‘We’re Number Eleven Isn’t the Motto of This Great Nation’

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While economic freedom continues to expand around the globe, economic freedom continues to decline in the United States, according to the new 2016 Index of Economic Freedom.

The United States now ranks 11th in the world in economic freedom. “With losses of economic freedom in eight of the past nine years, the U.S. has tied its worst score ever, wiping out a decade of progress,” Heritage’s Anthony Kim reports.

“‘We’re number 11’ isn’t the motto of this great nation,” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) said Monday at the launch of the Index.

Dragging down America’s score is increased government involvement in the economy–new taxes, regulations, and spending that limit free enterprise. Speaking at the Index’s launch, Heritage economist Terry Miller pointed this out is ironic considering ours is the first country built upon the principle of limited government.

The Index ranks each country on four key areas: rule of law; limited government; regulatory efficiency; and open markets. Read the whole Index, including the full rankings of each country.

Since 1995, The Heritage Foundation has partnered with The Wall Street Journal to evaluate and measure economic freedom across the globe in the Index, now in its 21st edition.

What do you think? Should America rank higher than 11th for economic freedom?

Economic Freedom Correlated with Prosperity, Lower Poverty, and a Cleaner Environment

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Every year since 1995, The Heritage Foundation has measured, recorded, and ranked the most economically free countries around the world. Released shortly in collaboration with the Wall Street Journal, the 2016 Index of Economic Freedom reaffirms that countries embracing economic freedom are more prosperous:

[It] confirm[s] that citizens of countries that embrace free trade are better off than those in countries that do not. The data continue to show a strong correlation between trade freedom and a variety of positive indicators, including economic prosperity, low poverty rates, and clean environments. Reducing barriers to open markets remains a proven recipe for prosperity. Governments interested in higher economic growth, less hunger, and better environmental quality should increase trade freedom.

Here’s an infographic illustrating the correlation between free enterprise and economic growth, hunger, and the environment:

What do you think? Is economic freedom worth promoting?

How the Media Uses Bad Data to Spread Misinformation About Voter ID Laws

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Listening to the mainstream media, you’d think state governments are actively turning U.S. citizens away from voting booths because they can’t produce a picture ID. You’d think this is the beginning of the end of democracy as we know it. But most of these stories are based on bad data.

In a new Heritage Foundation report, Don Palmer offers an example of how bad data can alter the public debate:

[A] recent example of incorrect use of statistics occurred in Virginia when The Washington Post and advocacy groups claimed that anywhere from 450,000 to over 1.1 million Virginians would be unable to vote because they lacked a photo ID. Those claims failed to include any data on registered Virginia voters who possess forms of ID other than a driver’s license that are also acceptable under the law, such as a U.S. passport; a university-issued photo ID; a federal, state, or local government employee photo ID card; or a military identification card.

Surveys do show that 70 percent of the U.S. public supports voter ID laws, but the continued widespread circulation of inaccurate information may have a negative effect on the public’s perception:

Support for photo ID may fall if the public is perpetually fed partial data or inaccurate information. For example, a recent survey by the University of Delaware demonstrated that support for photo ID laws dropped by 12 percent when the survey question stated that requiring the presentation of a photo ID may ‘prevent people who are eligible to vote from voting.’

Opponents have worked very hard to change the portrayal of photo ID from being a common-sense election administration reform supported by a majority of the public and recommended by experts and organizations such as the bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform, otherwise known as the Carter–Baker Commission, to being recast as the reimposition of ‘Jim Crow.’ But turnout data from multiple states with photo ID laws show that these laws are not in fact preventing eligible voters from voting.

Using faulty data, the media masterminded the public’s change in perception of voter ID laws from a common sense solution to form of repression. This has real and potentially dangerous consequences because it inhibits rational policy debates.

What do you think? Are voter ID laws suppressing Americans’ right to vote?

