Arthur Brooks

White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel wasn’t kidding when he said that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste, and according Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), it was anything but wasted. “Indeed, the period of panic that everyone was facing opened a tremendous opportunity for the left to start establishing the principles of social democracy,” Brooks said this week at The Heritage Foundation. As the recession abates, confidence slowly builds and a dynamic is born where panic is receding and anger is setting in over what politicians did to use this panic as a pretext for government takeover.

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Why such anger? According to Brooks, it is rampant spending, lack of transparency, and total lack of credibility from politicians. A year ago Fed economists said 2009 would bring 2% economic growth and 5% unemployment. Today we can expect to see a 1.5% decline and unemployment reaching nearly 10%. The administration is asking the public to trust the same people who grossly miscalculated the economic situation and look to them for a prognosis for the future. We should be skeptical, said Brooks. “The stimulus was predicated on predictions that turned out to be wrong. The Council of Economic Advisors said we have to pass the stimulus because it will lower unemployment. Without the stimulus we can expect 8% unemployment, but if we pass the stimulus we will have 7% unemployment. Now we see that with the stimulus we have 9% unemployment. Why are we trusting them?” wondered Brooks.

Despite the overreaching attitude of the administration, conservative ideology still dominates in America. Overwhelming majorities prefer the free-market system. When the Pew Center asked if the free market was best for the U.S. despite its severe ups and down, 70% said yes.

However, Brooks is concerned with the strategy used to keep those under 30 sympathetic to socialism by ensuring that they don’t become a part of the taxpaying workforce. Under Obama, the percent of working people who have no federal income tax liability will rise to 49%. “Trying to get all the taxes from a smaller and smaller group of people who are not the broader group of voters gives him the tools to change the cultural state of the nation,” said Brooks.

For those who join Brooks in regretting that trend, AEI has launched the Campaign for the Culture of Free Enterprise consisting of traditional and digital communications, education for policy consumers and policymakers, citizen control, and most importantly making the moral case for free enterprise. “Taxation is not about money, it’s about fairness and freedom. If you raise my taxes it makes me less free, it’s unfair and it’s not American. Every time we win it’s because we make the moral case for capitalism,” said Brooks.