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Conservative Institute Scolds Republicans on “Faulty Moral Arithmetic”

New Orleans  You honestly can’t find too many more conservative outfits than the American Enterprise Institute, so when it’s president, Arthur C. Brooks, issues an upbraiding to his fellow Republicans on the op-ed pages of the nation’s premier conservative mouthpiece, The Wall Street Journal, it almost gives a fella hope.  Almost, anyway!   And, when he makes the case that Republican positions are immoral because they do not embrace caring for the poor, it warrants some attention; though I’m not sure this guy has much long term job security anymore.

He cites a study by NYU psychologist Jonathan Haidt of 132,000 Americans that,

“…care for the vulnerable is a universal moral concern in the U.S…” holding that “citizens across the political spectrum place a great importance on taking care of those in need and avoiding harm to the weak.  By contrast, moral values such as sexual purity and respect for authority – to which conservative politicians often give greater emphasis – resonate deeply with only a minority of the population.  Raw money arguments, e.g., about the dire effects of the country’s growing entitlement spending, don’t register morally at all.”

I just know that Congressman Ryan was chafing at reading this as he shined up the House budget proposal and its 10-year plan to deal with debt, read subtext to hammer Social Security and Medicare.

Brooks argues to his elephant herd that they need to go in another direction, and actually “make improving the lives of vulnerable people the primary focus of authentically conservative politics.”  Big flappy ears are hearing the call of “compassionate conservativism” again from the Bush era, and I bet they are standing their ground.

Admittedly most of what Brooks really says is repackaging and better marketing of the same policies under the softer texture of “caring” for the poor and elderly.  So, he is not in favor of simply bashing the unions and bureaucrats, but is in favor of exactly the same policies that would devastate union members and government protections.

I’m not sure how he reconciles the morality of all that, which makes the Republican dilemma even more difficult than a simple rebranding or re-messaging of the same ol’ slop.  As my old lawyer used to say constantly, “if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck, it’s probably a duck.”  And, not an elephant.