Since the Heritage Foundation defines itself as "a conservative think tank that is at the forefront of the pro-globalization perspective," it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that it favors Republican presidential administrations.
Taegan Goddard's Political Wire at CQ notes, "The Heritage Foundation no longer ranks the United States as a free country. We're now just 'mostly free.'"
According to the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, the United States has fallen below the 100-80 percent "free" bar, losing 2.7 points last year to land at 78.
Interestingly, Canada, a country whose health system has been demonized by conservatives during the US reform debate, stands at 80.4, number seven on the list, and one rank higher than the "mostly free" United States. Hong Kong tops the list with 89.7, with Singapore close behind with 86.1. Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Switzerland round out the rest of the top six.
North Korea holds up the rear in the index with a score of just 1.0, while Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries the last Republican presidential administration spent copious time and money to bring "freedom" to, join Sudan and Liechtentstein as "non-applicable" countries.
According to a graph at the conservative think tank's web site which displays scores for the last fifteen years, the United States boasts a higher freedom score during Republican administrations.
The 2010 ranking is the worst score for the United States since President Clinton left office, according to the Heritage study, and former President George W. Bush single-handedly kept America from plummeting to the "mostly free" bracket.
While the graph appears to show lower rankings during some Clinton years, a conservative magazine claims this is the first time America changed to "mostly free."
The American Spectator notes, "For the past 16 years, the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal have co-published an annual Index of Economic Freedom, which awards every nation an 'economic freedom' score based on 10 measurements of economic openness: Business Freedom, Trade Freedom, Fiscal Freedom, Government Spending, Monetary Freedom, Investment Freedom, Financial Freedom, Property Rights, Freedom from Corruption, and Labor Freedom. The big news about the recently published 2010 Index of Economic Freedom is that, for the first time, the United States' ranking has slipped from 'Free' to 'Mostly Free.'"
While the Index acknowledges that Bush administration policies played a role in lowering the U.S. ranking, it places most of the blame on the Obama administration:
The national government's role in the economy, expanding under President George W. Bush, has grown sharply under the administration of President Barack Obama, who took office in January 2009. Economic growth, which collapsed in 2008, had resumed by the second half of 2009, but legislative proposals for large and expensive new government programs on health care and energy use (climate change) have increased prospects for significant economic disruptions and raised concerns about the long-term health of the economy.
Some liberals might note that this is the first index to rate a year in which no Republican president spent any time at all in office, since the conservative Rupert Murdoch-controlled News Corp. bought the Wall Street Journal in 2007.