Fixing Obama’s Foreign Policy Mistakes in 10 Steps from Heritage Experts

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President Obama’s failed defense and foreign policies have led to a sharp decline in U.S. power and influence overseas. With only one year left in his presidency, and a seven-year history of misguided policies, the Obama administration won’t change course on its own. Instead, The Heritage Foundation’s Bridget Mudd suggests Congress press the administration to make the following changes:

  1. Rethink Russia. The U.S. needs to abandon its wishful thinking and treat Russia as it actually is: “an autocracy that justifies and sustains its hold on political power by force, fraud, and a thorough and strongly ideological assault on the West.” The U.S. must then make it clear that Russia’s acts of aggression will carry real and predictable costs.
  2. Put Iran Back in Its Box. The deal with Iran keeps its nuclear infrastructure intact while funneling roughly $100 billion in sanctions relief to the number-one state sponsor of terrorism.The U.S. should halt the deal and adopt a tougher, more realistic approach to preventing Iranian nuclear breakout. A better deal with Iran would include banning Iranian uranium enrichment activities, dismantling substantial portions of the nuclear infrastructure, performing robust “anytime anywhere” inspections, and linking sanctions relief to compliance.
  3. Adopt a New Counterterrorism Strategy. The Obama administration’s counterterrorism strategy is failing. It treats terrorism as a law enforcement problem and cedes away American initiative by relying on a “small footprint strategy.”In order to successfully prevent the emergence of a global Islamist insurgency, the U.S. should rely on hard power and strong bilateral cooperation in order to “divide and defeat.”
  4. Combat Global Islamism. The political landscape in the Middle East and northern Africa is rapidly changing. In order to grapple with the new developments, the U.S. should undertake certain guiding principles to encourage peace, stability, and democratic freedoms throughout the region.With this broad framework in mind, the U.S. should then tailor its various approaches to fit the needs of each individual country.
  5. Cut the Flow of ISIS Foreign Fighters. ISIS has been incredibly successful in recruiting foreign fighters. Forty-five hundred citizens from Western nations have traveled, or attempted to travel, to the Middle East to join the ranks.In order to cut off the flow of foreign fighters, the U.S. should lead an international effort to deny ISIS territory by expanding military action and uproot the ideology by adopting region-specific strategies.
  6. Undertake a Global Agenda for Economic Freedom. According to Heritage’s Index of Economic Freedom, the U.S.’s economic freedom has steadily decreased over the past 7 years. The U.S.’s decline in economic freedom has been accompanied by stagnant growth and high unemployment.The U.S. economy directs benefits from increased economic freedom abroad. Therefore, to unshackle and revitalize the economy, the U.S. should encourage other nations to protect property rights, fight corruption, reduce barriers to trade and investment, and push back against state-owned enterprises.
  7. Reform Border Security. The U.S. immigration and border security system is broken and failed. Immigration law has not been actively enforced, which has resulted in poor rule of law and increased illegal immigration.To restore sanity to the mission of defending the border and enforcing rule of law, the U.S. should put forth a solution so that “Americans can enforce their laws, secure their borders, work with other countries to combat illegal immigration, and also create a legal immigration system that is easier to use, brings in more high-skilled immigrants, and creates well-functioning temporary-workers programs to support the U.S. economy.”
  8. Reform the Department of Defense. The U.S. military is only marginally prepared to defend America’s vital interests.In order to improve performance and expand capabilities, the Department of Defense should (1) cut bureaucracy, (2) employ performance-based logistics, (3) establish the right global military footprint for America, and (4) craft a 21st-century acquisition strategy.
  9. Strengthen Alliances. The U.S. needs to improve its global position through strengthened alliances in order to protect and guarantee vital American interests in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
  10. Increase Ground Forces in Key Areas. Faced with increasing threats in Russia, Asia, and the Middle East, the U.S. should deploy ground forces to these areas in order to deter adversaries, strengthen allies, and protect U.S. interests. Ultimately, the U.S. must have adequate ground forces that can respond quickly in all three key strategic areas.

