Rick’s Report Card

Posted on February 17, 2012

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Since former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum scored his trifecta on February 6th and showed indications of derailing Mitt Romney’s ‘inevitable’ bullet train to the GOP presidential nomination, the focus has shifted from Newt Gingrich to him. The focus of attacks from the Romney campaign, that is.    I had noticed that one prevalent barrage centered on Mr. Santorum’s fiscal conservative bonafides.

The Romney camp and its surrogates were and are insisting that the Senator has a dismal record in Congress as it concerns spending. Romney claims that Rick Santorum’s voting record exposes him as being on of those Republicans that ‘act like Democrats once they get to Washington’.     Another quote;  “If you want a fiscal conservative, you can’t vote for Rick Santorum, because he’s not a fiscal conservative.”

I thought this would be something to take a look at in more detail in order to find out how much of this is smoke and how much is fire.   It would seem that the best barometer of how serious a candidate takes spending issues would be a fiscal watchdog group.   There is one that has been a thorn in the side of members of Congress for over 40 years – the National Taxpayer’s Union.   Here is a little background on them from their website:

“National Taxpayers Union (NTU) is America’s independent, non-partisan advocate for overburdened taxpayers. NTU mobilizes elected officials and the general public on behalf of tax relief and reform, lower and less wasteful spending, individual liberty, and free enterprise.   Founded in 1969, we work at all levels for the day when every taxpaying citizen’s right to a limited government is among our nation’s highest democratic principles.”

Doesn’t exactly fit the profile of an organization that Nancy Pelosi might have warm fuzzies about, does it?   So, it turns out that the NTU compiles statistics based on the voting record of Congressmen and Senators.   Needless to say, that if Rick Santorum has been an extravagant spender with regards to his legislative record, the NTU will give him an accordingly dismal rating.   Perhaps we should look at the Senator’s report card.

A little background on the NTU’s methodology;  unlike some groups who look at only a handful of “key votes,” NTU’s Rating assesses the fiscal record of Members of Congress by looking at every single roll call vote affecting taxes, spending, and significant regulation.  They then weight each vote from 1 to 100 based on importance (with 1 being a program of little significance, and 100 being something like the recent health care bill or the TARP bailout).   Each Member’s roll call votes are then compared against our list, resulting in percentage scores on a scale of 1-100.

According to the NTU’s scoring, in Santorum’s 12 years in the Senate, he attained a 3.66 ‘G.P.A.’ – or by the letter grade, an A-.   The Senator’s score places him in the top 10% of his colleagues and in fact, he ranked #5 out of 50!   He was one of only 7 Senators that never got less than a B grade from the NTU during the years 1995 through 2006.   To add to all this, Santorum was the only Senator to get ‘A’ grades from NTU in each year of George Bush’s first term as President.

Clearly Mitt Romney and his campaign’s line of attack against Rick Santorum doesn’t pass the reality test.   Compared to Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum rates a considerably higher score. Gingrich had a 61.9 score (the ‘roll call’ score) and Santorum had a 75.2 score.   On balance, Santorum has had some lapses in judgment and could be called to task for not fighting harder against some of the outrageous spending wrapped into bills he approved while a Senator.   He has never been strongly in opposition to earmarks, but then again Ron Paul’s record on earmarks is nothing to point to with pride, either.

“By most standards, he’s a conservative.   The problem is this isn’t the (normal election) year by most standards.   This is the year that Republicans are looking for purity,” said Terry Madonna, the director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Pennsylvania’s Franklin & Marshall College.    “They want a candidate who has no flaws, no transgressions, no walk-backs for true conservatism.  That’s the nature of the debate right now. A lot of conservatives are afraid that they’ll elect another appeaser who’ll sell out the true conservatives and the conservative movement.”

What about Mitt Romney?   Well, the NTU does not track scores for Governors of states.   But we can evaluate his term as Governor of Massachusetts from a number of aspects.   First, Romneycare.   According to Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute, before Massachusetts enacted its mandate, it had a little more than 600,000 uninsured residents.

Under the new program, about 219,000 previously uninsured residents have signed up for insurance, but nearly all of them receive subsidized coverage. Another 70,000 have been signed up for Medicaid.   But fewer than 30,000 unsubsidized residents have signed up as a result of the mandate.   Despite the mandate, as many as 300,000 Massachusetts residents remain uninsured.   And while failing to achieve universal coverage, the Massachusetts plan cost taxpayers a great deal.   It is now expected to exceed its budget by $150 million to $400 million over the next year, and $2 billion to $4 billion more than was budgeted over the coming decade.

If Romneycare isn’t a Fascistic program with Socialistic redistribution of wealth characteristics, then we’ll have to start a movement to nominate Ted Kennedy for sainthood or raise some seed funds for the ‘Theodore Kennedy Home for Wayward Girls’.   Romney refused to take the CLT (Citizens for Limited Taxation) pledge while Governor.   His record is mixed on other issues.   On one hand, he fixed excessive Capital Gains inequities, supported rollback of income tax rates and cut the rate of spending increases.   But he raised fees drastically totalling $600 million in one budget cycle, including 90 million in fee hikes on Health Insurance premiums.

Romney’s critics on the fiscally conservative side considered him to be a bit of a ‘bait and switch’ artist – holding the line on taxes, while sponsoring substantial increases in user fees of every kind. When is a tax, not a tax? When you redefine it as a fee.   In fairness to Romney, he was merely a RINO in a very liberal state that was addicted to a lot of entitlement spending, budget deficits and debt.   He was not a ‘severe conservative’ by any stretch, but his Democrat opponents would probably define him that way.

Now you have the facts.   Rick Santorum is not the big spending, big Government Republican that the Romney camp is portraying him as, and Romney is not the ‘severe conservative’ that his campaign and he, position him as.

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