Exclusive interview with new Heritage president Jim DeMint

Earlier today, I had an exclusive* interview with former Senator Jim DeMint to discuss his new position at Heritage Foundation, where he replaced the retiring long-time president Ed Feulner.  The transition had been announced months earlier, and DeMint formally retired from the Senate shortly afterward. What has DeMint been doing since? He has toured the country to see how current policies are failing and creating an explosion in dependency, rather than creating real prosperity and lifting Americans out of poverty.  DeMint warns that conservatives have to assert themselves and get involved on the ground in communities like Detroit, where decades of liberal policies and union control have crippled a city that had once been “world class,” as DeMint puts it.

DeMint talked extensively about the need for safety-net programs, but also the need to keep from making them “traps.” “We have done a lot of things on the federal level that have hurt people,” DeMint says.  “We just need to show people a better way.  They need to know that we care about them and we’re not judging them because of the situation they’re in,” DeMint continues. “In many cases, it’s because we have trapped them in failing schools … because the government schools are controlled by unions.”

DeMint also talks about the necessity of defending the traditional definition of marriage in order to focus on orienting society for the formation and responsibility of children.  “Marriage … is the most fundamental social and economic unit in our country,” DeMint replies.  “We’ve got all the data that shows that it’s the best way to bring up children in the world … We’ve got ample data to show that it’s very difficult for children to succeed [in other models].”

Yesterday, DeMint offered an open letter to Heritage employees, trustees, and conservatives in general explaining his new direction for the think tank:

Liberal policies have destroyed families and communities and created dependence on government. Putting our society back together will require work.

Take Obamacare. Our government has been making promises it cannot keep. Medicare and Medicaid are already on an unsustainable path, leaving health care for seniors and the poor at risk.

Obamacare’s promises fuel our fiscal challenges, but that’s not the worst thing they do. They make millions of Americans dependent on the government for their health care. By 2021, nearly half of all health care spending will be controlled by the government. To protect the country from this tipping point, Congress must stop the new spending on expanding Medicaid and subsidizing coverage through Obamacare.

Dependency is a scourge eating away at our national fiber and undermining the values that made us a shining city to the rest of the world.

Today, more people than ever before—69.5 million Americans, from college students to retirees to welfare beneficiaries—depend on the federal government for housing, food, income, student aid, or other assistance once considered to be the responsibility of individuals, families, neighborhoods, churches, and other civil society institutions. The United States must reverse the direction of these trends or face economic and social collapse.

And the most important social tool to fight dependence on government, the family, is also under attack. The Supreme Court is considering challenges to two marriage laws, and hopefully the judges will stand up for marriage as we have known it since the dawn of time.

Whatever the Court’s decision in June, Heritage will redouble its efforts to restore a culture of marriage in this country, particularly for the most vulnerable. We know that children born and raised outside marriage are five times more likely to experience poverty. Marriage precedes government, and government policy will either witness to the truth or tell a lie about this fundamental institution.

Be sure to read it all, and to watch it all as well.

* – Again, using the media definition of exclusive, which means “no one else was on the call at the time.”

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