The Scorecard For Conservatives
Accountability only exists when you have transparency and principles. We, and our colleagues at The Heritage Foundation, clearly articulate conservative principles. Our legislative scorecard shows how Members of Congress live up to those principles.
And it works: one influential publication called it “the scorecard for conservatives.”
All too often, lawmakers tend to talk one way back home and vote another way inside Washington. The hundreds of bills and many more amendments Congress deals with every year make it tough to see through the spin and know how Members of Congress really vote.
Our legislative scorecard does just that. And lawmakers are paying attention. One publication covering Congress described our scorecard as “the hugely influential cheat sheet for determining conservative bona fides in Congress.”
Journalists are not alone. Conservatives across the country use our scorecard to talk to their Members of Congress about the votes they cast. Not surprisingly, lawmakers and their staffs ask our government relations team what bills and amendments we plan to score, and also lobby us to consider putting their bill on our scorecard.
Deciding what votes and bills make the scorecard isn’t easy, in part because our scorecard encompasses the full spectrum of conservatism on policy issues large and small. And the decision is made only after careful consideration and how the issue relates to The Heritage Foundation’s conservative policy positions.
In describing our methodology, another news organization said Heritage Action’s scorecard “uses one of the most stringent and specific ranking formulas.” The results are revealing, which allows constituents to see who fights to advance freedom on every vote, no matter how small.
Michael A. Needham
Chief Executive Officer
Heritage Action for America
According to a poll earlier this year, voters have a higher opinion of cockroaches than Congressmen. President Obama’s personal popularity remains solid, but his job approval rating is going down. Why are our elected officials unpopular?
It might just be because they are not listening. In poll after poll, the American people continue to tell Washington that their top priority is the economy. A recent Fox News poll asked participants what is the most important issue facing the nation. The results: the economy got 42 percent, deficit 17 percent, guns 5 percent, and immigration 4 percent.
President Obama inherited a weak economy, to be sure, but his policies, including Obamacare with its costly expected mandates on businesses and the Dodd-Frank financial services regulations have made the situation worse. Even when we see some economic growth, the jobs growth has been feeble. People have been leaving the workforce. Heritage’s James Sherk noted recently, “Labor force participation dropped to 63.3 percent, the lowest rate since 1979..” America needs to get its people back to productive work, not recruit Americans to start taking food stamps.
Instead of working on bills that would help the economy, right now the politicians are working on an Internet sales tax bill and a comprehensive immigration bill offering amnesty.
The liberals’ push on each of these issues will be destructive to our liberties. The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action have been fighting liberal policy each step of the way.
Heritage has also criticized the move for a new Internet sales tax to help states raise more funds to grow government. The Senate is considering forcing businesses to collect taxes for states where they have no physical presence—an affront to representative government and the camel’s nose under the proverbial tent of Internet regulation.
Liberals effectively control the agenda in Washington. Harry Reid (D-NV) has the gavel in the Senate, and President Obama has the bully pulpit. Washington is focused on what they want to talk about and what they are pushing. A compliant press corps certainly amplifies their message.
But conservatives in the House of Representatives are not helpless. They should try to set the agenda on the economy. Last session, they passed some 40 bills that they said would be good for the economy, all of which died in the Senate. But in this Congress, they seem to have given up.
In some ways, who can blame them since liberals reject their ideas out of hand? It would be far better for America, though, if they would set forth their own agenda and make clear that distractions like comprehensive immigration reform with amnesty, and the Internet sales tax are going nowhere in the House.
Instead, House leadership is almost inviting the divisive and distracting issues by saying nothing, or worse, saying the House will take up similar legislation (in the case of immigration reform).
Washington could do a number of things to improve the economy. Here are three especially relevant now: (1) reverse the New Year’s tax hikes that are already hurting economic growth, (2) take steps, even modest ones supported by both parties, to reduce the unfunded long-term obligations of entitlement programs and get us on a path to balance the budget in 10 years (because adding debt slows the economy), and (3) repeal, or at least delay, Obamacare, whose crushing mandates and costs are destroying jobs and trampling on the religious liberty of employers from Hobby Lobby to social service ministries to homeless shelters.
If those sound too partisan, why not take an easy first step and approve the Keystone XL pipeline? It would create thousands of well-paid jobs. The President could act, but if he does not, then Congress should approve the pipeline and force the President to veto it. During the Senate budget debate, an amendment from Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) supporting Keystone passed 62-37.
We know that America’s economy won’t be helped when liberals are waging ideological battles. Conservatives in states like Wisconsin, Texas, and South Carolina are showing they have real solutions that benefit all their citizens. They are fighting for limited government, lower taxes, balanced budgets, and more economic freedom.
