Preview: The Conscience of a Compassionate Conservative

Arthur C. Brooks says that despite the heated rhetoric of the far right, the compassionate conservatism once touted by George W. Bush isn’t dead. It’s alive and well at the conservative American Enterprise Institute — AEI – where Brooks became president in 2009. Residing now at the top of the conservative pecking order in Washington, Brooks advises Republican leaders in Congress and spreads AEI’s message to a wider audience. His specialty, as Newsweek describes it, is “translating ideas from policy speak into soaring moral prose.” One of his key ideas: The endgame of free enterprise is not to preserve wealth but to create opportunity for the poor.

“Republicans could come screaming out of the gate going forward and say, ‘We’re the ones who will fight for the poor. We’re the ones who will fight for workers,'” Brooks tells Bill. “You might not agree with what we’re gonna– how we’re gonna do it, but let me tell you, you will not doubt what’s on our hearts.”

Moyers presses Brooks on why companies like Target, McDonald’s and Wal-Mart don’t pay a living wage to their employees who then have to rely on public programs to support themselves – in Walmart’s case, about $4,000 per worker. Brooks argues the market doesn’t support higher wages and agrees that the country needs public policies that make work profitable for workers.

Brooks is the author of hundreds of articles and 10 books, including his most recent, The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise.

Learn more about the production team behind Moyers & Company.

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  • JonThomas

    Lol… I don’t doubt what’s on their hearts at all… not at all.

    Read his lips. It will all soon trickle down. Don’t pay down your personal debt (especially those high interest credit cards.) Instead, It’s your patriotic duty to go out and spend this small – itsy bitsy, feel good, sold your soul to us for a few hundred dollars – rebate check on Chinese made goods, to boost the American economy.

  • Karl Hoff

    Isn’t a compassionate conservative one that was a republican and left it because the republican party was for the middle class in the 1950s and is now for the ultra rich?

  • Sam Zapp

    More of the same selfishness, greed and narcissism as any other Republican. He doesn’t even make you read between the lines when he says we need public policies…… Yes, that’s right. A permanent welfare state for the 99 percenters. That’s his idea all wrapped up in altruism for the masses. I hope people can see through that BS by now.

  • Anonymous

    Yes Sir…I remember the compassion of W./Dick & Co. (GOP: If you are not with us, you are with the terrorists) towards the people when they started the era of god and terror against the planet….

  • David Kerlick

    Right the market supports $146B for the Waltons but not $10 an hour for their serfs.

  • NotARedneck

    Investment – REAL investment – is certainly what is needed. Unfortunately the right wing criminal trash are doing so well on speculation and financial fraud that they are unwilling to change.

    Besides, it is far easier to evade one’s taxes when you speculate or steal.

  • NotARedneck

    Yes. REAL conservatives won’t touch the RepubliCONs (or Canada’s so called “conservative party”) with a 10 foot barge pole. Don’t want to get the slime on them.

  • Emerald Griffin

    Brooks claims that the market doesn’t support higher wages. Does he mean that it can’t support higher wages or that it chooses not to support higher wages. Brooks clearly doesn’t support higher wages.

    His advice to Republicans is purely tactical–as in: how to dupe folks for another election cycle.

  • Anonymous

    Compassionate conservative=oxymoron. This man spewed nothing but bovine fecal material straight out of the ALEX talking points bible.

  • Kyle

    Free enterprise may at times “create opportunity for the poor,” but giving one an “opportunity” doesn’t necessarily translate into a job offering a living wage.

  • Robert H. Pike

    If the compassionate Conservatives honestly believe the “trickle-down” theory of wealth works, they’re fooling themselves.

  • Texasace00

    “The market does not support higher wages” Same, tired old trickle down argument that is a bold lie at best. See the stock market lately? Walmart’s earning report? We live in a corporate Oligarchy, and that is the root of 99.999% of the problems Americans face today and well into the future. From a for-profit legal system to the culture of lobby-for-legislation on the Hill, this is going to get worse before it ever gets better. This faux trickle down lie has been going around since the railroad barons in the mid 1800’s, and it’s still going strong

  • Texasace00

    Yeah, crying shame Walmart makes 16.5 billion instead of 17 billion, but that’s OK, we will pick up their tab, as usual….

