The Wire

  • Poverty rates still high in Shoals

    Excerpt from Times Daily:

    Alabama ranks as the sixth poorest state in the U.S. with 17.2 percent of its residents living below the federal poverty line. That’s 3 percent above the national average.

    Other states rounding out the top five are West Virginia, Kentucky, New Mexico, Louisiana and Mississippi. Arkansas tied with Alabama for sixth place.

    Lauderdale and Colbert counties fall just below the state figure, hardly a bragging point, officials say.

    In the Shoals, Franklin County has the highest percentage of residents living below the poverty line at 20.1 percent.

  • Half-naked man violently attacks woman inside Mississippi Target

    Excerpt from WHNT:

    A woman was left bloodied after witnesses say a man entered a Mississippi Target and beat her with a piece of metal before taking off his pants and underwear in what appears to be a random attack.

    Michael Jerome German of Memphis is charged with aggravated assault and is being held in the DeSoto County Jail without bond. Police found him walking in the Horn Lake Target parking lot partially nude and took him into custody without incident.

  • Grandfather and son survive private plane crash in Alexander City, Alabama Sunday morning

    Excerpt from WTVM:

    Airport managers are calling it a miracle after two people walked away from a private plane crash in Alexander City, Alabama Sunday morning without any injuries.

    “They walked away. That’s just absolutely the miracle of the day,” says Airport Manager Mike Smith.

    Mike Smith says around nine o’clock Sunday morning, a grandfather and his grandson were in a private plane crash after the pilot lost power to the engine. He says the pilot flew through trees and landed a quarter of a mile away from the Alexander City Airport behind a Taco Bell.

    “He experienced an engine failure, realized he wasn’t going to make it to the airport, saw this patch of grass here and he turned to go to it. He clipped some trees and the power line. It knocked out the power in the area,” says Smith.

    Smith says shortly after the crash, the plane burst into flames prompting fire crews to the scene.

2 weeks ago

Jordan Peterson — Shouted down by snowflakes AND academic colleagues for calmly stating facts

(Wikicommons)

“Shame on you! Shame on you!” chanted protestors after psychology professor Jordan Peterson said he’d refuse to obey a law that would require everyone to call people by the pronoun they prefer — pronouns like “ze” instead of “he” or “she.”

It wasn’t just radical college kids protesting. Hundreds of Peterson’s academic colleagues signed a petition demanding that the University of Toronto fire him.

The totalitarian left doesn’t just demand that their own point of view be heard. They want resisters like Peterson never to be heard. When he gives speeches, they bring bullhorns to drown him out.

The pronoun controversy seems silly. “If somebody wants to be called ze or zir, why not?” I ask him for my next online video.

“I don’t care what people want to be called,” he answered. “But that doesn’t mean I should be compelled by law to call them that. The government has absolutely no business whatsoever ever governing the content of your voluntary speech.”

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What if I politely asked him to call me ze?

“We could have a conversation about that,” says Peterson, “just like I would if you asked me to use a nickname. But there’s a big difference between privately negotiated modes of address and legislatively demanded, compelled speech.”

That sounds like a reasonable, libertarian take on the issue, but for comments like that, Peterson is called “bigot,” “Hitler,” “transphobic piece of s—.”

“That it has to do with transgender people is virtually irrelevant,” replies Peterson. “The issue is compelled speech.”

Somehow, he remains calm while people shout at him and interviewers twist his words. Peterson sensibly says differences in average temperament between males and females might explain why many choose or thrive at different professions. It’s not all discrimination.

That drove one anchorwoman into a frenzy of baseless accusations, including, “You’re saying that women aren’t intelligent enough to run these top companies?”

“No, I didn’t say that at all,” Peterson replied, deadpan.

As Father’s Day approaches, his message resonates with young males, not because he insults women but because he tells men there is value in the old-fashioned ideal of being a responsible, tough individual, not just a sensitive, passive person.

His book “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” lays down some advice for becoming a responsible person (of whatever sex). One example: “Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.”

The problem is not that Peterson says shocking or outrageous things. It’s that the left, especially on campuses, has become so extreme that just stating facts of life offends them.

Peterson observes, correctly, that the world poverty rate has been cut in half in the 21st century, while the description of the world heard on campuses is that things are worse than ever, mostly because of inequality, oppression and patriarchy.

Part of the problem, says Peterson, is that “social justice” courses on campuses change the meaning of the word “justice” from rightfulness or lawfulness into a demand for justice for groups, based on the assumption each group must be equal to every other. Men, women, blacks, whites — all should have the same income, job preference, everything.

In a free society, that’s impossible to guarantee, even if everyone is equal under the law.

But students are taught that every time there’s a difference in outcome, it’s an injustice, a new reason for outrage. The anger never ends.

Peterson says the activists who are so angry about injustice should be happy they live in societies like America, places founded on individual liberty and free markets.

“Everyone is doing better here than anybody has ever done on the face of the planet throughout recorded history, and the whole West is like that!” he told me. “To call that all a tyrannical patriarchy is indicative of a very deep resentment and ahistorical ignorance that’s so profound that it’s indistinguishable from willful blindness.”

That’s opened some young people’s eyes.

But as Peterson has learned, these days some on campus get very angry if you try to open people’s eyes.

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.”

(JFS Productions, copyright 2018)

3 weeks ago

Crony developments and eminent domain

(Pixabay)

“Are you on the take?”

When I tried to get Edgewater, New Jersey, politicians to answer that question, the mayor wouldn’t discuss it, ultimately telling me, “You may sit down.”

The town of Edgewater is right across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Anyone fortunate enough to live there gets a spectacular view of New York City’s skyline.

But the Edgewater city government wants to seize a choice piece of waterfront land for itself.

The spot in question is owned by a developer, the Maxal Group. Maxal bought the property for about $26 million and then spent millions more to clean it up. They planned to build apartments and, to please the town, parks, a school and a ferry stop for commuters.

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“This whole pier would be open to the public,” says Thomas O’Gara of the Maxal Group, showing off the spot in my latest YouTube video.