Conservatives in Washington should take notice. Washington politicians will continue to be unpopular with the American people if they focus on the wrong issues and do so in a way that divides the American people. Wake up, Washington—our economy is hurting.
Former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, the new president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, ripped the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” U.S. Senators who are pushing immigration reform during the debut of Breitbart News Sunday with Stephen K. Bannon on Sirius/XM Patriot on Sunday night.
“That’s not the way it should be done, where people go behind closed doors and come up with something that we still haven’t seen,” DeMint said.
They’re out there selling it. We don’t know what the legislation is but we’re supposed to have an open, democratic process where people can hear the debate, they can see amendments, they can find out what’s in the bill before it’s voted on. So, it’s very frustrating. Obviously, this isn’t the first time this has happened—on the fiscal cliff, and on all these other things they do backroom deals. But I’m tired of it. Frankly, it’s one of the reasons I left the Senate: to try to change things from the outside in. But I know some of these folks involved [in the Gang of Eight] are actually trying to solve a problem, but this is not the way to do it.
DeMint said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is one of those he thinks is actually trying to solve the problem of illegal immigration but is going about it the wrong way—mainly because the way Washington has evolved is antithetical to transparent and open government.
“Well this is hard because Marco is one of my best friends in the Senate and he’s a great guy, very genuine, and I know he got into this process trying to solve a problem,” DeMint said when asked for his reaction to Rubio’s whirlwind media tour this weekend, in which the Florida Republican appeared on a record seven Sunday shows.
“He’s just dealing with some folks who have a political objective and it’s very difficult,” DeMint explained. “So, I don’t blame him for trying to sell what’s in it, I’ve just encouraged him from the very beginning to make sure he knows what’s in the legislation and make sure we get what we need out of a new immigration system before we agree to make citizens out of 11 million people.”
Lady Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s former prime minister and patron of The Heritage Foundation, was a leader who transformed Britain from the sick man of Europe into once again a great nation and an economic powerhouse.
Her death yesterday at the age of 87 is a loss not only for her own country of Great Britain, but also her strong allies in America and across the globe.
Lady Thatcher outlived the vast majority of her adversaries and critics. She was a leader who changed the course of history. In fact, the Thatcher revolution really laid the foundations for the Reagan revolution in the United States.
She was a hugely successful politician because she was always a conviction politician. Lady Thatcher held to a deep-seated set of conservative beliefs. She always stood by conservative principles.
Lady Thatcher always believed firmly in the ideal of American leadership on the world stage. It was her view that without American leadership, this world is a far more dangerous place.
And in order to protect and advance her legacy in the United States, she established the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at Heritage in 2005. It’s the only center in the world that is named after Lady Thatcher. And she set up a center in the Washington, not in London, because she has so much faith in American global leadership.
Heritage has always had a very special place in Lady Thatcher’s heart. I saw her in London just a few months ago in December. She was very cheerful. She was contented. She was very tranquil. And the first question she asked me when I saw her was, “How is The Heritage Foundation doing?” Because she has always felt that Heritage is a special place, that Heritage is a place that protects and defends conservative beliefs.
As we mourn the loss of Lady Thatcher, it’s important for us to remember the importance of moving forward with core conservative beliefs. If Heritage does not defend these very values that Margaret Thatcher fought for, then America will be a far less prosperous society — a society that does not hold onto the beliefs of individual freedom, individual liberty. And for Margaret Thatcher, individual liberty, individual freedom, are what makes the United States a great nation.
So today we pay tribute to the Iron Lady, one of the greatest British politician of our time, one of the greatest figures of modern times, a figure who fought for everything that we believe in as conservatives. And may we go forward now fighting for those principles and advancing the vision of the great Iron Lady.
There’s a heated debate going on in this country about marriage—and at times, it’s less than civil.
Heritage’s William E. Simon Fellow, Ryan Anderson, faced a verbal firing squad on Piers Morgan Live this week, as Morgan and guest host Suze Orman told him that he was one of the few people “still” holding a traditional view of marriage between a man and a woman.
Obviously, that’s not true. Citizens of 41 states continue to affirm marriage as it has been through history, and thousands joined the March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., this week to attest to the fact.
But emotionally charged discussions can be uncomfortable—even if you’re not on national television. To foster reasoned debate, The Heritage Foundation and other allies have produced a booklet that explains why maintaining the definition of marriage matters for children and for limited government.