If we hope to have a stronger, safer, freer, and more prosperous country, Congress needs to press the current administration to start taking the right steps now.

What do you think of Heritage’s proposed steps to reverse President Obama’s damage to our foreign and defense policies?

How Heritage Is Working to Make our Defenses Stronger

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While conservatives didn’t get everything they wanted out of the recently-enacted National Defense Authorization Act, we did get several important wins.

As Congress debated the bill, Heritage experts identified ten priorities the bill should address. These included focusing the bill on national security, removing the energy mandate, pursing a strong nuclear and space policy, strengthening terrorist detention policies, and military sexual assault prevention.  

Conservative solutions prevailed or were advanced in seven of then ten priority areas. Notably, the bill is decent in its focus on national security, military retirement improved, and conservatives won outright on detainee policy.

This results from Heritage’s tandem work with our sister organization, Heritage Action for America. We helped make protecting and strengthening our country a priority for lawmakers.

And we’re already looking ahead to next year’s NDAA bill to ensure it is even stronger.

Our 2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength has had a definite influence over the debate, and will continue to in the years ahead.  

Do you think Congress should focus more on national security?

Should Assimilation Be Required for Immigrants?

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The Paris terrorist attacks have raised questions about how Western nations assimilate immigrants.

Heritage Foundation expert Mike Gonzalez explains, countries like the United States and France do little to counter Islamist propaganda among immigrants. This propaganda holds that Western ideals of freedom are hedonistic. In fact, many Western countries make apologies for their culture and as such have abandoned the assimilation practices which used to be standard with immigrants.

Gonzalez points out the high price the U.S. and France have paid:

Many people think the tradition of assimilating immigrants into society is solely an American thing, something not practiced in “blood and soil” Europe. But one European nation used to take immigrants from around the world and turn them into fervent patriots.

Then, just as it happened here, that country’s elites decided to indulge in self-defeating ennui and gave up on assimilation. That country was France.

Reports that some of the Paris terrorists last week were French-born and raised show the high price the nation has paid for abandoning assimilation.

National pride is the basis upon which a strong country is built. Gonzalez quotes demographer Guillaume Marois:

“Confidence in one’s own people is an essential condition for the assimilation of immigrants and it is no longer sufficiently strong . . . Why would anyone want to become French when the intellectual elites and the media ceaselessly denigrate France? Some immigrants want the material comfort and the security that the West provides, but not necessarily its way of life.

In America, America’s core principles are scorned by the media and overly-apologetic intellectual elites. It is all the more reason we must redouble our efforts to restore those principles to their rightful place.

What do you think? Is assimilation important?

When Americans Express Security Concerns About Refugees, Obama Calls them ‘Un-American’

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It’s “un-American” to worry about accepting additional refugees from Syria, President Obama says.

In fact, the real source of public apprehension isn’t about accepting refugees as such. It’s about the Obama administration’s poorly executed counterterrorism plan. Especially since one of the Paris terrorists posed as a refugee to get into France, President Obama needs to take the issue seriously and not simply dismiss critics.

“Part of the great dissatisfaction with the Obama administration is the general belief that it has no plan on how to deal with the root causes of the conflict,” Heritage experts Jim Carafano, Steve Bucci, and David Inserra explain.

So far, 30 U.S. governors have said they won’t accept refugees. Even Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged this is prudent: “I think it’s appropriate for a governor to stand up and say I want to make certain, I want to protect my people.”

Weeks before the Paris terrorist attack, Heritage published a report outlining the ways that we can improve the security of the refugee process.

Serious problems exist with screening individuals, but rather than shut down the refugee system because of the potential risk, these requirements should be followed to keep Americans safe:

  • Making intelligence-based risk assessments.
  • Consulting with Congress on how to alleviate those risks.
  • Dealing with the chaos in Syria that is causing this problem.
  • Following the law without executive overreach.
  • Focusing refugee efforts on individuals on whom we have intelligence and information or can acquire it relatively easily.

