The intellectual dismantling of the Heritage Foundation that began with the hiring of Jim DeMint as its president continues with the hiring of Stephen Moore as its chief economist. Moore is to economics what Dick Morris is to political punditry — he’s pretty much never right about anything.
Moore’s hiring cements the emerging case that the Heritage Foundation, far from being a traditional think tank, has become a Tea Party lobby with a big research budget. It also tells us a lot about the real role that economic thought plays in a movement obsessed with its opponents’ supposed economic ignorance…
My bold prediction: this will end in terrible embarrassment. Moore is much more conservative activist than journalist. In 1999, he founded the Club for Growth, one of the hardest of hard-line conservative PACs, and served as its President until 1999. Moore, who had described his goal in founding the Club to be creating “the tax cut enforcer of the party,”called the Club’s birth “the defining moment of his career.”
He probably shouldn’t have quit his old day job: he’s got a terrible track record as economics pundit. Take this 2010 interview with conservative tabloid Newsmax: it reads like a laundry list of every wrong prediction made about the U.S. economy in the past 5 years. He called “the federal government pouring money into the economy as if we can print money and then print jobs” a “fantasy,” a claim that has been proven spectacularly false by aggressive Fed unemployment targeting.
He suggested unemployment would remain at 9 or 10 percent absent dramatic tax and spending cuts; it’s at 6.7 percent. Moore said our debt would spike inflation and send the price of gold to $2,000; neither inflation nor a durable rise in gold prices emerged. He got everything important wrong…In another, he conceded that mainstream economic theory endorsed major Obama initiatives like the stimulus, and weirdly saw that as an indictment of economists. Economists must be wrong — and this is basically Moore’s whole argument — because their theories “defy common sense.” Or, in other words, the bulk of modern economic theory is mistaken because Stephen Moore thinks it smells funny.
That last column led Jonathan Chait, who’d been following Moore’s work for well over a decade, to conclude “that this is not just some oddball rhetorical game he’s playing.” Rather “he genuinely has no idea what he’s talking about.” Heritage’s new chief economist is a man who not only doesn’t have an economics Ph.D., but cannot even accurately describe the views of people who do.
He’s also highly inconsistent and changes his positions to suit whatever is ideologically convenient for him at the time:
Indeed, Moore’s already road-testing his political spin. In his hiring interview with Heritage’s blog, Moore bashes Obama’s “leftist, big-government agenda,” pining for President Clinton because “we could actually work with Bill Clinton to get things like welfare reform done.” These comments bear no resemblance to what Moore said about Clinton at the time. He savaged the president for “gutting the welfare reform bill,” presenting “a bold and ambitious Democratic agenda of a re-invigorated and activist central government,” and spreading a “class-warfare virus” developed by “the greed-and-envy lobby.” The evil Democrat, for Moore, is whichever one’s in the White House at the time.
Which makes him perfect for today’s Heritage Foundation.