In addition, Maxal’s development would generate about $12 million a year in taxes for Edgewater.

Sounds good to me, or at least good enough to see how the market responds. But Edgewater’s politicians just said no. Now they’re using eminent domain law to try to seize the property and spend taxpayer dollars to put Edgewater’s Department of Public Works there — a department of just thirteen people.

Why would they do that?

“The unsuccessful bidder is a fellow named Fred Daibes,” says Maxal’s lawyer. After Maxal bought the property, “Daibes told us, ‘you will never be able to develop this property!'”

Apparently, Fred Daibes knew something they didn’t.

Daibes is the biggest apartment developer in the area. He told a reporter, “You can’t be in Edgewater and not be affiliated with me.”

I suspect that means that Daibes controls Edgewater’s politicians.

A lawsuit filed by Maxal Group says four city council members got loans from a Daibes-controlled bank, and Mayor Michael McPartland pays below-market rent to live in a Daibes apartment building. (The mayor told a reporter that he doesn’t pay below-market rent.)

Of course, the politicians give a different reason for seizing Maxal’s land. They said Maxal’s project was too big.

But they approved an even larger project nearby! That one happens to be controlled by — you guessed it — Fred Daibes. Daibes’ development will have 250 more apartments than Maxal’s and buildings twice as tall.

I tried to ask Daibes about all this, but he declined to be interviewed.

Edgewater’s mayor and the city council would not agree to talk either.

So I went to the Edgewater city council meeting and asked, “Are you on the take … rejecting one building in favor of the one owned by the guy where you live?”

A town lawyer quickly spoke up, “Mr. Mayor, as your legal counsel, I’m going to suggest and recommend that you don’t answer the question from this gentleman … certainly not with that tone, that objectionable tone.”

I asked, “Is it true that four of you are getting loans from Mr. Daibes’ bank, and is it true that you (Mayor McPartland) get a discounted apartment in Mr. Daibes’ building?”

The lawyer spoke up again, “Mr. Mayor, I don’t think it’s appropriate.” Eventually the mayor, without answering my questions, closed the meeting. The lawyer said, “He’s done.”

And that was that.

Maybe we’ll get more answers from Edgewater after my video about this circulates.

People everywhere should ask questions of politicians who hand out favors to well-connected big shots.

A great thing about capitalism is that the only legitimate way to get rich is to serve your customers well. Customers have choices. To make money, businesses must offer something better than competitors offer. Developers can’t tell other developers “you can’t build here” because they cannot use force.

Unless they have cronies in government. Governments can use force. They have the power to ban some developments while approving others. They can use eminent domain law to seize property.

That’s what’s happened in Edgewater.

When politicians favor their friends, that’s not capitalism, that’s crony capitalism. Crapitalism. Corruption.

Maxal’s lawsuit alleges “corrupt transactions” by Edgewater’s politicians.

I think Maxal is right.

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.” For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

(JFS PRODUCTIONS, copyright 2018)

4 weeks ago

Why most people shouldn’t go to college

(Pixabay)

Today, all Americans are told, “Go to college!”

President Obama said, “College graduation has never been more valuable.”

But economist Bryan Caplan says that most people shouldn’t go.

“How many thousands of hours did you spend in classes studying subjects that you never thought about again?” he asks.

Lots, in my case. At Princeton, I learned to live with strangers, play cards and chase women, but I slept through boring lectures, which were most of them. At least tuition was only $2,000. Now it’s almost $50,000.

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“People usually just want to talk about the tuition, which is a big deal, but there’s also all the years that people spend in school when they could have been doing something else,” points out Caplan in my new YouTube video.

“If you just take a look at the faces of students, it’s obvious that they’re bored,” he says. “People are there primarily in order to get a good job.”

That sounds like a good reason to go to college. But Caplan, in his new book, “The Case Against Education,” argues that there’s little connection between what we absorb in college and our ability to do a job.

“It’s totally true that when people get fancier degrees their income generally goes up,” concedes Caplan, but “the reason why this is happening is not that college pours tons of job skills into you. The reason is … a diploma is a signaling device.”

It tells employers that you were smart enough to get through college.

But when most everyone goes to college, says Caplan, “You just raise the bar. Imagine you’re at a concert, and you want to see better. Stand up and of course you’ll see better. But if everyone stands up, you just block each other’s views.”

That’s why today, he says, high-end waiters are expected to have college degrees.

“You aren’t saying: you, individual, don’t go to college,” I interjected.”You’re saying we as a country are suckers to subsidize it.”

“Exactly,” replied Caplan. “Just because it is lucrative for an individual doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for a country.”

Caplan says if students really want to learn, they can do it without incurring tuition debt.

“If you want to go to Princeton, you don’t have to apply,” he points out. “Just move to the town and start attending classes.”

That’s generally true. At most schools you can crash college lectures for free. But almost no one does that.

“In people’s bones, they realize that what really counts is that diploma,” concludes Caplan.

Because that diploma is now usually subsidized by taxpayers, college costs more. Tuition has risen at triple the rate of inflation.

It’s not clear students learn more for their extra tuition, but colleges’ facilities sure have gotten fancier. They compete by offering things like luxurious swimming pools and gourmet dining. That probably won’t help you get a job.

“If you’re doing computer science or electrical engineering, then you probably are actually learning a bunch of useful skills,” Caplan says. But students now often major in abstract topics like social justice, diversity studies, multicultural studies.

“But don’t the liberal arts expand people’s minds?” I asked. Philosophy? Literature? Isn’t it all making our brains work better?

“That’s the kind of thing you expect teachers to say,” answered Caplan. “There’s a whole field of people who have actually studied this (and) they generally come away after looking at a lot of evidence saying, ‘Wow, actually it’s wishful thinking.'”

A study found that a third of people haven’t detectably learned anything after four years in college.

Although Caplan thinks college is mostly a scam, he says there’s one type of person who definitely benefits — professors like him.

“I’m a tenured professor,” he said. “A tenured professor cannot be fired. … You got a nice income and there are almost no demands upon your time.”

