Stossel’s Corner

STUPID IN AMERICA (Saturday on FNC at 10pm EST)

Posted by John Stossel | September 15, 2011

School spending has gone through the roof and test scores are flat.

While most every other service in life has gotten faster, better, and cheaper, one of the most important things we buy — education — has remained completely stagnant, unchanged since we started measuring it in 1970.

Cost of Education GraphWhy no improvement?

Because K-12 education is a government monopoly and monopolies don’t improve.

The government-school monopoly claims: Education is too important to leave to the free market. At a teachers’ union rally, even actor Matt Damon showed up to deride market competition as “MBA style thinking.”

“Competition may be okay for selling movies and cell phones, but education is different,” says the establishment. Learning is complex. Parents aren’t real “customers” because they don’t have the expertise to know which school is best. They don’t know enough about curricula, teachers’ credentials, etc. That’s why public education must be centrally planned by government “experts”.

Those experts have been in charge for years. They are what school reformers call the “Blob.” Jeanne Allen from the Center for Education Reform says for years attempts at reform have run, “smack into federations, alliances, departments, councils, boards, commissions, panels, herds, flocks and convoys, that make up the education industrial complex, or the Blob. Taken individually they were frustrating enough, each with its own bureaucracy, but taken as a whole they were (and are) maddening in their resistance to change. Not really a wall — they always talk about change — but more like quicksand, or a tar pit where ideas slowly sink.

And the most powerful part of the Blob is the teachers’ union.

This Saturday, I interview Nathan Saunders, the President of the Washington DC Teachers’ Union, and Joseph Del Grosso, President of the Newark Teachers’ Union. They say things like, “the unions have a pretty strong history of advocating for high-quality public education… We have progress as a result of unions.”

Their predecessors were more candid. When the Washington Post asked George Parker, when he headed the Washington, DC teachers union, why he fought a voucher program that let some kids escape failing government schools, he said, “As kids continue leaving the system, we will lose teachers. Our very survival depends on having kids in DC schools so we’ll have teachers to represent.”

Albert Shanker, the teachers’ union president who, years ago, first turned teachers unions into a national political force, was even more honest. Shanker callously said, “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”

Union leaders first. Teachers second. Kids third. Or maybe fourth or fifth, after the school board, the principal’s union, or some other part of the Blob.

 

Suffocated by Obama’s Bills

Posted by John Stossel | September 15, 2011

     The President thinks jobs come from new laws:

“If you want construction workers on the worksite, pass this bill. If you want teachers in the classroom, pass this bill. You want small business owners to hire new people, pass this bill. If you want veterans to get their fair share of opportunity that they helped create, pass this bill. If you want a tax break, pass this bill.”

Just this week, the President said “pass this bill” 90 times. Politico put them on this video

The President is wrong. Hiring doesn’t come from new laws. It comes when government gets out of the way and leaves all of us with simple and predictable rules.

Given time, an economy, unless crippled by government intervention, will regenerate itself. An economy is not a machine that needs jumpstarting. The economy is people who have objectives they want to achieve. They will not sit on their hands waiting for government to “fix” things. Free people continually work to overcome obstacles to get what they want.

The big-government media are baffled that big spending hasn’t paid off.

“Corporate profits are soaring. Companies are sitting on billions of dollars of cash. And still, they’ve yet to amp up hiring or make major investment,”

wrote the Washington Post when Obama’s first stimulus didn’t work.

C’mon, Post, don’t blame the companies. CEOs don’t just wake up one day and decide not to hire. They hold back, quite reasonably, because they don’t know what obstacles they’ll face next. Will activist government prop up housing prices? Impose a new health care mandate? Forbid me to move to South Carolina?

When rules are unpredictable or unintelligible (is the investment firm you use in compliance with the 2,300-page Dodd-Frank finance regulatory act?), when new employees are threats because byzantine Labor Department regulations make it impossible to fire employees, when it is unclear what taxes lie ahead, businesses hesitate to hire.

Nothing more effectively freezes business than what historian Robert Higgs calls “regime uncertainty.”

Obama should stopped pushing bills and instead, enact the STOSSEL RULE– for every new law they pass, they must repeal two. Better yet, repeal ten.

 

The Biggest Ponzi Scheme

Posted by John Stossel | September 14, 2011

     Rick Perry is absolutely right!

America locked Bernie Madoff up for doing something very similar to what FDR and Congress did with your retirement money.

My column this week explains how Social Security and Medicare are unsustainable and basically a country-wide Ponzi scheme.

