Dan Burton: “Destroyed” by Debt

In a breathless post on his campaign blog, Dan Burton writes that “[w]e are in a situation right now to destroy the United States of America”. Is it terrorism, of the domestic or international variety? Is it closing Guantanamo, or trying terror suspects? Is it abortion? Stem cells?

No, it’s the national debt:

We are at a turning point in the United States history.We have the chance to turn towards the path to success or the road to failure. The United States forthcoming decisions regarding the recession will determine our future as a country. At this time, the American debt affects you as an individual, your family, your family yet-to-come, your town, your city, your state, and your nation.

I think his message is a little undercut by the President re-submitting PAYGO rules to the House, and singling out Hoosier Democrat Baron Hill for his consistent work on the subject.

Burton, however, hasn’t exactly been a consistent crusader against deficits and the national debt. After seeing his blog post, I ran a few LexisNexis searches to see what warnings Rep. Burton had to offer about debts & deficits while Bush was President. I was genuinely surprised that I found nothing before the bailout packages last October. That’s right, nothing – on PR Newswire, CQ Press Releases, the news wires, the major papers, and even conservative rags like the NY Post and Washington Times. I did find a few choice tidbits, though, about Burtons “evolving” attitude toward deficits and the national debt:

  • In 2004, Burton mocked Democrats who were pushing for fiscal responsibility in the face of Bush’s $388 Billion spending bill. “There’s nothing like a reformed lady of the evening,” Burton said. [1] This bill was possible only because…
  • Also in 2004, Burton – along with all of his Hoosier GOP colleagues – voted to increase the federal debt limit at Bush’s urging. (Hoosier Democrats, including Pete Visclosky, Baron Hill, and the late Julia Carson, all voted against the bill.) [2] In fact, during the first four years of the Bush administration – and on Burton’s watch – the federal borrowing limit was increased by $2.23 Trillion. As the AP pointed out, that’s “more than all the debt the country accumulated from its founding through 1986.” [1]
  • In 2003, Burton supported Bush’s $674 Billion stimulus bill, saying simply, “I support it>” Contrast that with Baron Hill’s statement that “The president’s budget, expected next month, must show how his stimulus plan fits within a long-term budget framework that does not plunge our nation deeper into debt.” [3]

I also tried browsing old press releases and floor statements from Congressman Burton’s official website – but these only start in November 2005, and aren’t easy to navigate. Needless to say, I found little evidence of any zeal for reducing the debt or controlling deficits during the Bush administration.

Does Dan Burton bear all the responsibility for our national debt? Of course not. But his shrill warning cries of danger sound a little hollow once you look at his record.

(1) Alan Fram, “Leaders hope to push $388 billion spending bill through Congress”. Associated Press, November 19, 2004.

(2) “Hoosiers split along party lines in vote to increase debt limit”. AP State & Local Wire, November 19, 2004.

(3) Maureen Groppe, “Indiana delegation reacts to Bush’s proposed stimulus package”. Gannett News Service, January 7, 2003.