Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Heritage Foundation: How Far from a Free Market Institution Are They?

Jim DeMint is going to have quite a task at Heritage Fund, if he expects to turn it into an advocate of free markets. They aren't close.

In February, Forbes columnist Avik Roy wrote:
Mitt Romney, as we know, has been catching a lot of flak from conservatives for Romneycare, because Romney’s signature legislative achievement served as the model for Obamacare. But as Romney said in a debate in Las Vegas last October, “we got the idea of an individual mandate…from [Newt Gingrich], and [Newt] got it from the Heritage Foundation.” Politically, it’s an important point, because Romney is inaccurately being portrayed as some kind of left-wing outlier, when in fact there were some major conservative institutions (like Heritage) and figures (like Gingrich) who supported the 1989, Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation proposed a plan he called “Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans.” Stuart’s plan included a provision to “mandate all households to obtain adequate insurance...
In October, WSJ's James Taranto provided the insider details:
 Heritage did put forward the idea of an individual mandate, though it predated HillaryCare by several years. We know this because we were there: In 1988-90, we were employed at Heritage as a public relations associate (a junior writer and editor), and we wrote at least one press release for a publication touting Heritage's plan for comprehensive legislation to provide universal "quality, affordable health care." 
As a junior publicist, we weren't being paid for our personal opinions. But we are now, so you will be the first to know that when we worked at Heritage, we hated the Heritage plan, especially the individual mandate. "Universal health care" was neither already established nor inevitable, and we thought the foundation had made a serious philosophical and strategic error in accepting rather than disputing the left-liberal notion that the provision of "quality, affordable health care" to everyone was a proper role of government. As to the mandate, we remember reading about it and thinking: "I thought we were supposed to be for freedom."
Taranto points out that the Heritage mandate was less onerous than the Obamacare one, as it focused on coverage for catastrophic illness, rather than the comprehensive health plans that Obamacare requires. “On the other hand, Butler’s vague language—‘it might also include certain very specific services…and other items’—would seem to leave the door wide open for limitless expansion,” he writes.

It gets worse. Roy comments on Taranto:
In the multi-state Obamacare constitutional challenge before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, in which the individual mandate was overturned, Taranto points out that the Obama Administration cited the Heritage Foundation in its defense of the individual mandate. Heritage, in response, filed an amicus brief accounting for its “prior support for a qualified mandate” and asserting that Heritage has been “consistent” in its view of the constitutionality of a mandate.
So in addition to being supporters of the military-industrial complex, Heritage moves to the side of central planners when it comes to healthcare. This shows a lack of basic economic understanding, or a willingness to overlook such, not a good sign either way and makes clear the difficult, if not impossible task, DeMint has, if he desires to make Heritage consistent in its free market views.

(ht Felix Bronstein)


  1. I love Economic Policy Journal. I really do. But your reporting and accuracy is pathetic. Perhaps you were too busy smoking weed you try so hard to get legalized - I don't know.

    In the early 90's, thanks to Gingrich and many policy papers, advocacy and lobbying by Heritage - we not only had zero tax increases, we balanced the budget for the first time in 50 years. All with a DEMOCRAT President. There was no easy argument saying we were "too much" in debt such the majority of Americans were fine with their current (Reagan/Gingrich) taxes and a soaring economy. In fact, they were so happy - they were willing to allow a rapist/serial woman abusing President who sells our military secrets to the Chinese to do so.

    Prior to the advance of the mandate for healthcare - the Democrats had a NEARLY 70% APPROVAL FOR UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE. If you think RINO's are bad today - just imagine how it was in the middle of a soaring economy with a conservative Speaker who wouldn't bring a SINGLE TAX TO THE HOUSE FLOOR that would appease the marauding MSM.

    There wasn't ANY political room to argue AGAINST socialized healthcare AT ALL. The Democrats kept playing the "heartless corporate Republican" tune, and with the country clearly already behind some form of "help" - the question then became HOW DO WE STOP HILLARY?

    In fact Heritage's individual mandate was brilliant arguing "if we're going to have govt healthcare then EVERYONE SHOULD PAY". It wasn't so much that they wanted Government healthcare. It was more of a question of how do we look just like naysayers, and give the simplistic American MTV mesmerized masses something that looks like we are "for."

    Hence the (unconstitutional) mandate.

    And furthermore, many of the conservative arguments (like opening up insurance beyond state borders to allow free markets) WAS in the Heritage plan. It wasn't ANYTHING like ObamaCare.

    And guess what? It frickin' worked. Although Americans have a big heart (and no foundational constitutional education), they even more believe that there is "no free lunch" and hence the Welfare reform measures.

    Libertarian purists keep believing that there is some magic pixie dust somewhere that just makes all the elected Democrats and Republicans wiling to suddenly learn, embrace and courageously stand for constitutional freedoms if only there embraced their views. The reality is that even Reagan with his communication skills STILL had to raise taxes and barter with Democrat (and RINO) forces compromising to get even the most meager conservative reforms done. Gingrich brilliantly understood this and packaged 10 of 'em that ALREADY HAD popular support together and had a mandate to use their '94 win to get them through before the steady trickle of MSM naysayers could start eating away at the American resolve.

    You people had better grow up and start reporting accurately if you want to be taken seriously. Heritage DID abandon the individual mandate too late of course - but I suspect it was due to a leadership that was out of touch with the current mindset of the nation. DeMint is a good guy and I suspect (pray) he'll do a fine job.

    But the reality is you aren't going to EVER get an American sentiment to throw out every unconstitutional law and operation in government. You have to take what you can get, and try to keep educating while overriding the massive MSM doublespeak/socialist propaganda.

    Gingrich did and he left with a 60% approval rating of Congress. And the Republican forces STILL couldn't stand him trying to inch us closer to a true Constitutional Republic.

    But all you guys want to do is argue Monday morning quarterbacking like some fat Titan hillbilly slob fan with your case of Budweiser who never played a down of pee wee football much less anything else.

    Good luck with that

  2. Well Heritage is a conservative organization so libertarians should take what they have to say with a grain of salt anyway. DeMint being hired for them just gives us another reason.