  • Texasace00

    Gonna steal that quote, thanks

  • maggiejcarter

    Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail

    ✒✒✒✒✒✒ Jobs7000.Com


  • Anonymous

    As long as the 1%ers don’t have to pay for it ….

  • Anonymous

    Lots of opportunities – to go hungry, be homeless, suffer illness, go bankrupt – why the amount of opportunity offered by the market boggles the mind …

  • Anonymous

    OK, Mr. M – we have the AEI, now time for the GSC …. :)

  • JC

    It’s really pathetic that Mr. Brooks can make this testamentary of morality and doing good in the face of a growing stock market and, worker’s who are still trying to earn a living wage. If he really felt “compassion” for people, he would be supporting the increase of the minimum wage and taxing the 1%ers (read: multi billionaires), and taxing big multinational corporations who headquarter in this country while off shoring their profits so they pay little if any taxes.
    I find his claim that corporate American cannot afford to pay higher wages to be particularly hypocritical; when the top Fortune 500 companies in this country are raking in record profits. His claim to fame in being a “compassionate conservative” is an oxymoron in my book…(Viet Nam vet and retired professional…and registered conservative Democrat).

  • Anonymous

    Any opportunity offered to the poor is in reality at best a means to the end of making the rich even more wealthy.

  • xnlover

    “Brooks argues the market doesn’t support higher wages and agrees that the country needs public policies that make work profitable for workers.” What specific policies should the country adopt to “make work profitable for workers,” Mr. Brooks? How about an increased minimum wage, or a requirement that a company has to increase its workers’ wages by at least the same percentage year-over-year as it increases its dividends and executive salaries? Give us some idea of concrete plans you will advocate among your constituency that will achieve the results you say should be our nation’s goal.

  • trueblue30

    The guy is a nut, plain and simple.

  • gininitaly

    Now you’ve just heard the wingnuts strategy for the next election. Oh yeah those ‘little people’ that they’ve consistently ignored.

    Now they’ve decided to suddenly acknowledge our presence even though they’ve done everything in their power over the last 40 years to destroy America, American jobs and our Constitution… for the sake of the profits and control of a few… while letting the other 90% get flushed down the toilet… Compassion ‘r’ Us? I think not.

    The Republican politicians have been nothing but the whores of the corporate, central bank and MIC terrorist triad of global chaos.

  • HopeWFaith

    If I could trust anything that comes from a Person calling himself a Republican, that would be a new day on this planet. I cannot. Anyone who has real compassion for his brothers and sisters, created by the same creator, is not going to be a Republican, unless he is working from a very ignorant, blind state of mind. Any Republican who really wants my ear would need to come out and boldly state their demands of their PARTY to stop undermining the workers of this country, to stop sending jobs offshore, no matter how much it lowers their profits, to stop ignoring the failing infrastructure of our roads, bridges, streets, hospitals, schools, to stop stripping Citizens of their Rights – including the ease of voting. It will never happen. These Republicans are anti-American everything. That is the truth of the matter.

    Make working profitable for Workers, and you automatically make American corporations more profitable due to the citizens purchasing more. The Law of Cause and Effect. It cannot be ignored or denied.

  • HopeWFaith

    I would be very curious to know if he had just come from a planning meeting where he was encouraged as to what to say and how to say it. The people of his belief systems are up to NO GOOD, and I hope someone is tracking some of the meetings they are all now holding with each other at the top levels. It would be an interesting NSA Tracking. Don’t you think. Put the NSA to good use, for once.

  • Anonymous

    Pure unabashed BullshMitt. If lying was illegal these Koch Roaches would get a life term.

  • Anonymous

    In the agrarian and non industrial society of the 17th century, yes, free enterprise offered opportunity to the poor. All you needed was a marketable skill and you could set up a shop and survive.

    In today’s world, that’s no longer the case. The day you set up your shop you’re competing “even up” with multinational corporations whose daily income is orders of magnitude higher than your total worth; they can (and WILL) give a competitive product away until you’re out of business, and then make up the loss in a day or two.

    The “free market” went away with the industrial revolution and the development of modern banking systems.

