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AEI president, trying to save America

COMMENTARY | June 01, 2010

The free enterprise system is at peril, Arthur Brooks warns in a call to arms published in the Washington Post’s Outlook section. He’s talking about saving us from socialism, and he’s even got carefully-selected poll figures showing that great majorities share his views.

By Henry Banta

At last, the alarm has been sounded. Ring the bells, beat the drums.  
In a soul-stirring call to battle, Washington Post, Outlook p.1, 5/23/10, Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, sounded a clear warning: the barbarians are at the gate. Socialist bureaucrats are once again threatening the fundamental values of America. The free enterprise system and its basic underlying cultural values are at peril. These bureaucrats are led by a President who is determined to change our system and corrupt the values of our youth. In an unspeakable betrayal of our core values Obama has dared to suggest that our youth might consider greed to be something less than the noblest of virtues. He dares to suggest that some of our best and brightest might even aspire to set aside their God-given instinct for greed and actually work for the government. 
Nothing less than the very survival of our free enterprise system is at stake. These socialist bureaucrats threaten to reverse our hard-won gains of the last thirty years. This is not a class war. The class war is over; the rich guys won. This is a cultural war, an attack on those principles that got us where we are. We struggled hard to win back what we lost as a result of the New Deal. In the dark days after WWII, the middle class, inspired by socialists like Keynes and Galbraith, gained at our expense. They burdened the economy with heavy-handed regulation and confiscatory marginal taxes, then, when the economy saw a spectacular growth rate and dramatic increase in productivity, they had the unspeakable temerity to share a generous portion with the middle class. Economic inequality actually fell. If that wasn’t socialism, what is?
However, over the last thirty years our privileged class was able to get back to where it was in the glory days before 1929. The growth in middle class income was stalled and economic gains were redirected to where they belonged – to the very top of the income ladder. The champions of free enterprise accomplished the herculean. We engineered the most massive transfer of wealth and income in the history of our nation – from the middle class, which did not deserve it, to those who surely do. Indeed there were times in the last thirty years when virtually all the growth in GDP went to a fraction of the top one percent of the population.
During this period we achieved a regressive tax system that facilitated avoidance and even evasion of tax liability by the wealthy on a scale virtually unknown outside the third world.
Now all those gains are threatened. The worst feature of the President’s health care bill is what it will do for middle class income. It is at the heart of the President’s effort to roll back the gains we achieved over the last 30 years. We already had the best medical system in the world – for those of us who deserved it. Making it accessible and affordable to everyone will take away a major reason the middle class has been kept in its place. Clearly, this is socialism.
As for financial regulation, how could dull-witted, stultifying, feckless bureaucrats possibly understand the vision, courage and imagination that it took to turn our financial system into a gambling casino? New Deal style bureaucracy and regulation confined our financial system to the boring chore of putting peoples’ savings to work in productive investment – manufacturing plants, tools, equipment, research, innovation. It took real genius to convert it into a system where rich folks could risk other peoples’ money and reap huge profits without risking their own wealth.
Brooks, like so many Republicans these days, cares about what people really think, and is happy to tell us that in opinion polls at least 70 percent of Americans favor a free-market economy, meaning, in his words, that they support “rewards determined by market forces.” Really? Might I suggest that he consult one of the polling experts at his noble think tank and ask how many points a word like “free” (as in “free-market”) is worth in an opinion poll? Ten points? Twenty? Fifty? Not easy to find Americans who come out against freedom in opinion polls.
In the same poll Brooks cited, Question 14 – the one just before his “free market" question – asked: “Is it now a good idea or a bad idea for the government to exert more control over the economy than it has in recent years?” A strong majority of those with an opinion, 59 percent to 41 percent, said “good idea.” Pretty shrewd, those think tank presidents, they know how to find what they are looking for in polls. And discard the rest.
To deal with his point more directly, Brooks could have found poll questions on how satisfied people are, and have been, with policies that favor the rich. See what side the 70 percent come out on then. I wouldn’t expect him to do that, realistically speaking. After all, he’s got a proposition to sell. But shouldn’t the Washington Post editors, independent journalists ostensibly schooled in the power of words, have stopped their contributor from playing so freely and ardently with poll numbers? Or could it be that perhaps they didn’t notice?
Think what bureaucratic socialists might do in the name of health and safety. For example, what’s the point of having a nuclear power program if we are going to saddle it with burdensome safety regulations? How can we trust bureaucrats to keep their dead clammy hands off the nuclear industry if they cannot even trust oil and coal companies to regulate themselves in the name of safety?
Let the call go out to every city, hamlet and village that the socialists and bureaucrats are on the march. Let all decent God-fearing men rally to make our nation safe for greed! And God bless Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute for sounding the alarm and stepping forward to protect our basic values – and our off-shore bank accounts.

How unexpected
Posted by Mike H
06/08/2010, 11:19 AM

Wow, a hit piece against a libertarian think tank ... how edgy and unexpected.

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