Is Todd Young just too thoughtful?

Matt Tully’s latest column in the Indianapolis Star is a hagiographic profile of 9th District Republican Congressman Todd Young.

U.S. Rep. Todd Young’s biggest problem, at least on Capitol Hill, might be that he is too thoughtful and too rational.

Incredibly, it gets worse from there, with straw man liberal positions (“too many voices fail to question whether certain social programs are working”) and vacuous platitudes about “performance-based” outcomes. I can only assume Young’s campaign will be required to report Tully’s column as an in-kind donation.

First, given the recent scandals over supposedly objective school grades here in Indiana, we should be more skeptical of the idea that performance-based, data-driven policy is a panacea.

Second, I find it hilarious that Tully holds up Nurse Family Partnership as an example. (I can’t tell from the column whether this example is Tully’s, or if it came from his conversation with Young.) Not that the Nurse Family Partnership isn’t an impressive program — it has consistently shown that it is capable of producing results. In fact, it is so impressive, Barack Obama and Joe Biden pledged their support in their 2008 campaign platform, and expanding the program became a part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — better known as Obamacare. Not only did Young vote against Obamacare, he’s voted to repeal it every time the Republicans have brought it up for a vote — 46 or 47 times, but who’s counting?

Young is also pushing Social Interest Bonds, an idea that has prominent backers from the Center for American Progress to the Conservative Party in the UK. My understanding is that SIBs are just another way of financing public-private partnerships — only with more lawyers and Wall Street involvement. Given Goldman Sachs’ recent track record, I’m not sure how anyone thinks trusting them with prisons, poverty, and unemployment is a good idea. And given Indiana’s own disastrous experience with welfare privatization, maybe we should reconsider doubling down on that model of governance.

Third, Tully parrots Young’s assertion that we must acknowledge “that for many people the social safety net has become a cage.” I don’t know what evidence, if any, Young claims to have for this. But the statement shows that Young’s views are far more like the Tea Party than regular Republicans, as Greg Sargent pointed out on Friday:

In short, the Tea Party economic worldview, if such a thing exists, is isolated from the rest of the public, and even to some degree from non-Tea Party Republicans – yet it has an outsized role in shaping the GOP’s overall agenda. […]

The CBS poll finds that Republicans believe unemployment benefits make people less motivated to look for a job by 57-40. But Tea Party Republicans overwhelmingly believe this by 67-32. By contrast, only a minority of non-tea party Republicans believe this (47-51).

Finally, Tully writes, “And while plenty of politicians say such things, Young backs his words up with ideas and plans.” So he backs up his words with… more words? I understand Tully’s dilemma here, though; it’s hard to find any actions that Todd Young has taken that back up his talk.

Let’s try and apply the data-driven, results-based method that Young claims to support.

The truth is, while Todd Young may not sound like Michele Bachmann most of the time, the data shows that he votes with her more than 86% of the time. (Young votes with Paul Ryan 95% of the time.)

The liberal group Americans United for Change recently released their “Tea Party Scorecard,” based primarily on votes scored by Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks. The only Hoosier representative they officially scored was Jackie Walorski (PDF)

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, so I went through and tallied scores for the rest of the Indiana delegation. According to this measure, Todd Young votes with the Tea Party more than 81% of the time, tying him with Walorski and Susan Brooks. 1 That puts them just a few votes behind Todd Rokita and Marlin Stutzman, who voted with the Tea Party more than 87% of the time. You can obviously argue with the specific methodology here — some of these were meaningless symbolic votes, and lots of them were just straight down the aisle — but the results fit with other measurements.

The official AFP scorecard awards Young a lifetime grade of 81%, while Freedomworks gives him a lifetime score of 67%.

Need more? Ok.

GovTrack’s 2013 Report Card shows that Todd Young ranked 411 out of 435 when it came to joining bipartisan bills. If you only look at House Republicans, Young ranked 205 out of 229, just barely ahead of Rokita at 211, Walorski at 212, and Stutzman at 221. In contrast, Susan Brooks came it at #89, and Tea Party darling Justin Amash (R-MI) came in at #92. If you want a Hoosier example of someone who truly works in a bipartisan way, Democratic Rep Pete Visclosky ranked 48th out of 435 in joining bipartisan bills.

And the bills Todd Young has introduced don’t fare any better. Young has sponsored 5 bills in the 113th Congress, attracting 394 total co-sponsors — 392 of them Republicans.

Based on the data, I’d say that if Todd Young is “too thoughtful” or “too rational” for Washington, then we’re all doomed.