Professor Caplan is only expected to teach for five hours a week.

I told him that sounded like a government-subsidized rip-off.

“Yeah. Well, I’m a whistleblower,” replied Caplan.

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.” 

(JFS Productions, copyright 2018)

1 month ago

How junk science puts innocent people in jail

(ReasonTV/YouTube)

On TV crime shows like “CSI,” “NCIS” and “Law & Order,” science gets the bad guys.

In real life, “science” often ensnares the innocent.

Former NYPD Detective Harry Houck gets annoyed when TV shows make forensic science look infallible.

“You watch a detective get down and look at a body (and say), ‘He’s been dead for three hours now… (H)e ate dinner four hours ago,'” scoffs Houck. “I can’t do that.”

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On TV, experts identify killers by their bite marks. In real life, experts claim they can do that.

The TV show “Cold Case Files” covered the trial of Alfred Swinton. He was convicted of murder because a bite-mark expert said his teeth matched a bite on the victim.

“A perfect match!” said Dr. Gus Karazulas, the “forensic odontologist” whose testimony clinched the conviction.

Karazulas sounded impartial and objective. “A forensic scientist is not on the side of the prosecutor or defense,” he said on “Cold Case Files.” “We look at the evidence.”

But Swinton was innocent. Lawyer Chris Fabricant helped get him released from jail by doing a DNA test, a much more reliable, less subjective form of science.

Fabricant scoffs at bite-mark testimony: “The doctor was just wrong. It’s an unreliable technique.”

The more room there is for an expert witness’s unique interpretation of the data, the more that can go wrong, says Fabricant. “Bite mark is similar to you and I looking at a cloud. I say to you, ‘John, doesn’t that cloud look like a rabbit?’ And you say, ‘Yeah, Chris, I think that does look like a rabbit.'”

That kind of junk science puts innocent people in jail.

I told Fabricant that I assumed most people in jail are guilty. Also, many people say crime is down because aggressive law enforcement has locked so many people up.

“If you think that maybe even 1 percent of convicted defendants may be innocent,” replied Fabricant, “we have 2.6 million people in prison today, (so) we are talking about tens of thousands of (innocent) people!”

Fabricant works with the Innocence Project, a group that works to get innocent people freed from prison. Through DNA evidence, the project’s lawyers have helped free 191 people.

That confident bite-mark expert who got Swinton convicted now admits he was wrong. “Bite mark evidence is junk science,” he told us via email. He resigned from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

But police still trust bite marks.

“Let’s say one tooth is missing in the front” of a bite mark, explains Houck. “You’ve got to go, well, our suspect’s got one tooth missing in the front. That’s pretty good!”

Houck says he’d demand other evidence. But not all cops do — especially when scientific “experts” say someone’s guilty.
Bite marks are just one dubious method police and prosecutors use.

FBI researchers claim fingerprints are right more than 99 percent of the time. But that still leaves plenty of wrongful convictions.

After terrorists killed 193 people in Madrid, the FBI matched a fingerprint on a terrorist’s bag to a man in Oregon named Brandon Mayfield. They arrested him. But Mayfield was innocent. Weeks later, Spanish investigators compared the prints more carefully and found the real terrorist.

Other techniques are even less accurate: carpet-fiber evidence, gun tracing, use of psychics, hair matching.

“A dog hair was associated wrongfully with a human hair,” says Fabricant. “Since the turn of this century, there have been 75 wrongful convictions (based on hair matches).”

Why do judges and lawyers accept such dubious evidence?

“We all went to law school because we don’t know science, we don’t know math,” he replied. “If somebody comes in in a white lab coat, and says, ‘I’ve been accredited by the American Board of Forensic Odontology,’ that’s good enough for government work.”

That shouldn’t be. Too much is at stake.

Jurors tend to believe people who call themselves “scientists.”

Judges should be more skeptical. They should ban junk science from courtrooms.

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.”

(JFS Productions, copyright 2018)

1 month ago

Don’t politicians see that raising taxes has nasty side effects?

(W.Miller/YHN)

Seattle is worried about the well-being of the poor and mentally ill people living there, so it’s going to drive businesses out of town.

OK, that’s not how the politicians describe their plan, but that’s probably how it will work out.

Members of Seattle’s city council want all big Seattle businesses to pay a tax of $500 per employee.

In response, Amazon stopped building a new complex. Construction workers joined Amazon in protesting the new tax.

On the other side are city council members like Kshama Sawant. She and members of her political party, Socialist Alternative, demonstrated in support of the tax. They chanted, “Housing is a human right!”

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Seattle does have large encampments of street people. Some are mentally ill. Some are young people looking to get stoned and live free. Some are homeless simply because they cannot afford apartments. There are many reasons for that, but one is that Amazon and other companies have brought so many new jobs to Seattle that the demand for housing exceeds the supply.

Normally, when that happens, the free market quickly solves the problem. Builders view the rising prices as a wonderful thing. They quickly build new housing to sell to the new customers. But in Seattle, and many towns in America, politicians make that very hard.

Seattle’s building code is 745 pages long.

If you want to build apartments, you better hire lawyers and “fixers” to keep you on the right side of the rules.

Seattle’s rules insist that “Welded splices shall be of ASTM A706 steel” and “foam plastic signs shall not be greater than 1/2 inch” thick.

On the majority of Seattle’s land, building any high-rise is illegal; zoning rules say only single-family houses may be built.

Want to run a cheap flophouse with single rooms? Seattle’s rules make that just about impossible.

Finally, if a landlord decides to take a building off the market, he must pay each of his tenants $3,000 in relocation costs.

No wonder there’s a housing shortage.

Seattle’s big-government restrictions created a housing problem. So now they propose to solve it with more heavy-handed government.

Seattle promises its new per-employee tax will only hit “big” companies, those grossing more than $20 million per year (about 3 percent of Seattle’s businesses).

Don’t the politicians realize that many growing companies will simply stop expanding when they get close to $20 million in income, just as companies, looking to escape Obamacare, avoid employing more than 49 workers?

