Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint on Tuesday urged Americans not to despair at news that the United States had fallen to 12th in the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, marking the 20th anniversary of the project.

He called it an "unfortunate but foreseeable slide."

"It should stun everyone," the former South Carolina senator said, pointing out that the United States now is behind Estonia with a rating of "mostly free."

DeMint tempered his gloomy announcement with an upbeat message.

"Fortunately despair will never be part of what we do here at the Heritage Foundation," he said. "We're continuing to work on those factors, those inputs, that change the total output of economic growth."