Ben Cardin v. Dan Bongino: All hat. No cattle.

…Including a challenge to Republican Dan Bongino.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Today, as you can see from the header, is June 19. The date is important because websites change from time to time. The first position statement we’re going to discuss is taken, verbatim, from Senator Cardin’s Senate website, It’s the “Economy & Jobs” statement from the “Issues” tab of his U.S. Senate website. We’ll go through this text first, and then the “Economy” statement from the campaign’s website,

Bringing the economy back is, hands down, the most important task our government needs to accomplish. There are other very important issues, of course, but putting the unemployed back to work, helping the under-employed realize the full potential of their skills and experience, and resolving related fiscal issues are paramount. With that in mind, let’s begin by seeing what the Senator has to say on this most important of all problems. Here goes. The italics are mine and are used to identify the Senator’s language, followed by my comments.

Our economy is finally beginning to show some positive signs following the worst recession since the Great Depression, but too many Marylanders and families across our country are still hurting, and too many people are still searching for jobs.

Introductory sentence. No substantive content.

As a member of the Senate Finance Committee and Budget Committee in the 112th Congress, I am committed to developing and overseeing policies that will help grow our economy and create job opportunities for people in Maryland and all across the country.

He’s “committed.” Good to know.

It is crucial that we invest in core programs that will restore America’s competitive edge globally and help create jobs today and into the future.

It’s “crucial.” Couldn’t agree more.

Maryland is among the nation’s leaders in innovative technologies like alternative energy, biotech, health information systems and cybersecurity, all of which are critical to our economic development.

I think this text is supposed to make us feel good, but it doesn’t.

As a member of the Senate Small Business Committee, I also recognize that small businesses are at the heart of our nation’s economy and job creation.

I think most Marylanders understand the importance of small business, even though none of us are members of the Senate Small Business Committee.

I will continue to work to ensure Maryland’s small businesses have access to credit and other tools essential for their success.

He says, “..will continue to ensure”? Voters need to ask themselves, what, specifically has Senator Cardin done to accomplish this loosely defined objective? What, precisely, does he intend to do?

Key Facts

• The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has brought over $6 billion in funding and more than 7,500 jobs to Maryland since it was enacted in 2009.

• The Department of Defense’s Base Realignment and Closure program (BRAC) will create more than 20,000 new jobs in Maryland in 2011 and 60,000 new jobs in the state by 2015.

• Ben co-authored a provision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill that increases the FDIC-insured deposit limit from $100,000 to $250,000, which helps ensure safe and secure depositories for small businesses and individuals alike.

Other than voting for the first two bulleted items, neither of which were his ideas, what has Senator Cardin done, for the $174,000 he’s paid every year, to generate jobs in Maryland or anywhere else for that matter? (Marylanders do, of course, benefit from improved economic conditions in other states to which the Maryland economy is linked.) The third bullet has nothing to do with jobs.

By the way, notice the dates in the second bullet? “..will create more than 20,000 new jobs in Maryland in 2011.” Ben, it’s 2012. You need to hire someone to keep your website up to date. That will create one new job immediately. And then, “..60,000 new jobs .. by 2015,” over the next three years. You’re making up numbers, talking about them as if their sure things. These are estimates, and the farther into the future, the less reliable they are. Does anybody ever go back and check whether or not these estimates came true? Of course not.

What is it with our elected officials, the President being the worst offender, pumping up their estimates of this or that by looking farther and father into the future? Telling us they’re saving us a trillion dollars over the next 10 years, for example, which is impressive, sure, but based on impossible projections and with possibly insignificant impact on a current, annual basis which is where it counts. How easily duped do our elected officials think we are? Tell us, honestly, what you think a given bill hopes to accomplish, but don’t just throw big numbers at us.

How does Congress’s agreement to raise the debt ceiling protect domestic priorities and our bedrock social safety net programs?

The agreement provides for nearly $1 trillion in deficit reduction during the next 10 years. But importantly, it protects domestic priorities by allowing more than $40 billion in discretionary domestic spending next year than the Republican budget that passed the House. The agreement also calls for at least an additional $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction to be agreed to later this year. The failure to enact these additional reductions would trigger across-the-board cuts. The package balances these cuts equally between defense and domestic programs, and – a very important point – it protects Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. For a detailed breakdown of the agreement, read the DEBT CEILING AGREEMENT SUMMARY.

