President of conservative think tank to speak Sept. 30 in Wichita

Arthur Brooks thinks the Affordable Care Act is a nightmare. That President Obama’s economic policies hurt poor people and everyone else. That Democratic Party policies for education, minimum wages and wealth redistribution have put the country on the road to ruin and international irrelevance.

But when Brooks speaks at the Bill of Rights Institute gathering at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Wichita on Sept. 30, he says some of what he says might surprise conservatives.

He’s president of the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute. He’s a prolific author on culture, economics and politics and has remained popular on the conservative speaking circuit for years.

But Brooks objects to the way he says some conservatives talk. He says Republicans must quit talking rudely and disrespectfully about poor people and political opponents. The Republican-inspired shutdown of the federal government last year was a stupid idea that made them look “irresponsible and unreasonable,” he said.

“It is a fact that in debate, you will never win by merely winning,” he said. “Persuadable people,” when they watch people arguing, tend to judge not necessarily whether one side is right, “but how they treat each other.”

“Unless you answer with love, you are going to lose a lot of people.”

His views on these matters might sound unconventional in some conservative circles, he said. But he’s all for more unconventional thought these days. Right now, he said, too many conservatives sound not only negative but “boring.”

Like his friend Charles Koch, whom he admires as a “true patriot,” he warns audiences that the United States will decline if free-market changes are not adopted. But he says conservatives need to change their tone.

“Conservatives have taken it on the chin for years, in the media, in Hollywood,” Brooks said, in a telephone interview. “They’ve developed a siege mentality, and I understand. But it is not helpful when they lash out.

“It is a pity and a scandal that the Obama administration has absolutely made things worse for people in spite of how they say they are trying to level the playing field. But Republicans in response have repeatedly been so uncompelling in their support for the poor.”

His prescription list, in part: Fight for people, and quit fighting against things. Fight for jobs. Be for people, not against them.

“Don’t fight against taxes, fight for people failing to get jobs in part because we no longer have a rational tax system,” he said.

Stop denouncing government, he said.

Conservatives have said for years that if you work for the government you are either incompetent or stupid, he said.

“But if you keep talking that way, only liberals and incompetents will serve in government,” Brooks said. “Go work for the government. Tell people it is the patriotic thing to do. You should want to appoint people as deep down inside an administration as you can with rock-ribbed fiscal conservatives who will do a good job but work also to limit the power of their own agencies.”

The Bill of Rights Institute is sponsoring Brooks’ speech, “The Secret to Happiness,” in the Grand Eagle ballroom at the Hyatt Regency hotel. The speech is free, but registration is required, by Sept. 25, because of limited seating. Registration can be done at wichitaforums.com.

A reception begins at 5:30 p.m; Brooks’ talk begins at 6:15 p.m., will last about an hour, and will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

Reach Roy Wenzl at 316-268-6219 or rwenzl@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @roywenzl.

If you go

Arthur Brooks

What: The president of the American Enterprise Institute will speak on “The Secret to Happiness.”

When: 6:15 p.m. Sept. 30

Where: Hyatt Regency hotel, 400 W. Waterman St.

Tickets: Free, but reservations are required by Thursday. Make reservations at wichitaforums.com.