Arthur Brooks: Fiscal Conservatives Must Put Free Enterprise First

Saturday, 05 May 2012 08:57 PM

By Paul Scicchitano and Kathleen Walter

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Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, charges in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV that fiscal conservatives and other proponents of free enterprise have largely failed to make their case with the American people.

“It’s not good enough to say free enterprise makes us all richer. Everybody already knows that,” he stressed on Friday. “We have to say it’s the right system. It’s what our founders wanted. It’s why our ancestors came here. It’s the fairest system for rewarding merit and creating opportunity. It’s the system that gives us true earned success and it is the only system that can lift up poor people by the billions around the world.”

And what’s more moral than that, asks Brooks, who recently authored “The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise,” which outlines the steps that Americans can take to set the country back on sound economic footing and return to prosperity.

Watch the exclusive interview here. Story continues below video.




“If we fail to make this moral case right now, you and I both know that we probably don’t have more than about 10 years left before we truly are a European-style social welfare state. And then it’s kind of all over for free enterprise,” Brooks insisted.

Indeed, he believes that America has already morphed into a social democracy. “We certainly do have social democracy already if you look at the numbers and I’m afraid that austerity’s in the future,” he predicts. “If you look at any of the ways that we measure the size of government. If you look at the social democracies of Europe, we’re already neck and neck with those guys.”

According to Brooks, the percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) in America that runs through some level of government stands at about 36 percent. “By 2038 it will 50 percent,” he said, noting that Americans will have to work from Jan. 1 to June 30 each year “just to pay for a government that we don’t even like. That’s higher than most European states at this point.”

That’s all the more surprising given that 70 percent of Americans report that they love free enterprise and desire smaller government, he says.

“In point of fact people will demand big government services. Piece by piece by piece politicians offer citizens goodies — and they take them,” he said. “We’ve basically failed to make the moral case for the system. All we make is the material case and that’s just not compelling enough.”

In his book, Brooks makes the case that the United States didn’t arrive at its current economic situation overnight, but he says that the situation has definitely been exacerbated by the policies of President Barack Obama.

“There have been certain times in America’s history where presidents will take on the free-enterprise system, will foment class warfare, will escalate the scale of government services and regulations in ways that are a full assault on our free-enterprise ideals,” Brooks acknowledged. “This is one of those times indeed.”

Pointing to the latest job numbers, which show that unemployment dipped slightly to 8.1 percent, Brooks acknowledged that America’s slow economic recovery could be accelerated by reducing government regulation in the case of Dodd-Frank, Obamacare, and dealing with an overly burdensome Environmental Protection Agency, excessive labor regulations, and a burdensome tax structure.

“You do those five things together, you’re going to see a booming economy,” he predicted, noting that President Obama’s proposed Buffett Rule would only harm the free enterprise system, and bring in little in the way of new revenue by comparison to the $1.5 trillion deficit each year.

“It will hurt free enterprise because, effectively, what it does is it puts a headwind on the entrepreneurial class,” he said. “You’re basically telling people that if they get ahead, they’re going to get smacked.”

Moreover, it’s part of a larger philosophical problem.

“I mean this whole idea that if you’re successful you should either feel guilty or voluntarily want to redistribute your own income away, come on, are you kidding me? This is the perfect recipe for bringing the free enterprise system down, and making the whole country less prosperous, not to mention less free and happy,” he explained.

Brooks added that it’s no secret the business community could do without a second term for Obama. “When you talk to entrepreneurs and business people and look at the public opinion statistics they do in fact say that the business community — the entrepreneurial community — would have more confidence as far as we know so far in a President Romney as oppose to a re-elected President Obama,” he declared.

Even so, it will be critical for proponents of free enterprise to continue to stand up for their beliefs even after the election.

“The most important thing that we can do is keeping our eye on the next decade. No matter what happens in 2013 we’re still going to have to keep fighting,” he said. “The worst thing that can happen to the free enterprise movement today is that something happens that people either like or don’t like in the 2012 election and everybody goes home. An energized movement in 2013 in 2014 is necessary.”

He said that every meaningful public policy shift takes 10 years to accomplish. “This is the fight of a decade and leaders have to be in it together,” added Brooks.

The left often tries to portray fiscal conservatives as heartless business people who are intent on destroying the social safety net, a contention that Brooks dismisses as an outright distortion.

“We need a basic safety net. But that doesn’t mean middle-class welfare,” he countered. “That doesn’t mean bailouts to crony corporations. That doesn’t mean giving special deals to government employees. That doesn’t mean sorting the risks out of life. It also doesn’t mean trying to spread the wealth to get more income equality.”

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