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For the past four years, the Heritage Foundation has happily ridden the coattails of Donald Trump while doing what it can to undermine the most important goals of his presidency. Now, Trump isn’t even out of office and the Foundation is showing how eager it is to return to the failed Paul Ryan brand of GOP politics. Doubtless, Heritage thinks it can raise money from conservatives forever, regardless of what ideology they are actually pushing. Conservatives must pay attention and reject this. If Heritage abandons President Trump’s political realignment, then it doesn’t deserve a single cent of funding. It deserves to be torn down and replaced.
Sadly, it seems that is exactly what will have to happen, for several reasons.
1. Heritage is rejecting efforts to remedy catastrophic coronavirus lockdowns.
President Trump just signed a $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package. The package is filled with pork for all kinds of programs, including foreign aid. The one part of the bill that is indisputably worthwhile is a new $600 payment to ordinary Americans to offset the government-imposed dislocation from the pandemic lockdowns. Arguably, the payments should be much higher (and Trump fought for just such an increase). But Heritage takes the opposite view. After tens of million of Americans had their lives totally derailed by hopelessly inept government officials, Heritage wants them to go uncompensated.
“More Stimulus Checks Aren’t the Answer,” Heritage says in a recent article for its website. The article argues that a coronavirus payment isn’t needed because, among other things, Americans’ average credit card debt burden has gone from terrifying to merely enormous:
Through the first three quarters of 2020, Americans repaid a record-high $119 billion in credit card debt, according to a WalletHub Credit Card Debt report.
That’s great news, especially considering that the average household credit card debt is down 11%, or $950, from this time last year. But the fact that Americans are able to pay off such significant credit card debt suggests that the majority of households do not need stimulus checks. [Heritage]
That’s 2012 GOP thinking in a nutshell: the average American only has $8,000 in debt piling up 15-25 percent interest a year, so apparently they don’t deserve anything to offset months of government-mandated lockdowns.
The article only gets worse from there. According to Heritage, direct payments to Americans do nothing to stimulate the economy because, as hyper-rational economic actors, they will all deduce that more borrowed money today means higher taxes in the future, and they will have to save for them. Not only is this an insane simplification of how actual people behave, even Heritage’s own analyst doesn’t believe it. The exact same writer has spent years touting tax cuts even as the national debt has grown.
By the end of the article, Heritage reveals its own solution for the coronavirus calamity: Vague libertarianism.
Sending another round of so-called stimulus checks would be ineffective and wasteful. Instead, policymakers should reduce barriers to income opportunities and make it easier for individuals to earn their own paychecks. [Heritage]
Just “remove barriers to income opportunities” and make it easier for Americans to work as Uber drivers. That’s Heritage’s prescription for a healthy America.
If that vision sounds at odds with what Donald Trump ran on, it’s no surprise. The Heritage Foundation has spent years undermining the president while posing as supporters of his agenda.
2. From the beginning, Heritage was undermining President Trump’s agenda on immigration and foreign policy.
Prior to the 2016 election, Heritage harshly attacked Trump’s core immigration platform. Heritage fellow Mike Gonzalez complained to NBC that Trump’s plan to curb legal immigration “ignored the benefits” it gave to America. During Trump’s presidency, Heritage did embrace tough actions against illegal immigration, and promoted necessary reforms like ending birthright citizenship. But at the same time, Heritage fought to prop up America’s endless inflow of legal immigrants. In 2018, Heritage’s Mike Inserra pushed for no cuts to America’s annual legal immigration, combined with the abolition of America’s per-country immigration cap. This reform would do nothing to help Americans, but it would help big tech lower wages by expanding the endless importation of tech workers from India. Recently, Senator Mike Lee fought to do exactly that.
The old adage that personnel is policy applies equally well to think tanks as it does to Presidential administrations. Ever since Heritage Foundation caved to the left-wing mob and fired the conservative Harvard Ph.D. working on its immigration policy (who incidentally was recently hired by the Trump Administration), it has not had a single full time employee working on public policy of immigration.