Some pay lawyers to split the company into pieces. Some expand in another state. Don’t politicians see that raising taxes has nasty side effects? I guess not.

Monday, after Amazon’s pushback, the city council imposed a tax of $275 per worker instead of the originally proposed $500 tax.

They called that “compromise,” but it sounds like replacing a bad plan with a half-as-bad plan.

It’s not only government bureaucrats who are to blame. The consulting firm McKinsey weighed in with an analysis of Seattle-area homelessness and concluded the city needed to spend $400 million a year to solve the homelessness problem.

I’m sure Seattle, and many other governments, will manage to spend $400 million without solving the problem.

It’s good that Amazon pushed back against the tax. Their reminder that they could reduce or close up business if Seattle’s government got too greedy helped cut the tax roughly in half.

You can’t just keep squeezing businesses or other taxpayers forever and not expect them to try to escape. At some point, businesses will pack up and leave. Then there will be fewer paying jobs that make a city’s population less likely to be homeless in the first place.

Sawant and the other big-taxers try to make productive companies, which employ people so they can afford things like rent, sound like villains. She called Amazon’s threat to leave “extortion.” The activist group Working Washington asked Seattle’s attorney general to charge Amazon with the crime of “issuing mob-like threats.”

Mob-like threats? Amazon just wants to be left alone so it can build complexes, hire people and sell stuff.

As usual, government is the organization that sounds mob-like.

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.”

(JFS Productions, copyright 2018)

2 months ago

Why unions and education bureaucrats hate Betsy DeVos

(Wikicommons)

People hate Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

When she spoke at the Kennedy School of Government, students held up signs calling her a “white supremacist.”

When she tried to visit a school, activists physically blocked her way.

The haters claim DeVos knows little about education, only got her job because she gave money to Republican politicians and hates free public education.

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Of course, education isn’t really “free.”

Taxpayers spend $634 billion a year on it. It’s laughable that activists claim conservatives “cut” education spending. Funds per student tripled over the past several decades, while test scores stayed flat.

Some of that failure is because of what DeVos really opposes: government’s education bureaucracy.

The department she inherited is a good example of that. K-12 schools are controlled and funded locally, but taxpayers are forced to ship education money to Washington, D.C., where bureaucrats there grab some, and then ship the rest back — with strings attached.

President Reagan tried to get rid of the Department of Education. He failed. Since then, it’s only grown. It now spends $193.1 billion a year.

DeVos proposed a mere $9 billion in cuts.

But nothing goes away in Washington, no matter how wasteful. The Republican Congress ignored her proposed cuts and increased her budget by $2 billion.

DeVos, like some other agency heads appointed by President Trump, resists expanding the federal bureaucracy.

People hate her for that, too.

When activists blocked her school visit, she told me for my latest online video, “We drove away, and (the security guard) said, ‘Ma’am, I don’t think we should go back’ and I said … ‘They are not going to win. I am determined to meet those kids and those teachers.'”

She did.

The protesters seemed less interested in her views on education than on the fact that she’s rich.

One yelled: “Keep giving money to senators.”

DeVos is rich. Her father built a company that became worth more than a billion dollars. Then she married into to the Amway marketing fortune.

Walter Shaub, former head of the Office of Government Ethics, told CNN, “DeVos’s primary expertise seems to be in being a rich person.”

I asked DeVos about the charge that she “bought her position.”

“Yes, I have been a contributor,” she said. “I’ve also been an activist. I think it’s important for people to engage in things that they believe in. But that’s not the point. The point is for 30 years I have been working on behalf of families that have not had opportunity.”

She benefited from the free market. Now she wants to bring those benefits to students who’ve been badly treated by government-run schools.

She donated to charter and private schools and served on the boards of groups that promote education choice.

None of that counts as expertise, says the education establishment.

“What she has done is actually made schooling worse in Michigan,” ranted teachers union boss Randi Weingarten on MSNBC. “Eighty percent of the charter schools in Detroit are failing.”

Some Detroit schools are doing badly, acknowledges DeVos, but charter students do “demonstrably better than the students in traditional public schools.”

She’s right. A Stanford study found that kids at Detroit charter schools get months of additional learning every year compared to their public school peers. Choice did help.

Charter and private schools are often better because they are freer to innovate. They can do things like set different hours, be open during summer and pay good teachers more.

Parents in the rest of the country deserve that opportunity, too.

“If there were real choice, good teachers would make much more money,” I suggested to DeVos.

“Absolutely,” she replied. “By the same token, teachers who aren’t good and really shouldn’t be in the classroom probably wouldn’t be… (N)obody would choose their classroom! People are not stupid. They know where their kid is going to do best.”

Unions and education bureaucrats don’t want parents making those decisions. They say, “Teachers should be retrained, not fired” and “Competition is not for kids!”

“We need to do something different,” says DeVos. “This country is on a trajectory to failure, ultimately, if we do not turn around how we educate kids.”

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.”

(JFS Productions, copyright 2018)

2 months ago

Propaganda networks

(A. Martin/Twitter)

Why does American journalist Abby Martin report for media run by socialist murderers?

Martin once worked for RT, Russia’s state-run news network.

Now she’s got a similar gig at teleSUR, an anti-capitalist, pro-socialist news network funded by Latin American leftists.

I’d never heard of teleSUR before researching this week’s YouTube video. But teleSUR matters because its videos get millions of views. Latin America stays poor because people believe socialist propaganda.

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One teleSUR video lists countries where “capitalism failed”: Canada, Mexico, England, Peru, Panama, Switzerland, the United States…

Another says that “Trump is killing our brains with Nazi-era chemicals.”

Few viewers know that teleSUR is funded by the tyrants who control Cuba and Venezuela.

Venezuela, once rich, has been bankrupted by its socialist rulers. More than a million Venezuelans have fled to neighboring Colombia and Brazil.

Those who don’t flee go hungry. One study found Venezuelans have lost, on average, more than 20 pounds. Hundreds of children have died of starvation. But when other countries and philanthropists offer help, Venezuela’s rulers refuse it.

Instead, they spend their dwindling funds on teleSUR propaganda videos.