Speak of the Devil, there’s one of those $1 trillion estimates over 10 years I was just talking about. Raising the debt ceiling is old news, having been passed by the Senate on August 2, 2011. Ben needs to keep up.

How do we balance the budget without endangering the economic recovery?

I have spoken on the Senate floor to outline what I believe it will take to get control of our deficit while also ensuring our economic recovery and future prosperity. We did this before in the 1990’s under President Clinton and we can do it again, but we must face facts: a credible budget plan involves cuts to military and domestic spending, control of entitlement spending and reform of our tax code. Cuts to domestic spending alone – education, job training, and public transportation, among others – will threaten our recovery and cannot balance the budget. In dealing with our budget deficit, any action we take must continue to move our economy forward — not add to our problems and reduce chances of an economic recovery.

He’s “spoken on the Senate floor.” Okay, what did that speech accomplish? In fact, what exactly does this statement mean? On one hand he says we’re going to have to cut military and domestic spending and control entitlement spending – all of which, Senator Cardin, have significant implications for domestic spending. And then, in the same paragraph, he cautions us that cutting domestic spending can “threaten our recovery.” So, what exactly are you recommending we do?

Alright, no real substance so far. Let’s see if Senator Cardin does better on his campaign website. Here, on the subject of the “Economy,” is the totality of what he has to say.

My highest priority is to bring more jobs to Maryland and maintain the jobs that we have. Our fragile economy is starting to grow, but there are too many Marylanders still struggling through no fault of their own. I regularly work around the partisan gridlock to support initiatives that will help jumpstart our economy. I agree with President Obama that our economy must be fair and work for everyone. I believe that we can get more Americans working and grow our middle class again by investing in America. The federal government has a responsibility to invest in programs that help boost job creation while protecting our most vulnerable citizens. Working Americans rely less on government services, buy more – which helps the economy – and pay taxes, lowering the financial burden for all.

The borrow the Texas expression, “All hat. No cattle.” We pay Senator Cardin $174,000 a year, plus benefits, $1,044,000 over his six year term. We give him staff, extraordinary other recourses and authority, and this is all he has to say about jobs and the economy? And on this basis, he expects us to re-elect him?

Does Senator Cardin believe that Marylander’s are incapable of understanding specifics? That Maryland voters are impressed by superficial rhetoric and generalized promises? Or maybe it’s not what the Senator thinks about the intellectual capabilities of Maryland voters. Maybe it’s just the best he can do. The question to Maryland voters is, is it enough to justify re-electing him, paying him another $1,044,000, plus benefits, over the next six years?

Someone who visits the Next Contestant blog made the observation that, however weak a Senator Ben Cardin has been, he’s probably a better bet than an inexperienced alternative. It’s fair question, although it is Next Contestant’s position that, as a matter of principle, we need to replace non-performing incumbents with new faces who have a fresh mandate to take with them to Washington. If not, if we don’t replace non-performing incumbents with competent alternatives, it’s tantamount to rewarding the incumbents, to telling them, “Good job!” even though it wasn’t. In any event, we tried leaving incumbents in office, the “Default Vote” as I like to think of it, and you can see where that’s gotten us. You should almost never leave a non-performing incumbent in office just because he or she’s the incumbent – and, as the incumbent, has been able to accumulate campaign resources that dwarf his opponent’s.

In any case, as I said, it’s a fair question. Okay, Dan Bongino, Republican challenger, let’s see what you have to say for yourself. In, let’s say, 1,000 words or less, tell us, as specifically as you can in a brief statement, what you would do to improve the pace of economic recovery and, in particular, to reduce the unemployment rate. Think of it as a prelude for your debates against Senator Cardin. What specifically would you do? Don’t tell us how committed you are to reducing unemployment, or how important it is that we accomplish that objective. You’re a good man. We’ll concede all that.

Tell us, Mr. Bongino, exactly what you would do. In your favor, Senator Cardin has set the bar low. You don’t have to be an Olympic high jumper to clear it. As clearly, succinctly and, most importantly, as specifically as possible, prove to my skeptical friends that you offer a reasonable, quite probably superior alternative for whom they can vote instead of re-electing Senator Cardin.

-Next Contestant

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