  • Anonymous

    I think many still do believe this and its in the best interests of the wealthy business owners to make sure the lie gets repeated loud and often. Because it is after all in their best interests to make people believe that by working hard long hours they will ‘get ahead’ when in reality of course the working man cannot but his overseers surely will and do.

  • JC

    Methinks NSA is pretty much tied up with the world situation right now (Gaza, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, North Korea, Nigeria, etc.). But it would be helpful to have some “moles” or confederates in the corporate sector who could report back to the Fed and the public on what the big money is doing.
    There still are actions that we have, as citizens, to deter greed and the myopic lust for more profits at the expense of the rest of us and the world: We have the vote and the right to become pro-active in political and legislative practices to where we can influence the way things are done in this country. We could first start with challenging those congressmen and women who voted against the resolution that would have stopped offshoring profits to avoid taxes (read: mostly the GOP). And, another resolution that was passed, within the past 10 days (again, by the GOP majority in Congress), to where corporations can deduct (on their corporate taxes) 1/2 of their investment in “renewables” no matter where they have them or what they use them for. This type of caving into the will of the corporate lobbyists, and the excessively rich, in this country is just the type of thing that really pisses off the American public. Most of the time, these stories are buried in section 4 of the newspaper and, the National Syndicated T.V. news rarely mentions them. Corporate America has been operating this way since 2001, and it’s time we reign in these greedy s.o.b.s

  • JC

    Something entrepreneurial companies are doing is to profit-share with their employees and, give the employees the option of exercising bonuses into more company stock or take “cash rewards” for enterprise, innovation, and efforts. In this manner, employees take more ownership in the corporation, work harder, smarter, and with less “sick” days and complaints. New ideas and effort are rewarded and, those companies (mostly small ventures now) are outstripping their competition almost 8:1. Unfortunately, many of them are at a stage where the stock isn’t available for public investment; but, there are a few companies who are looking for venture capital to grow the company and make it to where they can offer IPOs.
    This type of activity is rather refreshing because the public has too long been lulled by the likes of Wal-Mart and multi-national corporations who have no allegiance to this country at all. Time to look into the new generation of companies who are trying to do it the right way and invest back in America, put America back to work, and provide viable products, services, and commitments to the communities in which they do business.

  • JC

    I have a quote for Mr. Brooks:” It ain’t what ya don’t klnow that’ll hurt ya. It’s what ya think ya know for sure that just ain’t so.” (Mark Twain). I suggest Mr. Brooks quit trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Many voters are well educated and savvy enough not to fooled by his poppycock.

  • susanpub

    Moles reporting back, sometimes known as whistle blowers get crucified.

  • susanpub

    Agreed – with Walmart employees on food stamps.

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  • xnlover

    Thank you for this perspective on something of which I wasn’t aware, JC, and of which I’m guessing most of the American public is not aware, either. The major media seems not to be paying attention to this, to the detriment of all of us! I hope the movement in this direction grows rapidly, so that more will take notice of it, and the Wal-Marts of the world will take notice and feel the heat.

  • JC

    Not if they have a smart attorney. They can get immunity and the
    Federal law protects whistle blowers from any retaliation by corporate. There have been some major lawsuits settled (without much press by the way) in recent years because whistle blowers came forward. You may see some of this play out with the recent VA scandal.

  • JC

    You are absolutely right. The media usually focuses on sensationalism and what’s “hot” or, what they determine to be “hot.” Entrepreneurial efforts don’t get much press; unless it’s about one of the big corporations buying one of the little guys. Often times, when a large multi-national purchases a smaller company, we, the buying public, lose because: first, they downsize (which also isn’t news) and then, they cut back in quality control. Result: less than quality products and poorer customer services (when was the last time you phoned customer service and got someone in India?…. happens a lot I hear). So, we need more people touting the efforts of the “little” guy or girl. And, we need more venture capitalists who want to take on the big corps and give them a run for their money…hopefully, without a buyout offer in the process. Small businesses still are the backbone of this country and, I hope it remains so.

  • Neil

    Brooks interview; I have this theory. FDR turned against his class after having to endure one too many cocktails at the club with guys like your guest.