Benjamin L. Cardin: Civility, cooperation must be priorities -- Gazette.Net


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The elections are now over and it is time for Congress — the House and the Senate — to set political rhetoric aside and get back to the peopleís business. But before we can tackle the important legislative issues facing our nation, we must have a return to civility.

That means we must return to the days when compromise and cooperation were valued, and members of Congress worked together to find solutions to the problems facing our country.

It also is time to embrace a balanced approach to our budget deficit that considers reasonable cuts in spending with fair tax reform. No one, especially the middle class, should bear this burden alone. That also means that federal employees cannot be the scapegoat for every fiscal problem we face. Instead, we need to take a close look at our current tax structure and reform it in a way that makes sense and is fair to middle-class workers.

We also need to keep in mind that the failure to reach an agreement on a budget-reduction plan will result in across-the-board spending cuts of about 8.5 percent in most discretionary spending programs. Failure to reach an agreement on such a plan would be a self-inflicted wound to our nationís economy that would very likely stall our recovery and plunge us back into a recession. In the weeks ahead, we need to come together to make sure that does not happen.

In addition to dealing with our budget deficit, we also need to set partisanship aside to invest in programs that will kick our economy into high gear. We need to invest in things like clean energy so that we create jobs that will enable more Americans to take home a paycheck and pay taxes, which will lower the burden on everyone.

We in Maryland are truly fortunate because we are home to top-notch medical/research facilities and biotech companies, but we have to make sure our work force has the skills needed for these high-tech jobs. Thatís why it is so important that we invest in education so that we have a skilled, educated work force that can fill the needs of these new highly skilled, technology-driven jobs.

In Maryland, we also have learned to set partisanship aside in efforts to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Our state understands that a healthy Bay means a healthy economy for Maryland and for our region. We need to continue the progress we have made so the Chesapeake Bay remains a national treasure for generations to come.

We are so very fortunate to live in a nation in which Americans can go to the polls and make their views known. I believe most elected officials appreciate the power of the ballot box, but they also must understand that our system of government depends on compromise and cooperation. It is the only thing that will move us forward and that will allow us to tackle the serious issues that we face.

Benjamin L. Cardin, a Democrat, is a U.S. senator from Maryland.