Many people think that when the government takes payroll tax from their paychecks, it goes to something like a savings account…. Nothing is invested. The money taken from you was spent by government that year. Right away. There’s no trust fund.

Republicans attack Rick Perry for calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme, but they shouldn’t. Politicians ought to be honest; these programs can’t continue in their current condition.

What sustains a Ponzi scheme is deception. If people really knew how it worked, they wouldn’t sign on. Social Security and Medicare are different. You could say no to Ponzi. I wouldn’t advise saying no to the government. Not if you want to stay out of prison. Social Security is nothing more than a promise from politicians. The next gang can break the promise…anyone who believes Social Security is an investment plan really has only himself to blame.

You can read my entire column here.

 

Congress: Economic Illiterates

Posted by John Stossel | August 23, 2011

Politicians mess with the economy. They create tens of thousands of pages of burdensome regulations every year. They pass “stimulus” bills that they promise will reduce unemployment. They pass a health care law that’s more than a thousand pages, and give “waivers” to politically connected unions and corporations.

As Hayek taught us, it is a fatal conceit to try to micromanage our 14 trillion dollar economy even if you are an economic genius. Are politicians too ignorant to know that? May be. Politics is a popularity contest. The person who shakes the most hands, kisses the most babies, and looks good making the most extravagant promises, wins. They don’t have to know anything about economics.

That’s reflected in who wins. A new report by the Employment Policies Institute finds that out of all senators and congressmen, just 22% have any type of degree in business or economics. More than half have degrees in humanities or law. Nancy Pelosi majored in political science. Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid both majored in political science and then got law degrees.

Maybe that helps explain the out-of-control spending: 

Government spending from 1950 to 2011Government spending from 1950 to 2011

 

FREELOADERS re-airs this weekend on Fox News (Saturday at 10pm ET)

Posted by John Stossel | August 19, 2011

Some Americans actually make a living … begging for money. Professional panhandlers, they’re called, sometimes making more than $100 in a day. I tried it in Manhattan, and made over $11 in one hour-that would be $23,000 a year-tax free!

It’s a small example of why some said that the USA is turning into a nation of freeloaders. The Manhattan Institute’s Heather MacDonald says that beggars she’s encountered “have the most deep-seated sense of entitlement that I’ve ever come across.”

From those defaulting on their home mortgages, to those who see lawsuits as a lottery ticket, many Americans live off the hard work of others.

I look at how government turns people into freeloaders Did you know that any black person who has farmed or “attempted to farm” can collect $50,000 from the Federal government? “Attempted to farm could mean anything,” says black farmer Jimmy Dismuke, “My little three year old grandson could attempt it.”

We’ll introduce you to a woman who hasn’t paid her mortgage in 25 years… and doesn’t ever intend to. I confront the founders of “youwalkaway.com”, a website dedicated to advising people on how to walk away from their home mortgages .

Some of America’s biggest recipients of handouts are rich people. The biggest corporate freeloaders may be the biggest industrial corporation in the world: General Electric.

General Electric CEO Jeffrey R. Immelt is super-close to President Obama. The president named Immelt chairman of his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Before that, Immelt was on Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. He’s a regular companion when Obama travels abroad to hawk American exports. (Why does business need government to do that?)

I’ll also reveal some of my own freeloading. Federal flood insurance is a freebie for those of rich enough to have waterfront property, I collected on that. People like Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen take advantage of tax benefits that are supposed to help farmers.

Is America becoming a nation of freeloaders? Tune in to Fox News on Saturday at 10pm ET.

 

Defending the Indefensible

Posted by John Stossel | August 23, 2011

Nearly everyone agrees that some things are wrong. Things like child labor, ticket scalping, price gouging, kidney selling, and blackmail.

I used to agree. But after I read the book “Defending the Undefendable” by Walter Block, my eyes opened. It was like a jungle gym for my brain. Sometimes I thought everything I had learned was… wrong.

That’s where the title of my syndicated column this week comes from. Here’s an excerpt:

Most people call child labor an unmitigated evil. But my guests, David Boaz of the Cato Institute and Nick Gillespie of Reason.tv, said that’s wrong.

“If we say that the United States should abolish child labor in very poor countries,” Boaz said, “then what will happen to these children? … They’re not suddenly going to go to the country day school. … They may be out selling their bodies on the street. That is not an improvement over working in a t-shirt factory.”

In fact, studies show that in at least one country where child labor was suddenly banned, prostitution increased.

Read about more “indefensible” ideas here, or watch segments of the show here

 

 

Stossel hosts a new show dissecting the news of the day and its effect on your wallet. Plus, the latest scams, hidden fees and other ways companies take advantage of consumers.

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