Heritage Has a New Chief Economist

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.

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  • Usernames are smart

    It sounds like he suffers from an unholy mix of Dunning-Kruger and cognitive dissonance.

    He has little to no clue about economics, yet says things are they way he wishes they were, but are impossible (like cutting taxes = more jobs).

    Has he ever owned his own small business, where he had to decide when to expand (hire more emps)? I doubt it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003657987619 Barefoot Bree

    Well, that’s just the basic operating principle of authoritarians and bible-believers both. Someone in authority spake thus, therefore it must be true. I’m in a position of authority (usually self-proclaimed), and this is how I see it, therefore it must be true – and all evidence to the contrary is simply hand-waved away.

    He’s no different from Glenn Beck or many, many other public figures in this regard.

  • doublereed

    As Krugman weighed in:

    The point, anyway, is that the newly non-crazy Heritage will now have a chief economist who is the equivalent, for the dismal science, of having a chief scientist who denies climate change and evolution. If this counts as a move toward sanity, think of what that says about the starting point.

  • Michael Heath

    Stephen Moore is one of Bill Maher’s go-to conservative panelists.

    He is representative of the WSJ editorial board and their cringingly bad arguments, where Mr. Moore once served. He was also a fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute.

    Moore’s career and his anti-expert arguments are a perfect representation of who Republican politicians now consider when getting advice on economics, i.e., not from actual credible economists. So the fact he’s an ideologue who is now chief economist of a conservative think tank, in spite of not being an economist, is a perfect illustration of where the GOP currently is when it comes to its leaders accepting advice and counsel.

    However, I remain befuddled by Ed and others claiming there are major changes to the Heritage Foundation since Jim DeMint took over. I disagree, just a natural regression.

    I have a close relative who is a long-time contributor to Heritage and has received written correspondence from them for decades, some of which I review. They’ve always been wackaloons; always. They’ve long promoted Christian Nation revisionism and Christianism, been anti-expert and pro-creationism, denialists of AGW, and promoting popular talking points economists falsified many decades ago.

    Perhaps they’re getting worse since Mr. DeMint took over, but they’re not fundamentally changing from a credible think tank that just happened to be conservative to an influential propaganda arm of the conservative Christian movement, they’ve always been the latter.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Which makes him perfect for today’s Heritage Foundation.


  • DaveL

    a Tea Party lobby with a big research budget

    Exactly how much does it cost to quote chain e-mails without attribution?

  • raven

    Supply side economics is right up there with Orcs, Fairies, Elves, Faith Healing, and the Demon Theory of Disease.

    Whenever its been tried, it usually ends in disasters.

    We are still fixing the damage from the Bush tax cuts Catastrophe.

    When Bush took office, the US was running a surplus thanks to Clinton. Eight years later, the deficits had increased markedly and the Great Recession was starting.

    Doing more of what has failed is the definition of insanity.

  • dingojack

    ““the greed-and-envy lobby.”” isn’t that on the ground floor of the NYSE?



    MH – “… some of which I review”. Nice melody, but you can’t dance to it. 3 out of 10. 😉

  • Michael Heath

    Zack Beauchamp, cited by Ed above:

    My bold prediction: this will end in terrible embarrassment.


    He probably shouldn’t have quit his old day job: he’s got a terrible track record as economics pundit.

    [Followed by a list of Moore’s idiotic delusional predictions that were also wrong.]

    Mr. Beauchamp needs a primer in authoritarianism, especially the type that infects conservative Christian thinking and is promoted by Heritage. It doesn’t matter if Mr. Moore is continually wrong in his predictions. It also doesn’t matter if Moore’s policy advice is implemented by politcians and fails. Conservative Christians deny reality, they do not concede failure except when they can leverage a failure they acknowledge (rare) to move deeper into fundamentalism.

    As long as Mr. Moore pushes what they want to believe, get politicians to take the positions Heritage argues, and is able to bring in contributions, he’ll do just fine. Bad outcomes due to Heritage counsel will be blamed on liberals or not being conservative enough. Bad outcomes will also reinforce a commitment by conservative Christians to the very policies that Heritage promotes and failed. E.g., the various outcomes of countries reacting inside the Great Recession. Heritage still promotes austerity policies during a recession (really contractionary policies) that resulted in the worst outcomes (U.K.), while the policies most loyal to Keynesian economics which led to the best recoveries are still vilified (China). The U.S. results were mediocre, which are also perfectly correlative to our mediocre reaction to the recession.

  • dingojack

    To be fair:

    “Moore grew up in affluent New Trier Township, Illinois. He attended Saints Faith Hope & Charity School in Winnetka and graduated from New Trier High School in 1978.[1] He received a B.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.A. from George Mason University in economics”.(FoAW)

    I don’t know if they are good schools, but he does have an M.A. in economics, at least. (Clearly however, he forgot more than he learned)


  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com tommykey

    The way Stephen Moore talks and laughs reminds me of that crazy Lesko guy who used to have those infomercials about you could get money from the government if you bought his book.

  • raven

    The Heritage Foundation was behind the Shut Down the Government action of the Tea Party last year.

    It was absurd. They wanted to destroy the USA to prevent a few million poor people from getting insurance from private exchanges.

    The ACA is a minor tweak to our kludged together health care system. It is supposed to save the Feds $20 billion a year according to the CBO.

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/LDORIGINALS Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    he’s pretty much never right about anything.

    So, pretty much par for the course. When has the Heritage Foundation ever been right about anything?

    Dingojack #10

    I don’t know a lot of details about either school, but the GMU Econ faculty looks to be full of Chicago School types, so it’s quite likely that he is repeating what he learned while getting that M.A. (GMU Law school also gets a mention in The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement, also not promising).

  • dingojack

    Dalillama, Schmott Guy – well that explains his parroting economic idiocy, perfectly.


  • http://festeringscabofrealityblogspot.com fifthdentist

    Someone who is right sometimes would be a bad fit. To make a correct prediction, it usually is necessary to use things like reality and facts*, things that are too liberal for Jim DeMented.

    * Glenn Beck announcing that he helped divide the country while on Fox (but somehow not since he left?!) is the exception that proves the rule.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    In 1999, he founded the Club for Growth… and served as its President until 1999.

    With a tenure like that, he clearly as a strong grip on and the full confidence of his wingnut / lackey peers.

  • Nick Gotts

    However, I remain befuddled by Ed and others claiming there are major changes to the Heritage Foundation since Jim DeMint took over. I disagree, just a natural regression.

    I have a close relative who is a long-time contributor to Heritage and has received written correspondence from them for decades, some of which I review. They’ve always been wackaloons; always. – Michael Heath@4

    QFT. Founded in 1971 with funding from (among others) the right-wing extremist Joseph Coors, later a member of Ronald Reagan’s “kitchen cabinet”, the Heritage Foundation cut its teeeth opposing detente and environmental protection. It was thus particularly favoured during the Reagan administration, and Reagan gave a speech at its tenth anniversary meeting in 1983.

  • dingojack

    Pierce – Moore was the president between 1999 to 2004, in fact (according to FoAW).

    Nick – A tenth anniversary, twelve years after it’s founding? Doesn’t really give one faith in their accountancy skills.