Good Riddance, Thomas Jefferson Institute!

To be frank, I have always had a bad feeling about blogging for Bacon’s Rebellion while its sister electronic magazine of the same name was controlled by a right-wing, lobbyist-infested outfit grandly called the Thomas Jefferson Instutute for Public Policy.

Thankfully, this unholy arrangement will be coming to an end soon. Bacon’s Rebellion has achieved a good reputation as a spot where serious policy discussions can be found — an important point given that mainstream media outfits have so badly cut their staff there’s not a lot of informed discussion. Sure there’s a lot of sparring that sometimes goes over the top. Ditto the e-zine which used to have some of the best reporting and analysis on Virginia’s land use and transportation issues.

Somehow, the so-called Thomas Jefferson people got hold of the e-zine and now they are supposed to give it back. From the git-go, it was a bad conflict of interest since their supposedly scholarly and libertarian sounding board was actually run by a bunch of less-than-scholarly hacks who were really lobbyists in sheep’s clothing.

Nowhere is this more clear than in a study the institute did regarding affordable housing policies in Fairfax County. The report, written by Michael Thompson, a major Republican contributor and director of the “institute,” slams the county for “subsidizing” luxury housing by putting housing aid recipients in apartments where there may be swimming pools, gyms and other benefits, according to The Washington Post. The reasoning seems to be that if you are poor and you get government aid, you have no right to exercise.

Thompson’s skewed report has split the supervisors down party lines. Board Chairman Sharod Bulova, a Democrat, says only 15 of the 41 condo projects where the poor are housed have swimming pools. Thompson apparently ignores the fact that many of the county’s housing units

were built with amenities and that in towards serious downturn, many more people can’t afford the usual, high rents.

So what are they supposed to do? Live in cinderblock cells without TV sets because they are poor? Michelle Krocker, executive director of the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance characterizes the report this way: “There are no data, no interviews, no sources. There are no statistics. I’m finding it very curious that a think tank would put out something less than scholarly.”

No surprise there. I’ve scratched my head at some of the papers I’ve read from the TJ people because they don’t offer many statistics or facts to back up their opinions. I remember one Thompson report lauded offshore drilling and gave a laundry list of supposed benefits without
any sourcing.

The point is that the institute is not really a think tank — it is a Republican lobby. It is hardly “non-partisan” as it pretends to be. Bacon’s Rebellion is severing its relationship with these people. Not a moment too soon.

Peter Galuszka

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