October 25, 2005

Putting Senator Chaffee In Context: Economic Issues

Marc Comtois

Project VoteSmart is an indispensible tool for analyzing the voting records of our politicians. The problem with the site is that there is no analysis (yet) offered for the political challengers of incumbents. Thus, though there is plenty of data on Senator Chafee, there is nothing on Mayor Laffey. Nevertheless, using PVS's data, there are two primary ways to do an analysis. First, and more difficult, is to look at each vote on each bill, do all of the background reading and come to some conclusions. The second is to rely on interest group ratings, filtered by their own stated goals, and derive some conclusions. I've taken the easy way out.

I thought it might be helpful to present Senator Chafee's ratings on various topics within the context of his peers. As such, I've selected representative Senators from across the ideological spectrum and compared their ratings to Senator Chafee's. I believe this will allow us to gage the Sen. Chafee's relative degree of "conservativeness" both regionally and nationally as well as within the context of the overall ideological spectrum. My "ciphers" were selected based on name recognition and because I think most people have an idea as to where they think these individuals lie along the ideological spectrum (I think there may be surprises as to how "moderate" some Democrats really are!). They are: Ted Kennedy (D-MA) as a Liberal Democrat, Joe Lieberman (D-CT) as a Moderate Democrat, Olympia Snowe (R-ME) as a Moderate Republican, John McCain (R-AZ) as a "Maverick" Republican and George Allen (R-VA) as a Conservative Republican. I've also included the ratings of Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) for a local comparison. The first topic deals with economic issues.

Economic Issues (Budget, Spending and Taxes)

According to PVS, "ratings indicate the degree that each elected official supported the interests of the organization in that year." I've linked to the web sites of the interest groups and put the relevant rating year(s) in ().

National Taxpayers Union (2004): "Seeks to reduce government spending, cut taxes, and protect the rights of taxpayers."

Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy -- 15
John F. "Jack" Reed -- 17
Joseph I. Lieberman -- 14
Olympia J. Snowe -- 51
John S. McCain -- 77
George Felix Allen -- 67

Lincoln D. Chafee -- 49

American Shareholders Association (2004):""American Shareholders Association was founded to give a voice to people like you in the public policy debates that impact your savings and investment. With so many decisions being made in Congress affecting your investments, now is the most important time to stand up and be heard. We are here to fight for you and your investments."

Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy -- 10
John F. "Jack" Reed -- 10
Joseph I. Lieberman -- 10
Olympia J. Snowe -- 80
John S. McCain -- 90
George Felix Allen -- 90

Lincoln D. Chafee -- 70

Americans for Tax Reform (2004):"ATR opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle. We believe in a system in which taxes are simpler, fairer, flatter, more visible, and lower than they are today. The government’s power to control one’s life derives from its power to tax. We believe that power should be minimized."

Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy -- 10
John F. "Jack" Reed -- 10
Joseph I. Lieberman -- 10
Olympia J. Snowe -- 70
John S. McCain -- 90
George Felix Allen -- 95

Lincoln D. Chafee -- 60

National Tax Limitation Committee (2003-2004):"NTLC'S mission is to create a political and economic environment in which you--the individual, productive citizen--can enjoy the opportunity to excel, maximize your choices and enjoy the fruits of your labors free from an intrusive, coercive government."

Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy -- 0
John F. "Jack" Reed -- 8
Joseph I. Lieberman -- 3
Olympia J. Snowe -- 73
John S. McCain -- 80
George Felix Allen -- 90

Lincoln D. Chafee -- 63

Citizens for a Sound Economy (2003-2004):"Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) is hundreds of thousands of grassroots citizens dedicated to (1) free markets and limited government, and (2) the highest level of personal involvement in public policy activism. Through recruitment, training, and political participation, CSE has become an army of activists committed to improving the well-being of American consumers through common-sense economic policies."

Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy -- 0
John F. "Jack" Reed -- 7
Joseph I. Lieberman -- 7
Olympia J. Snowe -- 50
John S. McCain -- 57
George Felix Allen -- 86

Lincoln D. Chafee -- 36

Women's Action for New Directions (WAND) and-WILL (2003-2004):"WAND was founded in 1982 as Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament. With the end of the cold war, we became Women's Action for New Directions, and have been dedicating our energies to redirect federal budget priorities away from the military and toward human needs."

Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy -- 98
John F. "Jack" Reed -- 99
Joseph I. Lieberman -- 51
Olympia J. Snowe -- 54
John S. McCain -- 27
George Felix Allen -- 7

Lincoln D. Chafee -- 55

My Two Cents: While most of these groups could be considered conservative/libertarian, the one obviously liberal group also rates Sen. Chafee "in the middle." In short, it should be no surprise that Sen. Chafee is moderate-to-conservative on fiscal issues. He is essentially a fiscal conservative, but with the important caveat that he holds the base-line budgeting, "zero-sum game" perspective that the government has to "pay" for tax cuts by restricting spending. But, for a conservative, this isn't as troubling as the reverse: that increases in spending must be subsidized by higher taxes. The preference should always be to restrict spending. As Andrew and the Porkbusters project has revealed, Senator Chafee had a chance, but failed, to excercise such fiscal restraint.