One shows a picture of Warren Buffet’s son while telling viewers, “Philanthropy is a scam that allows the super rich to influence global affairs … as if capitalism were the solution, not the cause of world problems.”
Excuse me? Capitalism is a solution. In the last few decades, capitalism has lifted billions of people out of miserable poverty.

By contrast, in Venezuela, many store shelves are empty.

How can teleSUR put a positive spin on that? They hire “useful idiots,” as Communists once called naive leftists who inadvertently spread tyrants’ propaganda. Today, one person they pay is former Californian Abby Martin.

Martin produced a teleSUR video that shows Venezuelan store shelves filled with goods. Martin narrates, “We just went to about five different supermarkets and the shelves were fully stocked … (W)hile it is true there are shortages, it seems like you are very able to find things for everyday life, no problem.”

I wanted to interview Martin, but she didn’t respond to my interview requests.

Back when Martin worked for RT, at least she criticized Russia for invading Ukraine. But she also used her RT airtime to praise tyrants like Hugo Chavez.

“It is undeniable that under his leadership the poorest in the country were empowered,” Martin said on RT.
Empowered? By starving? Shortages? Rampant inflation? Government troops suppressing protestors?

I wish Martin were more like her former RT colleague Liz Wahl. On RT, Wahl said:

“I face many ethical and moral challenges … I cannot be a part of a network funded by the Russian government.” Then she quit, on-air. She got a job with a legitimate news network.

After criticizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Martin stayed at RT for another year, and now she works for teleSUR.

Her videos describe “U.S. death squads” and claim that NATO and the U.S. lead “constant wars of aggression.” In the U.S., racism is “entrenched … political opposition quashed” while the U.S. “empire … runs on death and destruction and kills thousands of our brothers and sisters every day.”

Fergus Hodgson, who reports on Latin America, says teleSUR is winning hearts and minds.

“Even well-meaning people here in the United States, I see them sharing teleSUR material all the time,” he told me.

“They should know that this is a media outlet that is funded by … dictatorial communist or tyrannical rulers. (If you) share the material, you’re sharing the lies of these brutal people. You’re also sharing a media outlet that is funded by taking from the very poorest of the poor.”

Governments, especially socialist governments, like to present themselves as thinking only of “the people,” but they have agendas just like private-sector con artists trying to sell you goods.

Government sales pitches are harder to detect because they don’t sell products like cars or shampoos. But they still sell their bad ideas by showing only the worst aspects of the alternative, the private sector.

Update: Martin says that my characterization of her work at teleSUR and RT suggests that she lacked editorial independence. I never meant to imply that. I don’t think I did. I’m sure Martin sincerely believes what she reports. In my opinion, that does not make her work for socialist state-run media less harmful. I encourage readers to watch Martin’s reports and decide for themselves.

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.”

(JFS Productions, copyright 2018)

2 months ago

Teachers with guns — why it’s a good idea

(YHN/Pixabay)

What should be done about school shootings?

After the horrible shooting in Parkland, Florida, President Trump suggested that some teachers carry guns. “We need to let people know, you come in to our schools — you’re gonna be dead.”

Anti-gun activists were horrified.

But they probably didn’t know that many teachers have brought guns to work with them for years.

Some teachers at the Keene Independent School District in Texas carry concealed weapons at school.

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“We know our staff and our teachers are gonna go” defend students, Texas’ Keene Independent School District superintendent Ricky Stephens told me for this week’s online video. “Do we want them to go with a pencil or go with a pistol?”

Stephens acknowledges that an attacker might have heavier weaponry than his teachers’ handguns. “It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing,” he argues. “If you go there with nothing, you have no chance of stopping anything.”

His teachers saw how in Florida the “school resource officer” simply waited outside during February’s school shooting.

“It made me mad,” a teacher in Stephens’ district told us. She’s glad she carries her gun. “We have to have a fighting chance if something should happen.” For my video, superintendent Stephens asked us to obscure her identity. He doesn’t want potential attackers to know which teachers are armed.

Opponents of armed teachers fear that guns will create new dangers. But even though teachers carry at hundreds of schools, I could find only one instance where one of those guns hurt a student. A California teacher accidentally discharged his weapon at the ceiling. A student was cut by falling debris. That’s it. One minor injury.

By contrast, armed school staffers have stopped school shootings. In Pearl, Mississippi, an assistant principal held a boy who killed two classmates at gunpoint until police arrived.

No one knows how often armed teachers deter shootings. The media can’t cover crimes that are never attempted.

Of course, the media distort proposals to allow teachers to carry.

One commentator shouted, “Teachers should not be required to protect!”

But no teacher is required to carry. It’s voluntary. Those who want to can bring their guns to school.

On MSNBC, pundits criticized President Trump for advocating “arming” teachers, as if he’d proposed a federal program.

He didn’t. He just talked about “armed educators.” Since lots of teachers already carry guns, all a school has to do is allow some to bring their weapons to work.

The Keene district, however, does go further. “The school purchases the gun, and we register them to (some of) our teachers,” says Stephens. Those teachers get 80 hours of firearms training and are paid an extra $50/month.

I gave Stephens grief about creating a “new government program.” Why not just let teachers bring their own guns to school? Stephens explained that he wants teachers trained on the same gun “so if a gun is dropped, another teacher will know how to use it.”

I pushed back again. “Why create a program at all?” There’s no epidemic of school shootings. In fact, non-gang, non-suicide shootings have declined over the past 25 years. It’s media hysteria that makes it seem like there’s an increase.

I said to Stephens, “School shootings are much less of a threat to students than driving, suicide, drowning, even suffocating!”

“Exactly right,” he replied. “But we do train our kids in school how to not suffocate and how not to drown. … One shooting is more than we would want.”

Certainly Stephens’ armed teacher program is cheaper than what my town does.

New York City spends millions of dollars stationing police officers in schools. Here, and in most blue states, suggesting that teachers be allowed to bring weapons to school horrifies people.

“They don’t understand,” says Stephens, “a responsible trained teacher with a firearm is better than having a teacher with nothing.”