Considering that President Obama has announced that he will increase the refugee quota to 85,000 in 2016 and 100,000 in 2017, with 10,000 slots reserved for Syrians, Heritage’s recommendations are now more valuable than ever.

We are Americans, and we should accept refugees. But to protect our own citizens, we must ensure we do so in a responsible manner.

As Heritage’s experts argue, “We should seek to further all U.S. national interests by keeping the homeland secure and helping those who are persecuted.”

What do you think? Should our president take the refugee vetting process more seriously?

How Heritage Is Laying the Foreign Policy Groundwork for the Next Administration

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When our country’s leaders don’t have the foresight to think strategically about future alliances, The Heritage Foundation’s Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy takes the initiative.

The Obama administration has been less than proactive in foreign affairs, usually taking a back-seat approach to foreign policy by “leading from behind.” This strategy has often been catastrophic.

Unfortunately, there’s little chance the Obama administration will reverse course in its remaining months in office. So Heritage is working to develop a complete foreign policy strategy for the next administration to adopt.

The gears are already in motion. A recent Heritage report explains how the next administration should spend the first four year strengthening America’s overseas alliances, rebuilding national defenses, and strengthening economic freedom at home and abroad.

And last week, Heritage co-hosted an event with an Indian think tank ally which outlined a proposal for the U.S., India, Australia, and Japan to cooperate on policy towards China.

Do you think private groups like Heritage need to step in when official leadership refuses?

‘The Main Appeal of Liberalism Is That It Flatters Their Vanity’

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The Heritage Foundation’s David Azerrad is a French Canadian citizen who is an expert in America’s founding principles.

As a non-citizen, he says, he can give us some real perspective on the divide between liberals and conservatives. And he delivered his thoughts very candidly yesterday at our annual President’s Club meeting:

The main appeal of liberalism it that it flatters the vanity of liberals who think they have a claim on the heart. They get to claim the moral high ground because of the opinions they hold, not what they do. This is why they’re so smug. It’s all about the unsurpassable delights of moral preening.

Azerrad followed up with the fact that no one donates more to charity or volunteers more than religious conservatives. He added that liberalism absolves you of the real responsibilities of the needy next to you because, “they think their taxes have already gone to that cause.”

He concluded that it’s the conservative movement that is in the service of human flourishing. And it’s the conservative movement that will pull us up from the where the Obama administration has left us.

Do you think it’s conservatives — not liberals — who really are the compassionate ones?

John Bolton Says This Was America’s Foreign Policy Turning Point

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The turning point, when the world began to look upon the U.S. as spineless, came after the Benghazi terrorist attack, former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said today at Heritage’s President’s Club Meeting.

“The sum and substance of Obama’s reaction to Benghazi was to arrest one person,” Bolton said. “Under Obama, you can assassinate the president’s personal representative, and you can do it with impunity. That was the single worst lesson Obama gave to the world.”

As bad as foreign affairs sound now, it’s going to get much worse, Bolton added.

The risks to national and global security have increased during the last seven years under the Obama administration, he said. Not only is Russia posturing, but China is building ballistic missiles, conducting cyber warfare, and moving aggressively in the South China Sea.

Bolton also warned of threats in the Middle East, including ISIS. The radical state is extremely organized — they even have a central bank, and the more territory they secure the more legitimate they become in the eyes of potential terrorists from around the world.

“ISIS is a menace to the U.S. and we’ve allowed it for over a year and a half to take root,” he explained. “It’s happened because leaders around the world just don’t care what the U.S. thinks.”

World leaders don’t care because President Obama does not project a firm stance. It’s not that Obama pivots out of Middle East affairs, Bolton quipped, it’s more like he pirouettes out of them.

Undoing the damage caused by the Obama administration isn’t simply a matter of reversing Obama’s policies but rather a wholesale change in direction, Bolton concluded. Reclaiming America’s place in the world will be a hard road.

What do you think was the turning point for global perception of U.S. foreign presence under President Obama?

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