Alex Constantine - January 27, 2008
According to their mission statement, The Family Research Council "champions marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society." But this mainstay of the far religious right isn't talking about just any marriage, or any family. Indeed their $22 million in assets are devoted to promoting a narrow and exclusive definition of both. "Society gives 'benefits' to marriage because marriage gives benefits to society," writes FRC's Peter Sprigg in USA Today, "Therefore, when those who are not married, such as people in homosexual or cohabiting relationships, seek to receive such public benefits, they bear the burden of proof. They must show that such relationships benefit society (not just themselves) in the same way and to the same degree that authentic marriage between a man and a woman does. This is a burden they cannot meet. Only the union of a man and a woman can result in the natural reproduction that is essential literally to continue the human race." Last time we checked, it was all too easy for cohabitating opposite sex couples to engage in "natural reproduction" -- especially as the FRC condemns abortion and contraception.
The Hoover Institution
Founded in 1919 by 31st President-to-be Herbert Hoover, the Hoover Institution has been home to ultraconservatives like Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice, enjoying an operating budget well over $38 million in 2007. As long-time advocates of tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals and corporations, Hoover has updated and revised its 1985 pitch for regressive taxation, "The Flat Tax."
Their plan calls for a flat tax on personal and corporate incomes that would effectively place a greater burden on America's struggling middle and lower income earners, while significantly lowering the amount paid by individuals and corporations who benefit the most from our economy. Their flat tax at a "low, uniform 19%" would actually raise taxes on the lower and middle classes, while dramatically cutting them for the highest earners. Sadly, it seems that if the Hoover Institution wins its 25 year struggle to raise the taxes of those least able to pay them, the promise of "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage" will yet remain an even more dismal reminder of Hoover's failed public policy.
Employment Policy Institute/Center for Consumer Freedom/Center for Union Facts
Rick Berman is quite a guy. Back in 1991, he founded the Employment Policy Institute which to this day doggedly repeats a single point in publications from The New York Times to The San Diego Union-Tribune: raising the minimum wage, instituting a living wage, and requiring employers to put a penny toward employee health care are all guaranteed to destroy jobs and help almost no one. But why content yourself with a single one-note right wing think tank when you can run three of them?
Through his Center for Consumer Freedom, Berman argues against schools banning junk food and laws requiring restaurant menus to list calorie content. Through the highly abrasive Center for Union Facts, he runs newspaper ads attacking the labor movement and asserting that union leaders -- in general -- embezzle their members' dues money. His editorials, meanwhile, deride labor as a "perpetual money machine" and sound the warning that facilitating the process for employees to choose union representation could strengthen unions. And then? "Stronger unions use their greater financial strength to push the activist, liberal agenda that will elect more union-friendly legislators." They might even try to raise the minimum wage.
The libertarian Cato Institute has always toed a consistent line: America would be better off without most of the laws, regulations, and public goods we have today. The privatization of everything from schools to Social Security is part of the plan. Accordingly, Michael F. Cannon, Cato's director of Health Policy, wants you to trust free markets with your life. Cannon advocates cutting the public safety net out of health care altogether. He makes the case against "conservatives [who] have been seduced into thinking we can achieve universal coverage in a free-market way," arguing that "a free market would not provide health insurance to all; some people are uninsurable..." And with that, Cannon is off organizing the "Anti-Universal Coverage Club." That's the last we'll hear from him about the "uninsurables" -- mostly very sick people with expensive medical conditions, who certainly cannot afford to pay for the care they need out-of-pocket -- because those of us who think that sick people ought to have access to medical care are "lefties and rent-seeking weasels." But Cannon needn't worry: while millions of Americans are still without adequate health coverage, and medical expenses are a leading contributor to personal bankruptcy, they're not feeling the squeeze at Cato, which declared assets of well over $22 million last year.
American Enterprise Institute
Observers from across the political spectrum have noted that a college education is out of reach for the majority of Americans. Most people have the soaring cost of tuition in mind when they say this. But Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve and now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (2006 net assets: $69 million), is talking about IQ. While experts on human intelligence are still debating the worth of IQ tests, with some arguing that the tests only measure the ability to take the test itself, Murray is eager to stake the educational future of America on it. To his mind, IQ tests prove that most Americans are too stupid for college. "It makes sense for only about 15 percent of the population -- 25 percent, if one stretches it -- to get a college education. And yet more than 45 percent of recent high school graduates enroll in four-year colleges... Government policy contributes to the problem by making college scholarships and loans too easy to get." You heard it from American Enterprise first, ladies and Gentlemen: too many Americans are getting a college degree. Let's get to work cutting those lousy scholarships.