Burns-Tester Debate in Hamilton, Part 2

Burns on the Federal Debt

Burns says: “It’s of a concern, but you grow out of it…I think  when this budget came in this time, they said it was going to come in $500 billion in the deficit, but it is going to be less than $300 billion because the economy continues to grow.”

  • Just as in the last debate, Senator Burns is being dishonest about the debt and deficit.
  • The Bush Administration has repeatedly overstated the estimated deficit, to give the appearance of making progress on deficit reduction
  • Calling a deficit of$300 billionn a victory ignores that it will “cause the debt to grow faster than the economy; it will cause the debt-to-GDP ratio to rise this year. When debt rises faster than the economy, it becomes a growing burden — future taxpayers will have to devote more of their taxes to paying off debt, or alternatively to paying interest on the debt. Put simply, a rising debt-to-GDP ratio means that the nation is increasing the financial burden on future generations, while a falling debt-to-GDP ratio means that the nation is reducing the burden on future generations. The debt cannot grow faster than the economy forever without eventually causing bankruptcy.”
  • 2003-2007 will be thefive largest deficitss in the history of the United States.

Burns on Immigration/the Marianas

Burns, in response to Jon Tester’s claim that Burns voted to loosen immigration standards for the Marianas, said, “Information only. We do not own the Marianas. We’re a protectorate…I have no response to it.” Of course, he doesn’t have a response to it–there is no possible way to justify endangering American secutrity for a few campaign donation dollars.

  • The Billings Gazette says: “The 2001 bill dealt with labor and immigration controls in the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands, a group of 14 islands between Hawaii and the Philippines controlled by the United States…the U.S. Senate took up a bill that would have broadened federal oversight of immigration and labor rules on the islands.
  • This report in the IR explains the Justice Department report “Nonexistent federal controls over immigration on the U.S. territory of the Northern Marianas Islands has created fertile ground for “transnational gangs,” drug smuggling and potential terrorism, a newly released U.S. Justice Department reports shows…It says the most common criminal activities on the islands as public corruption, the sale of methamphetamine and immigration crimes. The report also says that transnational gangs are present on the island.
    The report further describes the islands and Guam, another U.S. territory in Pacific, as offering “a target-rich environment for terrorist activity.”

Burns on No Child Left Behind

Burns says: “Sure, there’s probably some areas where it doesn’t fit Montana, but for the most part, the state of Montana was a little slow to really devise their (emphasis mine) plans to take advantage of No Child Left Behind… it gives schools and states choices on how best to measure the responsibility and the accountability of our education system…and we could devise any plan in any state.”

  • This rambling incoherent answer was perhaps the most egregiously dishonest moment of the debate. It doesn’t even make sense. If after NCLB, states and schools could develop any plan they wanted, what couldn’t they do before?
  • The law is unrealistic, creates unfunded mandates, and is impossible for rural states to meet.
  • The law provides no answers for the difficulty faced by Montana schools in terms of recruiting qualified teachers, just punishment.
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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • I’ve read really terrible NCLB reviews from many different states. I don’t think that anybody thinks that it is a good thing in practice. teaching to the test is less useful than training chickens to do tricks.

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