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NTU rates Congress

Posted by Richard on February 23, 2007

The National Taxpayers Union has released its Congressional fiscal ratings for 2006, and the report cards are once again dominated by Ds and Fs. Only 61 Senators and Representatives earned an A (that’s actually up from 2005), while 224 earned an F.

Mind you, NTU’s grading scale is pretty lenient (they grade on the curve and they’re dealing with chronic under-achievers, so it has to be): the minimum for an A is 84% in the Senate and just 70% in the House; the thresholds for an F are at 24% and 23%, respectively. Nonetheless, NTU is justifiably proud of their ratings, now in their 28th year (emphasis added):

Unlike those of other organizations, NTU’s annual Rating does not simplistically focus on only a handful of equally-weighted “key votes.” For this reason, it has received praise from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including former Senator (and “Golden Fleece Award” creator) William Proxmire (D-WI). The Rating is based on every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy (199 House and 109 Senate votes for 2006), and assigns a “Taxpayer Score” to each Member of Congress that indicates his or her commitment to reducing or controlling federal spending, taxes, debt, and regulation.

The House had an average score of 39% (down 1% from 2005), giving the 109th Congress the poorest 2-year performance in 15 years. The Senate managed to hit 48%, a 4% increase from 2005, but still below 50% for the 9th year in a row. Despite the dismal averages, taxpayers still have a few good friends in Congress:

The top scorer in the House of Representatives was Arizona Republican Jeff Flake with a 92 percent rating. This is the fourth consecutive year Flake has captured the prize, a feat not exceeded in the House since Ron Paul (R-TX) racked up six first-place finishes in a row (1979-1984). South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint made his first appearance in the Senate’s winner’s circle, also at 92 percent. Bringing up the rear with the worst scores in the House and Senate were Dale Kildee (D-MI) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), with scores of 7 percent and 9 percent, respectively. Neither has ranked at the bottom before.

The Democrats and their PR arm, the MSM, have been claiming that their gains last November represented a repudiation of Bush on foreign policy, national security policy, and Iraq (even though they gained seats mainly by running more hawkish, centrist candidates). As I noted in November, the relentlessly bad news from Iraq was certainly a factor, but not the primary reason for Republican losses:

For sure, the Republicans’ wounds were largely self-inflicted. After 2002, Hastert dismantled the Contract with America’s ethics and accountability rules, and the Republicans became arrogant, fat, and lazy. They governed like Democrats, and the American people rejected that, as they usually do. Meanwhile, the Democrats recruited a bunch of candidates who sounded like Republicans, and the American people elected them.

I pointed out then how well Club for Growth candidates did. Now, the NTU has confirmed that fiscal responsibility — more precisely, lack thereof — was a big factor in Republican election losses:

According to Berthoud, the 2006 Rating results strongly indicate that Republican lawmakers who changed their voting patterns (and earned lower pro-taxpayer scores) tended to fare worse at the polls than those who continued their records of supporting limited government. Just two of the 22 House GOP incumbents who lost their seats in 2006 were “Taxpayers’ Friends,” while the remainder posted an average score of 52 percent – well below the overall GOP average of 60 percent.

Can you guess in what year Congress got the highest marks from the NTU? It was 1995 — the year of the Contract with America, when reform-minded, limited-government Republicans took over the House with broad support from the American people. If Tom DeLay, Dennis Hastert, and their cronies hadn’t gotten arrogant and smug, hadn’t discarded the Gingrich Revolution reforms, hadn’t forgotten that they need to at least credibly pretend to work for limited government and fiscal responsibility, the 2006 elections might have turned out quite differently.

One of NTU’s A-rated Friends of the Taxpayer, Rep. Ron Paul, is "exploring" a run for the Republican presidential nomination. I like almost everything about Paul except his blindness to the threat of Islamofascism (like most libertarians, he ignores the fact that they’re waging war on us, whether we choose to fight back or not). On fiscal and regulatory matters, he’s outstanding. Maybe he can help remind Republicans what they ought to represent — the principles of limited government and fiscal responsibility that have brought them success in the past.

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One Response to “NTU rates Congress”

  1. Anonymous said

    I’ll consider changing my registration to Republican in order to vote for Paul.

    An aside- I don’t know how many Libertarians ignore the war against the West, but instead question the ability of our enemies to attack us. If 9-11 is the worst they can do, then is it much of a war? Not that that is the worst, but it’s an open question.

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