Arthur Brooks, president of the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute, is challenging Republicans to reconsider their aversion to welfare programs.
During the "Right To Rise: Education as America’s 21st Century Ticket to Social Mobility" event, Brooks recalled recent visits to "off the map" areas neglected by politicians because they're home to voters who are either certain they'll vote for them or certain they won't.
After speaking with people in the areas -- "prostitutes, drug addicts, ex-felons, homeless people" -- Brooks said they called for three things.
"Transformation, relief and opportunity, in that order," he said.
The top conservative considered the partisan discourse surrounding support for those who need it, saying the far left calls for endless amounts of relief, while the far right calls for enterprise.
"One of the things, in my view, that we get wrong in the free enterprise movement is this war against the social safety net, which is just insane," Brooks said.
"The government social safety net for the truly indigent is one of the greatest achievements of our society," said Brooks. "And we somehow want to zero out food stamps or something, it’s nuts to want to be doing something like that. We have to declare peace on the safety net."