Few 'taxpayer friends' in Pennsylvania Congressional delegation
Every Democratic member of Congress from Pennsylvania earns an "F" grade in latest report card from National Taxpayers Union.
For the past 31 years, the National Taxpayers Union, an independent, nonpartisan advocate for overburdened taxpayers, has been issuing an annual report card for members of Congress.
The Washington, D.C.-based NTU rates each member of Congress based on his or her voting record to determine how "friendly" or "unfriendly" they are to taxpayers.
The group has just released its report card on the first session of the 111th Congress, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"Despite a few encouraging trends, the results from NTU's rating vividly demonstrate why 2009 was such a fiscal disaster," said NTU President Duane Parde. "For every member of Congress doing his or her best to relieve overburdened taxpayers, five other lawmakers were doing their worst."
A Taxpayer Score is determined for each member of Congress and a letter grade is awarded based on the score. If you want to review the process NTU uses or the actual votes taken on specific bills, visit the group's Web site at www.ntu.org
NTU rates House and Senate members on their actual votes — every vote that affects taxes, spending and debt. While many other watchdog groups release ratings based on selected votes, NTU considers every vote taken by every member of Congress during a particular session, making its rankings the fairest and most accurate guide available on Congressional spending.
A total of 333 House votes and 227 Senate votes taken last year were considered in determining the NTU rankings.
"NTU has no partisan ax to grind," according to its Web site. "All members of Congress are treated the same regardless of political affiliation. Our only constituency is the overburdened American taxpayer. Grades are given impartially, based on the Taxpayer Score."
The Taxpayer Score measures the "strength of support for reducing spending and opposing higher taxes," according to the NTU. A higher score is better because it means a member of Congress voted to spend less money, the group says.
The Taxpayer Score can range between zero and 100, but to date, not a single member of Congress has ever scored a perfect 100.
In 2009, 55 lawmakers attained scores sufficient for a grade of "A" (earning at least a 90 percent in the House and the Senate) and hence were eligible for the "Taxpayers' Friend Award" — an increase from the 48 who earned top grades in 2008, according to NTU.
Unfortunately, 267 Senators and Representatives captured the title of "Big Spender" for posting "F" grades (15 percent or less in the House and 16 percent or less in the Senate), according to the group. This number is unchanged from the record 267 Big Spenders recorded in 2008.
The top scorer from Pennsylvania is Rep. Joe Pitts, a Republican who represents parts of Berks, Chester and Lancaster counties. Pitts earned a B+ in the report card.
On the bottom of the scale, Rep. Chaka Fattah, a Democrat from Philadelphia, turned in the lowest House score, rounded to 1 percent. However, 21 other House Members had scores that were higher by fractions, but which still amounted to 1 percent when rounded, notes the NTU.
I spent time on the NTU Web site looking up Pennsylvania members of Congress to find out how many "taxpayers' friends" are on the 2009 list. Unfortunately for Pennsylvania taxpayers, far too many of the 21 lawmakers who represent the state earned "F" grades from the NTU, qualifying for the group's "Big Spender" category.
Here's a look at how Pennsylvania members of Congress did on the taxpayer report card:
SEN. BOB CASEY JR. — F
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER — D
REP. JASON ALTMIRE — D
REP. BOB BRADY — F
REP. CHRIS CARNEY — D
REP. KATHY DAHLKEMPER — F
REP. CHARLIE DENT — C+
REP. MIKE DOYLE — F
REP. CHAKA FATTAH — F
REP. JIM GERLACH — C+
REP. TIM HOLDEN — F
REP. PAUL KANJORKSI — F
REP. PAT MURPHY — F
REP. TIM MURPHY — C
REP. JOHN MURTHA — DECEASED
REP. JOE PITTS — B+
REP. TODD PLATTS — C+
REP. ALYSON SCHWARTZ — F
REP. JOE SESTAK — F
REP. BUD SHUSTER — B
REP. GLENN THOMPSON — B
In the Senate, Specter and Casey are both Democrats. In the House, all of the Democrats from Pennsylvania received "F" grades.
Something to keep in mind as you go to the polls this year. Every member of the House plus Sen. Specter is up for reelection.
Tony Phyrillas is a leading conservative political columnist and blogger based in Pennsylvania. He is a veteran journalist with 25 years experience as a reporter, editor and columnist for several newspapers. Phyrillas received recognition for column writing in 2010 from the Associated Press Managing Editors, in 2007 from Suburban Newspapers of America and in 2006 from the Society of Professional Journalists, Keystone Chapter. A graduate of Penn State University, Phyrillas is the city editor and political columnist for The Mercury, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning daily newspaper in Pottstown, Pa. In addition to The Mercury website (www.pottsmerc.com), his columns are featured on more than a dozen political websites and blogs. Phyrillas is a frequent guest (and occasional host) on talk radio and has been a panelist on the "Journalists Roundtable" public affairs TV program on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN). Phyrillas was named one of the '10 Leading Greek-American Bloggers in the World' in 2007 by Odyssey: The World of Greece magazine. BlogNetNews.com ranked Phyrillas the Most Influential Political Blogger in Pennsylvania for three consecutive years (2007-2010). You can follow Phyrillas on Twitter @TonyPhyrillas