We should welcome debates like these, and that’s why the Supreme Court should not cut it off. It should uphold the marriage laws before it right now and allow the American people to continue to make marriage policy. Judicial restraint respects the democratic process.
That democratic process is possible because all Americans also enjoy liberty of conscience. This is exactly why we have religious freedom—so that we can live out and voice our beliefs without the fear that the government is going to restrict us. It’s so basic to our way of life that we take it for granted.
“We have so much religious freedom here that we’re like a fish who doesn’t know what water is,” says author Eric Metaxas. Metaxas, author of Bonhoeffer and Amazing Grace, spoke on the centrality of religious freedom at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this month.
Just as a fish doesn’t notice water until it is taken away, we often assume our religious liberty until it is threatened. In the past few years, Americans have stood up against government intrusions that threaten to erode our First Amendment freedoms, speaking out against Obamacare’s Health and Human Services mandate. And while tolerance is supposed to be one of the liberal virtues, it has often been lacking in the public conversation.
But we are having the conversations. Where religious liberty is threatened in our society, people are calling attention to it. In many countries, people of faith are imprisoned, tortured, and killed for speaking out. Our Constitution protects us from such horrors.
This week marks holy observances for Christians and Jews. It is a fitting time to consider the fact that we have the freedom to celebrate holy days, live alongside people of all faiths, and openly debate the issues that are most important to us.
Is there a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces in your life? If so, tears likely came to your eyes when you saw Jeep’s Super Bowl commercial. Oprah Winfrey’s voice-over was a moving tribute to those who fight for us: “In your home, in our hearts—you’ve been missed. You’ve been needed. You’ve been cried for, prayed for.”
For those of us who have had loved ones in harm’s way in Iraq, Afghanistan, or other overseas bases in the past few years, the ad acknowledged that desire above all others: to bring them home safely.
“When you’re home, we’re more than a family. We are a nation that is whole again.”
Our 22 million veterans are indeed part of the whole that is America. But after they’ve gone through hell on the battlefield, they come home—and then what? Home looks different from the home they left. After seeing what they’ve seen, feeling what they’ve felt—they will never be the same again.
At Heritage’s Bloggers Briefing this week, Colonel David W. Sutherland, U.S. Army (Ret.), talked about that difficult transition from fighting for his life in Iraq to driving calmly down a road in Texas.
Col. Sutherland, executive director of the Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Community Services, was introducing the audience to the driving force behind a new documentary called Veteran Nation that seeks to empower Americans to support service members at home. “There is an overarching desire by the American people to want to help,” he said. “They just don’t know how. And it’s this film, the understanding of how, that builds public awareness.”
If you search for an organization that helps veterans, you can find 400,000 websites. So where do you start? Both the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs have concluded that linking those who want to help with veterans and their families is the single greatest and most important challenge they face.
That’s where Veteran Nation comes in—to educate people on these efforts and prompt discussions of where each of us can fit in. Sutherland said these connections are important because this support and integration is an undertaking for communities, not the government:
I fought for my family, my neighbors, my community, and my buddies on my left and my right. And I come home to my family, my neighbors, my community. I look for new buddies on my left and my right, and I don’t come home to big-government organizations. And that recognition, that ability to articulate that, is told so well in Veteran Nation.
The film is a 30-minute documentary that goes inside the war stories—and the homecomings—of our fighting men and women. It was produced by filmmakers at ColdWater Media and by volunteers from Esprit de Corps, a non-profit group led by Heritage’s vice president for foreign policy, James Jay Carafano.
Carafano, a West Point graduate, is a 25-year Army veteran who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, serving in Europe, Korea, and the United States. He was inspired to make Veteran Nation after learning about a group in Bozeman, Montana, that provides a healing environment for wounded service members. Warriors and Quiet Waters uses its community’s resources—in this case, fly fishing—to connect veterans with each other and support them.
“While not every town in America is blessed with rivers and scenery like in the movie A River Runs Through It, every town could muster what it does best to serve those who served,” Carafano has said. “All it takes is a commitment of contact, comradeship, and community to make a difference.”
Today, The Heritage Foundation will host a screening of Veteran Nation. But this is just the beginning—the movie was made to send into communities across the country. Esprit de Corps will provide you with a DVD of the film if you would like to host a screening wherever you are. Please visit www.servingourvets.org for information.
All across America, families are balancing their budgets and even paying off debt. Since the financial panic of 2008, personal debt has fallen as Americans tighten their belts and pay back loans. Some, unfortunately, had to declare bankruptcy because their debts got too big. Washington cannot declare bankruptcy; it must instead follow the example of millions of Americans and cut spending to live within its means.