It’s good that America has 50 states and many school districts. That allows for different experiments. Politicians in New York City hire extra police officers, but in Texas, the staff at the Keene school district can serve and protect.

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.”

(JFS Productions, copyright 2018)

2 months ago

Income taxes make up less than half the tax most of us pay

(Pixabay)

The cable bill was the last straw, says Kristin Tate. “That’s the one that really made me mad.”

Comcast included $36 in charges for mysterious things like “utility tax” and “government access fee.”

That motivated her to research obscure taxes and put what she learned in a new book, “How Do I Tax Thee? A Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off.”

Rip-off? Even limited government needs some taxes to fund basic functions.

“Yes,” says Tate. “But politicians are cowards. Instead of creating a tax, they magically create these little fees (so) they don’t have to tell their voters they raised taxes.”

Voters don’t often notice the sneaky taxes.

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Yesterday was “Tax Day.” It was April 17 this year because April 15 fell on Sunday and Monday was Emancipation Day. But by calling April 17 “Tax Day,” the media miss the big picture. Income taxes make up less than half the tax most of us pay.

We also must pay payroll tax, corporate tax, gift tax, gambling tax, federal unemployment tax, gas tax, cable and telecom taxes, plane ticket tax, FCC subscriber line charges, car documentation fees, liquor and cigarette taxes, etc.

People can’t keep track. For my latest YouTube video, Tate asked people, “What’s your tax rate?” Tourists in Times Square said that they thought they paid about 20 percent. But they left off the hotel taxes, airline taxes, etc., that push Americans’ total tax load to almost 50 percent.

When you pay those hidden taxes, you may assume they go toward useful things, but Tate knows her taxes pay for government waste.

“Extreme inefficiencies, pensions that are to die for — these amazing salaries that these public workers get that are just laughably above market.” New York City’s average subway worker makes $155,000 a year.

Politicians suggest their extra taxes go, not to fund those big salaries and “pensions to-die-for,” but to pay for the specific services for which the taxes are named. Tate says that’s rarely true.

“Cable bills and cellphone bills both have an ‘Enhanced 911 Fee.’ Consumers were told 911 fees were necessary to make upgrades to emergency communication needs. (But) after it was updated, instead of taking away the tax, it just stayed there.”

Chicago doubled cellphone fees to fund its Olympics bid. The Olympics rejected Chicago — but the tax remained. Now Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to raise it again.

More. They always want more.

“New York City has an eight-cent ‘bagel-cutting tax,'” says Tate. For some reason, unsliced bagels are not taxed.

California has a 33 percent tax on fruit bought through a vending machine.

Maine imposes a one-and-a-half-cent per pound tax on blueberries shipped out of state.

Because these taxes sound petty, governments disguise them, says Tate, using “important-sounding language — like ‘documentation fee,’ ‘service charge,’ or ‘equalization fee.'” But most of the money raised just goes to the general budget.

“Wisconsin just renamed its 911 fee the ‘Police and Fire Protection Fee,'” says Tate. “But actually, none of that money directly goes to fire or police protection. Instead it goes straight into the state’s general fund.”

And they still can’t fund the pensions the politicians promised government workers.

Tate adopted two dogs and then learned that New York City imposes a $34 per year “pet licensing fee.”

“I won’t pay it,” says Tate. “I am technically breaking the law.”

She’s braver than I am. I try to follow government’s stupid rules. And if I broke them, I wouldn’t announce it. I figure the IRS is eager to punish government critics like me.

“I’m totally comfortable talking about that,” said Tate. “They can come track me down.”

They may. Governments go to great lengths to collect taxes.

“Seattle purchased lists of people buying pet food and mailed them threatening letters,” says Tate. “The county’s pet-licensing agency made more than $80,000.”

Governments should drop the pretense and just charge one huge “everything tax.”

Of course, then taxpayers might wake up and realize what’s been done to us. That’s one thing politicians don’t want.

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.”

(JFS Productions, copyright 2018)

3 months ago

Who’s waging a ‘war on science’ – Dems or Repubs?

(Pixabay)

We’ve been told conservatives don’t believe in science and that there’s a “Republican war on science.”

But John Tierney, who’s written about science for The New York Times for 25 years and now writes for the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, told me in my latest online video, “The real war on science is the one from the left.”

Really? Conservatives are more likely to be creationists — denying evolution.

“Right,” says Tierney. “But creationism doesn’t affect the way science is done.”

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What about President George W. Bush banning government funding of stem cell research?

“He didn’t stop stem cell research,” Tierney reminds me. “The government wouldn’t fund it. It turned out that it really didn’t matter much.” Private funding continued and, so far, has not discovered much.

“People talk about this Republican war on science, but if you look around, my question is, where are the casualties? What scientists lost their jobs?” asks Tierney. “I can’t find examples where the right wing stopped the progress of science, whereas you can look on the left and you see so many areas that are taboo to research.”

Some research on genetically modified foods became taboo because of protests from the left. That may have prevented a second Green Revolution to feed Africa.

Scientists can’t even talk about whether genes affect intelligence without being threatened by the left. Political scientists who continued to investigate the topic are screamed at on college campuses, the way Charles Murray, author of “The Bell Curve,” has been.

Tierney adds, “The federal government stopped funding IQ research decades ago.”

Likewise, researching gender differences is dangerous to your career.

“You can’t talk about sexual differences between men and women, (although) it’s OK if they favor women,” laughs Tierney. “You can say men are more likely to commit crimes, but you can’t suggest that there might be some sexual difference that might predispose men to be more interested in a topic.”

Google fired engineer James Damore merely for suggesting that sex differences might explain why more men choose to work in tech.

“Damore just pointed out very basic scientific research about differences between the sexes,” argues Tierney. “The experts in this, as soon as he published that memo, said, yes, he basically got the science right.”

It’s not as if women aren’t doing well in life, says Tierney.