While Heritage’s record on immigration is spotty, its record on foreign wars is suicidal. Throughout all four years of Trump’s presidency, the foundation has demanded the perpetual extension of the endless, useless war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, it also released papers promoting military action against Syria.
3. Heritage has slavishly defended the growing power of Big Tech at the expense of American workers.
While big tech’s censorship power grew more and more powerful, Heritage (which receives donations from Google) published mindless papers touting “free enterprise” as the solution to powerful monopolies choking off the speech of ordinary Americans. Early in 2020, Heritage’s Robert Bluey attacked Tucker Carlson for criticizing the foundation’s perspective:
It should come as no surprise that Heritage supports empowering consumers rather than government to influence the private sector. We are, and have always been, champions of free enterprise and critics of government intervention.
Why not let platform owners choose what content they will and will not allow—and what their customers demand? Do Cleland and Carlson honestly believe government would do it better?
Conservatives have repeatedly shown they can outmaneuver the left on their own—without government intervention. Just as conservatives flourished on talk radio and cable TV when the government stopped enforcing the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, so too have conservatives on the internet. [Heritage]
It’s just that simple! Just outcompete Facebook, Google, and Amazon, and free speech and conservatism will flourish. It might even work, if “free-market” conservatives hadn’t allowed a few tech companies to grow so large they rival national governments in how much power they wield. But they did, so no solutions need to be sought. Heritage isn’t interested.
4. Heritage embraced the big lie about American racism.
Worst of all, after George Floyd’s death, when America was convulsed with riots and the left launched its most ambitious cultural offensive in decades, Heritage Foundation president Kay C. James was there to egg it on:
Racism in America is a fatal wound. Every time another incident occurs we put a Band-Aid on it, but the Band-Aid keeps falling off. Band-Aids are not enough to ever stitch this country back together. The arrest of fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Friday on charges of manslaughter and third-degree murder is a welcome step, but it is just a Band-Aid.
Nothing can bring George Floyd back to life. But if his horrific and needless death proves to be a turning point to make Americans finally end the ugly racism that stains our nation’s history and afflicts us like a cancer of the soul, he will leave behind a legacy we sorely need. [Fox News]
James had many tears to shed for criminal and drug addict George Floyd, but none for Kyle Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse’s politically-motivated crucifixion has been studiously ignored by Heritage, as has that of former Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe. James’s op-ed, like so much of what her organization fights for, was indistinguishable from what CNN would say, except that it is dressed up as being “pro-Trump.” That has been the Heritage Foundation’s modus operandi for the past four years: Staffing the Trump administration, and raising money off its close association with him, while doing nothing to understand or embrace his America First agenda. For Heritage, Trump is just a vehicle to advance the stale early 2000s conservatism that Americans emphatically reject.
5. Heritage has abandoned Trump and his voters after the 2020 election.
And now that Trump seems to be on his way out, they’re happy to abandon him. For years, Heritage has published content on voter fraud, and how common it actually is all over the country. That should make them a leading force in rejecting the flawed 2020 election results and calling for legislative intervention or other measures. But right now, with the presidential election being snatched away through blatant foul play, Heritage is nearly silent (except, of course, for its effort to fundraise off of the stolen election). A few tweets have popped out, and one fellow has written about preventing future election thefts, rather than combating the one happening right now. For Heritage, Donald Trump’s unpredictable realignment is an annoyance, and they’ll be happy to see him go. Soon, they can go back to openly pushing their agenda, rather than quietly undermining Trump’s.
The question, naturally, is what value the Heritage Foundation actually has. Supposedly, it is a venerable “conservative” institution. But this is a ruse. It distinguishes itself in Washington by combining bush-league credentials with an establishment aligned agenda. It is a fundraising engine that largely takes advantage of well-meaning patriotic donors who have little inkling of how spectacularly the foundation fails conservatives on foreign policy, on Big Tech, on riots, and now, on the greatest economic assault against the middle class ever mounted. After four years of Donald Trump, it wants nothing more than to spend the next eight as a safe, lucrative opposition group. Conservatives should reject it with their hearts, their minds, and their wallets. Friends do not let friends give one red cent to the Heritage Foundation.
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