Most state governments, likewise, have managed to balance their budgets, even during these hard times. A few states, notably California and Illinois, continue to follow the federal government’s profligate example. A few raised taxes to get their fiscal houses in order, but most simply reduced spending. Several very large states with financial challenges, like Texas and Florida, balanced their budgets without any income tax at all by reducing spending. They are showing the way.
Washington could use the guidance. President Obama promised to cut the annual deficit in half in his first term. Instead, his budgets include near-trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. Unlike most state governments, and unlike America’s families, President Obama has to this point refused to do the serious work of cutting spending.
Incredibly, the “fiscal cliff” deal actually increased spending on net by $47 billion, while simultaneously letting 13 new or higher taxes take effect. The President also called for a “balanced” approach. So far he’s 0 for 2—no halving the deficit and no balance.
The next opportunity to focus Washington’s attention is the debt ceiling, which we hit last month. Treasury is now using some extraordinary tools to keep paying bills, but this likely won’t last beyond February. So something has to happen. But what should happen?
Would you give your spendthrift teenager a higher limit on his credit card if he did not have a plan to live within his means? No way! Instead of helping, you’d be giving that irresponsible teen more borrowed money to spend, making his situation worse.
The same principle applies to our nation’s credit card, which boys and girls of tomorrow will have to pay off. Increasing the debt limit without a credible path to balancing the budget puts off needed spending discipline and pushes us toward national ruin.
A truly balanced plan would lead to a balanced budget. The debt ceiling—if not raised—would force the federal government to operate on a balanced budget overnight. This approach could lead to unorganized cuts as the executive branch decided which bills to pay and not to pay, which of course is not ideal. (Congress could help by passing a prioritization bill in case we need it). Under a new law, or even without one, the Treasury would undoubtedly have enough money to pay our interest expense, avoiding a default on our debt.
Increasing the debt ceiling without reforms would be an unfortunate step toward a Greece-like meltdown at some point. Thankfully, the debt ceiling debate gives Washington policymakers a chance to get to much happier outcome: a balanced budget over time.
While our debt situation is dire, to this point our federal government has been able to use deficit financing because, as bad as things are here, they are better and more stable than in many parts of the world. It also helps in marketing our debt that the Federal Reserve is buying so much in a largely fruitless attempt to stimulate the economy. Regardless, we have a short window of opportunity to get our house in order before credit markets demand severe austerity.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.” That’s why Congress should not raise the debt ceiling unless it includes immediate reforms today that put us on a sure path to balance, keep us in balance over time, provide for the common defense—and do not raise taxes.
There are a number of ways the budget could be balanced in short order. The Heritage Foundation put forward a plan that achieves balance in less than 10 years. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) sponsored that plan in a budget debate last year that also included plans from Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), both of which led to balance. None of them raised taxes. The House-passed Paul Ryan (R-WI) budget led to balance much later, but at least it was on the right path.
In contrast, liberals in Congress and the executive branch have not produced a single budget blueprint that balances within 10 years—or ever. For a President who likes to talk about a “balanced approach,” none of his proposals achieves the most important balance: spending only what you take in in revenue. That’s real balance.
Conservatives in the House and Senate are right to not raise the debt ceiling unless it includes reforms that put us on a path to balance within 10 years and keep us balanced. To do anything else would be abetting Washington’s massive overspending habit.
(Derrick Morgan is vice president for domestic and economic policy at The Heritage Foundation.)
China set a record with its investments around the world in 2012. And in the United States, China shattered its previous investment record.
Before people start panicking, it’s important to know: This is not a bad thing.
First, let’s put it in perspective. Chinese investment is still very, very small as compared to the size of the U.S. economy. At the national level, the stock of investment is barely $50 billion—which sounds large, but is negligible compared to a stock of American wealth of more than $60 trillion.
No one’s “taking over” anything. In fact, more Chinese investment is a good thing. It creates jobs; it benefits companies, and it should be welcomed. It also gives us more leverage to push for a more open Chinese market, which continues to be a major problem.
Globally, the U.S. can compete and win with China in terms of economic influence, but we have to be willing to play. We have to be willing to expand our trade and investment in both directions.
The Heritage Foundation offers the only public dataset of Chinese outward investment, tracking the country’s investments of $100 million or more since 2005. Using our interactive map, you can see where the flow of investment is going—by country and by sectors, including technology, transportation, agriculture, real estate, metals, etc.
Energy continues to attract the most Chinese money, while North America became the most popular destination for Chinese firms in 2012. Australia also remains a top destination for Chinese investment.
