Ringside Seat: Bad Heritage

When Jim DeMint left the Senate to assume command of the Heritage Foundation, some people questioned the wisdom of the move. Not from DeMint's perspective—after all, instead of being a staunchly conservative member of the minority party with a staff of a few dozen whose job was to throw rhetorical bombs at the majority and say mean things about Barack Obama, now he'd have a staff of a few hundred and rule one of the right's most important institutions, not to mention probably quadrupling his salary. No, the puzzle was why a think tank like Heritage would want someone like DeMint, not known for putting much stock in thinking, as its leader.

And before you know it, Heritage is taking a huge hit to its reputation. It was always known for producing tendentious analyses of issues, but the report it released this week on immigration, claiming that reform would cost the country trillions of dollars, was a masterpiece of glaring omissions and questionable assumptions; included among the latter was that immigrants and their children will never move up the economic ladder.

Then we got a little more insight into where that belief might have come from. It turns out that one of the report's co-authors, the spectacularly named Jason Richwine, wrote a dissertation at Harvard claiming that there are immutable differences in intelligence between races, and that should govern our immigration policy. "No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, he wrote, "but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against." Then we discovered that this wasn't the first time Richwine had opined on the alleged intellectual inferiority of certain races. With the heat growing, today Richwine resigned from Heritage.

But there may be an upside for Heritage in all this. For some time to come, their quantitative work will be subject to extra scrutiny, with observers on the lookout for both statistical shenanigans and the authors' repellent views whenever a new Heritage report comes out. The organization will surely know this, which could lead them to be unusually careful and restrained in the arguments they make. If so, they could end up producing better work and eventually overcome the damage this episode has done. But one wonders if Jim DeMint is quite the person to lead the way toward redemption.

So They Say

"Thank God I was working for Chris DeMuth and AEI, not Jim DeMint and Heritage, when the Bell Curve was published. Integrity. Loyalty. Balls."

Charles Murray

Daily Meme: Internal Rage Services

  • The IRS is in big trouble today after apologizing for singling out organizations with "Tea Party" and "Patriot" in their names for additional review of their tax-exempt status.
  • Or, as Michelle Malkin terms it, "Obama IRS admits witch hunt against Tea Party, patriot groups."
  • "That’s absolutely inappropriate and not the way we ought to do things,” said Lois Lerner, who is in charge of the tax-exempt division at the IRS. “They didn’t do it out of any political bias.”
  • Gawker's take: "What's wrong with a good charity named Tea Party Patriots, anyway? It's not like such groups would engage in election year political activity or anything, right?"
  • The groups in question were not impressed. Tea Party Patriots released a statement saying,  "We reject a simple apology that does nothing to alleviate the danger of this happening again."
  • Mitch McConnell's also not pleased. "This kind of political thuggery has absolutely no place in our politics.”
  • Groups like the Campaign Legal Center were also on Team Tsk Tsk. "[Our] position is that the IRS needs to do a much better job at enforcing the existing legal restrictions on candidate election intervention by certain types of tax exempt groups. But we by no means condone that those enforcement procedures be used to target groups of a certain political ideology.”
  • As was the ACLU: “Even the appearance of playing partisan politics with the tax code is about as constitutionally troubling as it gets."
  • Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat, is also calling for the IRS to be investigated.
  • All this means that the GOP has an excuse to slash IRS funding, which is not good news for Obamacare.
  • But, as The New York Times's Nick Confessore points out, it "doesn't seem IRS 'targeted' Tea Party groups, exactly. They were subset of bigger group flagged for what appear to have been legit reasons."
  • The Washington Post's Ezra Klein expands on this: "The problem wasn’t that the IRS was skeptical of tea party groups registering as 501(c)4s. It’s that it hasn’t been skeptical of Organizing for America, Crossroads GPS, Priorities USA and Heritage Action Fund registering as 501(c)4s. The IRS should be treating all these groups equally and appropriately — which would mean much more harshly."
  • Nick Nyhart at Public Campaign says, “There are legitimate questions to be asked about political groups hiding behind a 501(c)(4) status. It’s unfortunate a few bad apples at the IRS will make it harder for those questions to be asked without claims of bias.”
  • All in all, not a good day for an agency that's never been too popular to begin with.

What We're Writing

  • Abby Rapoport wonders what happened to vouchers, once the heart and soul of the school-choice movement.
  • Nancy Goldstein writes that letting the military “police their own” is like appointing Colonel Sanders head of poultry safety.

What We're Reading

  • In very, very, very depressing news, carbon dioxide levels are at a record crazy high of 400 ppm. 
  • Here's a looooooong list of all the times conservatives wanted to impeach Obama.
  • Arkady Gerney, who worked with Michael Bloomberg's gun-control group, recounts his own history with gun violence.
  • Financial Times talks with Vanessa Winship, who took a photographic road trip across America.
  • Stop calling Benghazi the next Watergate, says Frank Rich. It's obviously not.
  • The White House is planning to set up more research institutes to spur manufacturing growth stateside.

Poll of the Day

A new poll from Public Policy Polling shows that Americans most want to see Justin Timberlake as president when given a list of the hottest music stars. The former N'Sync-er won 34 percent of the vote, with Adele and Beyonce following with 19 and 14 percent.

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