In universities, “women dominate virtually every extracurricular activity, but all the focus has been: ‘Why aren’t there more women physicists and mathematicians, and of course in the sports area, too?'” says Tierney. “There’s this idea that they’re being discriminated against, (but) there have been enormous studies of who gets grants, who gets tenure, who gets interviews for jobs, and women get preference.”

However, one group does get discriminated against in colleges: conservatives.

“In the social sciences, Democrats outnumber Republicans by at least eight to one. In fields like sociology it’s 44 to one. Students are more likely to be taught in sociology by a Marxist than by a Republican,” says Tierney. “It’s gotten worse and worse.”

Why does this happen at colleges that claim they “treasure diversity”? Because people on the left believe diversity just means race and gender, not thought. And even schools that want some diverse thought reach a sort of political tipping point.
“Once an academic department gets a majority of people who are on the left, they start hiring people like themselves, and soon the whole department is that way,” says Tierney. “They start to think that their opinions and that their interests are not only the norm, but the truth.”

That’s how we get “scientific” studies that “prove” conservatives are stupid.

One such study asked people if they agree with the statement “Earth has plenty of natural resources if we just learn how to develop them.” The researcher called a “yes” answer an “irrational denial of science.” But anyone who’s studied economics knows the statement has repeatedly been proven true.

Finally, millions of people die of malaria today partly because many countries believed leftist junk science and needlessly banned DDT. Many were influenced by Rachel Carson’s scientifically challenged book “Silent Spring.”

There is a war on science. But most of it doesn’t come from the right.

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.” 

(JFS Productions, copyright 2018)

3 months ago

What do people do when politicians tax their favorite foods and drinks?

(YHN)

Soda will cost you more in Philadelphia, Seattle, Boulder, Colorado, and a bunch of California cities because politicians in those places voted to tax it.

The social engineers claim soda taxes will “reduce obesity,” “lower diabetes rates,” “reduce medical costs,” etc. But the politicians’ main goal is to bring in money.

Philadelphia city council members applauded wildly when their tax passed.

But store owner Melvin Robinson says, “It’s a bad tax.” Robinson, who runs Bruno’s Pizza, says the soda tax punishes his business.

His customers quickly agreed. One I interviewed for my new YouTube/Facebook/Twitter video angrily said, “Who should pay $3 for a drink that they used to get for 99 cents?”

Now, instead of buying soda at Bruno’s, she buys from a store in the next town. That’s easy to do because Bruno’s is located right on an outer edge of Philadelphia. Customers just cross the street to save money.

Do the politicians ever think about that?

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“(The tax) is for what we feel is a good reason,” Philadelphia City Councilman William Greenlee told me.

I thought he would talk about saving people from obesity. That would still be obnoxious and intrusive, but Greenlee gave another, simpler reason.

“We need the money. Nothing else that we could come up with could raise that kind of funding.”

But the tax hasn’t brought in as much money as they expected. Soda sales are down by more than 50 percent. That happens when people can escape taxes by crossing a street.

Or by buying other, even less healthy things. Taxes often have unintended side effects. Although soda sales are down in Philadelphia, liquor sales are up.

That surprised Greenlee. “I don’t know about that,” he laughed, “’cause we have a liquor tax, too!”

Another problem: soda taxes are regressive. They hurt poor people most. Even Bernie Sanders campaigned against Philly’s soda tax, shouting, “You don’t have to fund child care on the backs of the poorest people in this city!”

“I didn’t know Bernie opposed it!” Greenlee replied. “But remember, we’re raising enough money to put 2,700 kids in pre-K.”

That was the city’s justification for the new tax. Activists said thousands of kids would attend “high quality” preschool.

I doubt that the schools are “high quality.” Government work rarely is. It is expensive, certainly — Philly spends more than $6,000 per child; Catholic schools charge less than $5,000.

Greenlee laughed at that, too, replying, “Priests and nuns don’t work for that much money.”

Politicians love taxes on unhealthy things, and so do the media. Both applauded when Denmark taxed fatty food a few years ago.

“Today Show” host Matt Lauer was thrilled. “Buy food that has a certain level of fat, they charge you extra! Do we like that?” His panel did. They clapped gleefully.

But Danes behaved a lot like Melvin Robinson’s customers do. They crossed a border to avoid paying more. Denmark quickly repealed its fat tax.

But Philadelphia isn’t repealing its taxes. People there already pay 44 different ones, including a nearly 4 percent city income tax.

I said to Greenlee, “How can the city government not have enough money? They should be rolling in it!”

“But there’s a lot to do!” he replied.

Politicians do love spending other people’s money. Philadelphia gave $4 million of its new soda tax funds to the Office of Arts and Culture. That bureaucracy spent the money on things like “hip-hop dance…to teach youth empowerment and social issues.”

“Like we need that!” shouted Robinson, sarcastically. “People are trying to live!”

Then he added, politicians should “stop stealing.”

I don’t think they’re stealing, but city council members make $121,000 a year, three times Philadelphia’s median income. The mayor makes $218,000. That’s not unique to Philadelphia. Politicians routinely make much more than people they allegedly serve.

“Citizens should make more money,” Greenlee said.

They should.

Of course, they’d make more if politicians didn’t tax them to death.

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.” 

(Creators, copyright 2018)

3 months ago

Candace Owens: The young black conservative taking on the mainstream media’s lies

(C. Owens/YouTube)

In the movie “The Matrix,” swallowing a red pill reveals the truth, while downing a blue pill leaves you trapped in illusion.

Today, in the parlance of some political activists, “taking the red pill” means seeing the lies of mainstream media — and learning the truth.

“People don’t care to watch CNN anymore: People pay attention to YouTubers,” says Candace Owens. Owens is a young black woman who created a YouTube site she calls Red Pill Black. “My second video went trending worldwide with 80 million views.”

My new internet videos sometimes reach 10 million people; I consider that a lot. This woman’s video reached 80 million?

She released it shortly after a man at a Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacist rally drove his car into a crowd of protesters, killing a woman.

At that time, media coverage of racism was everywhere. Cable news talked about “America’s lack of racial progress” and threats to minorities posed by white nationalists.

