Government first, business second?

Candidate Bongino says a responsible federal budget must precede further spending

August 27, 2012

Sen. Ben Cardin and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake recently wrote an opinion piece in these pages regarding Baltimore's failing infrastructure. As Senator Cardin's opponent in the November election, I wanted to take this opportunity to address the real problem facing our state and federal infrastructure.

Both at the national level and within the state of Maryland, we are struggling to close massive structural deficits due to years of budget mismanagement and inefficient government spending. Every increase in our taxes emanating from both the state and federal level has been preceded by a statement resembling, "If you agree to give us more of your money, then 'this' will happen". Yet the problem is the "this" never happens. Whether it was the promise, pursuant to the federal stimulus, to lower our national unemployment rate or to close our state's persistent structural deficit pursuant to the state sales tax increase, we have yet to see the "this." We must ask ourselves, do outcomes matter or are intentions enough?

I make these points because Mr. Cardin ends his piece with a call to action, stating, "The time to invest in our water infrastructure is now." This is political newspeak for "We want more of your money to produce 'this' because we can't figure out how to efficiently spend what we currently take." In addition, I fundamentally disagree that the time is "now" to invest. The time to invest in our water infrastructure, along with our transportation infrastructure, education infrastructure, and civil service infrastructure is yesterday and today. Numerous opportunities have been missed and will continue to be missed due to a blind reliance by Mr. Cardin on a failed "government first, business and jobs second" economic ideology. Although Mr. Cardin addresses the very real problem of infrastructure maintenance and improvement, he fails to address the core problem as he continues to whistle past the graveyard.

The failed ideology I refer to is currently playing out in live time in the state of California, a mecca for tax and spend economics. It was recently reported that California's elected officials were extremely disappointed to watch the value of Facebook's stock plunge. In a report released by state officials, they stated, if "the lower share prices persist through November and December, hundreds of millions of dollars of income-tax revenue assumed in the state budget plan are at risk." By their own admission, California's government had already "assumed" a surge in the stock price and had budgeted in the anticipated tax revenues from the stock appreciation. Why do I write to Marylanders about this? Because it speaks to the failure of the "government first, business and jobs second" ideology, which is being sold as an economic savior for not only our country's infrastructure but for our economy as a whole. Private business is viewed not as the epicenter of our country's economy but as an appendage used to fund inefficient, unaccountable spending binges.

If Mr. Cardin would focus his energy on voting on a responsible federal budget, along with pro-growth tax, energy and education policies, rather than a "government first, business and jobs second" approach, the government coffers would be flush with tax revenue from a growing economy, and these projects would be easily funded on an ongoing basis. Instead, we are constantly playing "catch up" because every dollar the federal and state government take in burns a hole in their pockets. The Facebook example above should be a harbinger of things to come. If we continue to demonize our private sector, add layers of instability through uncertain tax and regulatory policy, ignore our national energy needs, and let our struggling schools drown in an ocean of special interests, then our water infrastructure will be the least of our problems as trillions of dollars in "assumed" tax dollars from thousands of businesses such as Facebook evaporate.

Dan Bongino

The writer, a Republican, is the 2012 nominee for United States Senate from Maryland. His website is

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