Ben Cardin v. Dan Bongino: If our democracy were a business…

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Turns out, you don’t always get what you pay for.

Hi. A couple of weeks ago, I published a piece entitled, “Ben Cardin v. Dan Bongino: What exactly has Senator Cardin been doing all this time?” It talked about how ineffective, how inconsequential a legislator Senator Ben Cardin has been during his first term in the Senate.

Since then, I’ve been thinking. Maybe I’ve been unfair to the Senator. No kidding. I’m not being sarcastic. I don’t ever want to misrepresent anything or anyone just for the ratings, in a manner of speaking. According to, only about 5% of the hard-to-believe 10,000 bills (including resolutions) that are in front of Congress at a given time will ever become law. Thank goodness. As for how many of the other 95% should never have been introduced in the first place? Just because you have the power to make law doesn’t mean you have to, or that every issue or cause, regardless of its priority, deserves one.

As I was saying, I’ve been thinking that maybe I’ve been overly critical of Senator Cardin by suggesting that he’s been wasting his time and our money working on the relatively unimportant when there are hugely more critical economic, fiscal and social issues that need his attention on an emergency basis. And so, to be fair, I went back to the data. I expanded my list of his legislation to include bills Senator Cardin introduced or cosponsored, and then I went through all 140 of them, one title at a time. It is, after all, not so much a question about how many bills he touched, but the importance of the ones he made happen, that were eventually signed into law by the President.

Several hours later, I had produced a 3 page table listing the individual pieces of legislation Senator Cardin either introduced or cosponsored, 140 of them in descending chronological order for all 3 Congresses he’s been in office. And a summary table. Please use the links below to take a look for yourselves. I mean it. Please take a look. I don’t want you to think I’m making this stuff up or exaggerating. Not in the least, but you should check for yourself. You can print the PDFs if you like.

Cardin Legislation – Summary Stats 051812

Cardin Legislation – Individual Items 051912

It’s actually worse than I thought. It’s not that Senator Cardin’s legislative skills are questionable. Only 3 of the 108 bills, only 2 of 32 resolutions, were ever enacted. That’s just about on a par with the 5% success rate that is typical of Congress. Nor is it that only some of the bills he originates or cosponsors, even if they ever became law, are about important matters that somebody, not necessarily Congress, but somebody needs to address. What’s troublesome is the complete absence of anything really significant in Senator Cardin’s legislative agenda. What bothers me is how far off point he is. Assuming he reads or watches the news, that he actually listens to his constituents, how can anyone in his position be so clueless?

Maybe, instead of making minor adjustments to an already overly complex tax law, Senator Cardin’s time would be better spent working to replace our tax code with a cleaner, simpler, more intelligent system that actually works.

Maybe, instead of wasting the Senate’s time with politically-motivated resolutions congratulating local college sports teams, his time and our money would be better directed to making sure those students have jobs when they graduate.

Maybe, instead of proposing politically motivated resolutions aimed at patronizing black voters, we’d all be better served if Senator Cardin spent his time and our money motivating his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reduce minority unemployment. However thoughtful and well-deserved, Maryland voters know full well you can’t take care of your family with resolutions.

Baltimore City has an unemployment rate of 10%, more than 3 points higher than Maryland’s 6.8% overall rate in March, the most recent month for which Baltimore data is available. Baltimore is a great city that deserves all the help it can get from a U.S. Senator that’s paying attention. Does Senator Cardin really believe that Maryland’s black voters, the vast majority of which are registered Democrats, are going to vote for him just because he’s a Democrat or because he writes an occasional resolution, however respectful of Black History? Does he really think Maryland’s black and other voters, whatever their party affiliation, don’t know the difference between the politics of patronizing legislation and real progress?

Maybe, instead of dancing around our healthcare issues with patchwork legislation, he could step back, think about it, and consider the unspeakable, a complete replacement of the Obama health insurance plan with one that will actually work and that we can better afford.

Maybe, I wouldn’t be so critical of Senator Cardin’s efforts if I could see even a single, meaningful piece of legislation which would reduce our deficit spending, balance our federal budget and, here’s an idea, actually begin to retire our national debt. Does he not know we have serious fiscal management issues that we are in dire need of resolving?

I could go on, but you get the point. And please don’t talk to me about Senator Cardin’s committee assignments, and how busy he must be, limiting the scope of what he can do. We’re in way too much trouble to have our legislators rendered useless by administrative procedures.

A friend of mine commented, when we were discussing the list of Senator Cardin’s legislation, that this is just the way business is done in Washington, that wasting time, spinning wheels, neglecting the critical in favor of whatever gets you re-elected, this is business as usual in our Congress. “It’s not his fault. It’s just the way things are.” Yeah, well, I disagree. I think excuses are everywhere and easier to find than actually stepping up and getting the job done.

We shouldn’t be paying Ben Cardin $1,044,000 plus benefits over 6 years to be a journeyman Senator who never addresses a single issue of major importance. We need to see leadership, creativity and initiative, or we need someone else who will justify the mandate we give him.

To be clear, this is not about Senator Cardin’s character, his intelligence or his commitment to Maryland and our country. So far as I can tell, he’s a good man who deserves our respect and who, I believe, is doing his best. He just isn’t the right man for the job or the times.

Go through the list of bills and resolutions, and the summary statistics. Do it. Tell me, with all the really big problems we have on our national plate, that Senator Cardin’s legislative record hasn’t been a huge waste of time. Tell me, honestly, that you think he deserves to be re-elected for another 6 years. Ask yourself, is Senator Cardin the model for the productive, problem-solving Congress our country needs? If our democracy were a business and Congress our management team, at the stockholders’ meeting, would you affirm your approval for the job they’ve all been doing, Senator Cardin in particular, by voting to leave them in charge?

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