Updated with Kirk comment
WASHINGTON — Illinois Republican Mark Kirk is a fiscal hawk, warning about U.S. debt while serving in the House, taking his crusade to the Senate, but in a new book, former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Kirk went too far when he told Chinese officials not to buy U.S. debt — fears that were “delusional” and “undermining American interests on foreign soil.”
Geithner, in his book, “Stress Test,” released Monday, writes, “I remember on my first trip to Beijing as secretary, an embassy official called to tell me that Mark Kirk of Illinois, one of the few nominally moderate Republicans left in Congress [then in House; elected Senator in 2010], had just held an unusual meeting with Chinese officials. Kirk had advised them not to buy Treasurys or other U.S. government debt, warning them that our spending was driving us toward default, and that the Fed was creating hyperinflation.
“I couldn’t believe it. Not only were those fears delusional, but he was undermining American interests on foreign soil. I called him on his way out of China to explain that there was this noble tradition in politics that you don’t criticize the United States while you’re abroad – and you definitely shouldn’t say we’re going to default on our debts. But partisan politics no longer seemed to stop at the water’s edge.”
“Since traveling to China in 2009, our nation’s debt has grown from $11.9 trillion to $17.5 trillion,” said a Kirk spokesperson. “What is fact, and not delusional, is that our spending habit cripples our economic recovery and is undeniably unsustainable.”
The spokesperson did not dispute Geithner’s account of the exchange.
Reports members must file to disclose information about privately funded trips shows that then Rep. Kirk and a staffer, Richard Goldberg, were on China travel in May 25-June 1, 2009, in a tour sponsored by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. The puropose was to attend “meetings focused on strengthening U.S.-China relations.” The trip was valued at $8,208.92 for Goldberg and $9,139.30 for Kirk.
Hat tip to Mike Allen in his Politico Playbook for the excerpt.
FLASHBACK: During the 2010 Senate race, where then Rep. Kirk ran against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, Kirk rallied against the mounting debt in an Oct. 10, 2010 debate on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Kirk talked about “a tremendous amount of debt. I’ve got a chart here that shows our debt to GDP ratio. And while we did run deficits in the past, we now number our debt in trillions rather than in billions. And I think that represents a long-term danger, especially to the — the American dream.
“Every American born today owes $43,000 to the federal government the day she or he is born. And we are transferring a tremendous amount of debt to the new generation. Much of it owed to overseas creditors, who expect to be repaid by our children with interest.”