. Jon Tester might well have raised the ire of his former self, an aggressive candidate for public office who, in 2006, warned Montana Democrats about the dangers of an increasing national debt.
In 2006, Tester, then a Democrat who had served several years in the Montana Senate, had some rather damning words for Republicans who, he said, doubled the national debt under President George W. Bush.
“We have to get our arms around the fiscal condition of this country,” Tester said to a group of Democrats gathered in Bozeman in August 2006.
“Doubling the national debt in the last five years is not sustainable if you’re in business, it’s not sustainable if you’re a family, it’s not sustainable if you’re in any sector of government.”
Problem is, that’s almost exactly what’s happened since Tester took office in January 2007.
In 2006, Congress raised the debt ceiling to $9 trillion. At that point, the debt rested just above $8 trillion. Just days before Tester took the oath of office in 2007, the debt registered $8.68 trillion.
Nearly six years later, the nation’s credit card balance continues its growth mostly unchecked.
USdebtclock.org shows a national debt at a staggering $16.1 trillion, nearly double the amount when Tester uttered his dire warning about the nation’s fiscal problems.
Of course, Tester isn’t solely to blame for almost $8 trillion in new debt since 2006 — that would be an entirely foolish claim.
Instead, Republicans and Democrats share responsibility for the country’s debt load, a phenomenon exemplified perfectly right here in Montana politics.
While Tester and Republican challenger Denny Rehberg, Montanan’s lone congressman since 2001, continually accuse each other as the sole debt driver, both have supported increases to the ceiling in the past.
From 2001 until Democrats swept the U.S. House and Senate in 2007, Rehberg voted four times to increase the debt load, adding more than $3 trillion to the cap.
After Tester took office, he supported seven debt-cap increases, adding $7.4 trillion to the limit.
Yet, both men probably feel justified in their votes based on the goodies it bought the American people.
Rehberg’s debt-financed spending included two wars, an increase in the Medicare prescription drug coverage for seniors and the original stimulus package.
Additionally, spending on homeland security and defense-related expenses exploded after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.
Tester took part in binges to finance President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, ever-increasing spending for social-welfare programs and the 2010 national health-reform law.
In the 2006 video, Tester suggested finding new ways to deploy troops in Iraq and Afghanistan without turning “the Middle East upside down” as a means of spending cuts.
“That has to be done if we are going to get control of our fiscal problems in this country,” Tester told Democratic supporters gathered for the speech.
Aaron Murphy, Tester’s communication director, did not respond to a request for comment on this issue.
Here’s the video clip of Tester discussing the debt in August 2006:
Contact Dustin Hurst at Dustin@Watchdog.org, or via Twitter using the @DustinHurst handle.