Now, while additional investment that supports American jobs is welcome, we have to be smart. We need to make sure that Chinese companies doing business here don’t undermine competition, because they get so much support from their government. If our laws are adequate to do this, we should not hesitate to enforce them. If they need to be modified, that process will take some time, so we should start now.
There are protections in place for U.S. interests, and if these need strengthening, then the U.S. government should address those needs. America already has a structure in place to:
- Safeguard technology: The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is tasked with keeping foreign entities from acquiring technology that could harm American interests. It should continue to investigate and bar any transactions it finds harmful.
- Ensure that Chinese firms behave differently here than at home: The Securities and Exchange Commission is currently responding to a failure to disclose financial information by some Chinese firms that sell stock here. This kind of action must continue. Chinese entities operating in the U.S. or selling stock here must follow American law or be forced to depart.
Chinese investment in the U.S. is no reason to get nervous. It boosts our economy and should prompt us to secure top-flight trade and investment agreements across the Pacific and around the world.
It’s also important to note that this trend won’t last forever. North America has jumped to the forefront of Chinese business activity, but this development is likely to be temporary: The pattern over time is for Chinese enterprises to move as a group from region to region. The U.S. should take this opportunity both to welcome Chinese investment and to respond to it according to our laws and values.
When we talk about “economic freedom,” what do we mean—and why does it matter?
Economic freedom is the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property. In an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please, with that freedom both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state.
Since reaching a global peak in 2008, sadly, economic freedom around the world has continued to stagnate.
Today launches the 19th edition of the Index of Economic Freedom, produced by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. The 2013 Index was edited by Ambassador Terry Miller, director of Heritage’s Center for International Trade and Economics; Kim Holmes, Ph.D., Heritage’s Distinguished Fellow; and Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D., Heritage’s president.
What are the reasons for the worldwide sluggishness? As Ambassador Miller writes in The Wall Street Journal, “Particularly concerning are the rise of populist ‘democratic’ movements that use the coercive power of government to redistribute income and control economic activity.”
While “corrupt political and legal environments cause underdevelopment in poorer countries,” Miller writes, “unfortunately, economic favoritism and cronyism exist in advanced democracies, too.” Americans are well aware, and the overall U.S. score has been dropping since 2009. From 2009 to 2010, the U.S. declined from being a “free” economy to “mostly free.” This year, it ranks 10th in the world.
One reason for America’s lack of freedom is that its scores on regulatory efficiency—which include business freedom and labor freedom—have dropped. The editors point to the fact that “over 100 new major federal regulations have been imposed on business operations since early 2009 with annual costs of more than $46 billion.”
Miller explains that what happens in Washington affects not only every corner of America, but of the world:
It is no exaggeration to blame the recent slowdown in economic liberalization around the world on the lack of U.S. leadership. Trade flows—the engine of world growth—have declined as the U.S. economy has stagnated. Protectionism threatens consumers and businesses with higher costs and restrictions in supply. Ill-conceived banking regulations such as the Dodd-Frank law generate uncertainty and anxiety. And investment freedom declines in the face of higher costs and new legal and tax liabilities such as those introduced by ObamaCare. These misguided U.S. policies hurt Americans first, but others feel the harm as well.
North America continues to be the world’s freest region, though Mexico was the only economy that improved its Index score over the last year. The region boasts two “mostly free” economies (Canada and the United States) and one “moderately free” economy (Mexico). It leads the world in terms of rule of law, regulatory efficiency, and open markets, but is getting worse where government spending is concerned.
About the Index
Launched in 1995, the Index evaluates countries in four broad areas of economic freedom: rule of law; regulatory efficiency; limited government; and open markets. Based on an aggregate score, each of 177 countries graded in the 2013 Index was classified as “free,” “mostly free,” “moderately free,” “mostly unfree,” or “repressed.”
The broader areas are broken down into 10 measures: property rights, freedom from corruption, fiscal freedom, government spending, business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom, trade freedom, investment freedom, and financial freedom.
The New Website
The updated website, launched today, is interactive:
- Compare up to three countries of your choice on all 10 measures of economic freedom with an interactive, color-coded chart feature.
- See a colorful heat map of the spread of economic freedom around the world, or select a specific region.
Each country’s profile includes quick facts such as its population, gross domestic product (GDP), unemployment rate, and the amount of foreign investment flowing into the country—and you can embed this data in your blog or website.
Senator Jim DeMint, president-elect of The Heritage Foundation, talks about how conservatives are perceived and what he sees for the future of the movement. This is the first and second video in a three-part series.
Jim DeMint on the Future of Conservatism
Jim DeMint on Success and Failure