Heritage Foundation analyst Jason Richwine, the co-author of a study claiming the immigration reform bill pending in the Senate would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion, has decided to spend more time with his family. Or something. His departure from Heritage was hasty, to say the least.
Among other things, Richwine’s “study,” which was widely panned (even Paul Ryan has criticized its methodology) came to conclusions that were diametrically opposed to a previous study issued by Heritage just a couple of years ago. But that earlier effort was issued before Jim DeMint became Heritage’s new chief.
The study’s conclusions were based in large part upon Richwine’s assertion that today’s immigrants have low IQ’s that they will pass on to their children–a racist assumption for which there is no credible evidence. In the wake of the report, Richwine’s dissertation–in which he espoused similar theories–became public, as did the fact that he had written articles in 2010 for a website founded by Richard Spencer, a self-described “nationalist” who writes frequently about race and against “the abstract notion of human equality.”
Heritage could hardly have been unaware of Richwine’s history; evidently, they saw his beliefs as a feature, not a bug.
The think tank has always had an ideological agenda, but the organization has previously made a show, at least, of actual scholarship. This episode has badly damaged whatever credibility Heritage retained. Richwine’s abrupt departure only underscores the damage.
Ironically, had they issued a less “over the top” report, opponents of immigration reform would undoubtedly have accepted it unquestioningly and used it as ammunition to derail reform. This product was so flawed, however, that it has been left to Rush Limbaugh to defend it. As a Maddow Blog post put it “The irony is, Heritage produced this report for exactly one reason: to provide some semblance of political cover to Republicans who needed a credible excuse to reject a bipartisan reform plan. The goal was to help the GOP and the far-right cause. The extent to which this backfired is extraordinary.”
It’s hard not to wonder how long Jim DeMint–an anti-science zealot who wouldn’t know real scholarship if he fell over it–will last.