“CNN was trying to sell to me, as a black person, that the KKK was alive and well,” Owens added. “That was ridiculous.”

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In her video, she sarcastically shouts, “OMG, Charlottesville! White supremacy is alive and well!” Then she goes on to argue, “Black people have scarier things on the horizon than the almost-endangered species of white supremacy.”

Owens also objects to the way the media cover police brutality. It leads some people to believe that the biggest threat to young blacks is the police.

“Fact No. 1: Approximately 93 percent of black homicide victims are killed by other black people,” she says.

I pushed back, pointing out that there still is plenty of racism, and some innocent people have been tortured by police.

“That’s absolutely right. Some innocent people have also been struck by lightning. Sixteen unarmed black men were killed by police officers in 2016. If you are watching CNN you would’ve thought it happened every single day. OK? That’s a problem.”

Owens (correctly) said thousands of young black men were killed by other black men, whereas “sixteen represents .00004 percent of the black community.”

Media coverage of Black Lives Matter, she says, also creates a distorted picture of what’s going on.

“Black Lives Matter actually resulted in more black deaths across the country, because police officers don’t want to answer the call.” (Some authorities dispute that. Killings nationwide did rise after the shooting in Ferguson, but more recently they dropped.)

But Owen’s main argument is that the media mislead. The biggest issue facing blacks today is not racism or police shootings, she says, but dependence on government that began 50 years ago with Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs.

“They incentivized mothers not to marry fathers. That’s why single motherhood is up. The government would give you more if you didn’t marry him.”

That’s a fairly common view among conservatives, but among blacks, says Owens, it’s easier to tell your family you’re gay than to reveal that you’re a conservative.

“My entire family’s on welfare, save a couple people. What (welfare) does is essentially offer you some money and then say, ‘Whenever you work, you don’t make enough, so we’re gonna give you this much money on top of that.'” As a result, she says people think, “I don’t want to make more because the government is already giving me $500 that I don’t want to lose.”

Saying such things brings Owens criticism from social justice warriors of the left.

“What people don’t understand,” though, she says, “is how many black people are excited about what I’m doing … how many are very aware that they have been duped by the left.”

Owens is far from the first black conservative. But, she says, others “have not been successful in the past because they cared too much about what people thought. … We’re doing it differently … talking a lot of trash.” Giving out red pills.

Having an edgy sense of humor is one way she does it. So is knowing history and literature better than her critics.

“You can feel free to call me an Uncle Tom. You can feel free to call me an Auntie Tom. It does not affect me,” she says. “Do you want to know why? Because I actually read the book. Uncle Tom was the hero.”

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.” For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

(JFS Productions, copyright 2018)

3 months ago

Paris Climate agreement ‘somewhere between a farce and a fraud’ says Manhattan Institute senior fellow

President Trump’s pick to be the new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is not a fan of the Paris climate agreement, the treaty that claims it will slow global warning by reducing the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Politicians from most of the world’s nations signed the deal, and President Obama said “we may see this as the moment that we finally decided to save our planet.”

That’s dubious.

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Trump wisely said he will pull America out of the deal. He called it a “massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries.”

Unfortunately, Trump often reverses himself.

The climate change lobby has been trying to change Trump’s mind. Al Gore called his stance “reckless and indefensible.” Most of the media agree. So do most of my neighbors in New York.

That’s why it’s good that Pompeo opposes the Paris deal. Such treaties are State Department responsibilities. Pompeo is more likely to hold Trump to his word than his soon-to-be predecessor Rex Tillerson, who liked the agreement.

The Paris accord is a bad deal because even if greenhouse gases really are a huge threat, this treaty wouldn’t do much about them.

I’ll bet Al Gore and most of the media don’t even know what’s in the accord. I didn’t until I researched it for this week’s YouTube video.

Manhattan Institute senior fellow Oren Cass is the rare person who actually read the Paris accord.

Cass tells me it’s “somewhere between a farce and a fraud.” I interviewed him for a video project I am doing with City Journal, a smart policy magazine that often makes the case for smaller government. “You don’t even have to mention greenhouse gases in your commitment if you don’t want to. You send in any piece of paper you want.”

The Paris accord was just political theater, he says. “They stapled it together and held it up and said, ‘This is amazing!'”

The media announced that China and India made major commitments.

In truth, says Cass, “They either pledged to do exactly what they were already going to do anyway, or pledged even less. China, for instance said, ‘we pledge to reach peak emission by about 2030.’ Well, the United States government had already done a study to guess when Chinese emissions would peak, and their guess was about 2030.”

In other words, China simply promised to do what was going to happen anyway.

“China was actually one of the better pledges,” says Cass. “India made no pledge to limit emissions at all. They pledged only to become more efficient. But they proposed to become more efficient less quickly than they were already becoming more efficient. So their pledge was to slow down.”

It’s hard to see how that would help the planet.

“My favorite was Pakistan, whose pledge was to ‘Reach a peak at some point after which to begin reducing emissions,'” says Cass. “You can staple those together, and you can say we now have a global agreement, but what you have is an agreement to do nothing.”

However, Cass says one country did make a serious commitment. “The one country that showed up in Paris with a very costly, ambitious target was the United States. President Obama took all the zero commitments from everybody else but threw in a really expensive one for us.”

Obama pledged to reduce emissions by 26 percent. If that ever happened, it would squash America’s economy.

Nevertheless, when Trump said he was leaving the Paris accord, he was trashed by politicians around the world.

The UK’s Theresa May was “dismayed,” and Obama said, “This administration joins a handful of nations that reject the future.”

Cass counters that if “the future is worthless climate agreements … we should be proud to reject.”

Don’t get me wrong: The Earth has been warming, and humans probably contribute to it.

But the solution isn’t to waste billions by making emissions cuts in America while other countries do nothing.

Trump was right to repudiate this phony treaty. It’s good that Pompeo is around to remind him of that.

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.” For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

(Image: Oren Cass/Twitter & Wikicommons)

(JFS Productions, copyright 2018)

3 months ago

Much of what Trump and his followers say is economically absurd

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Maybe Donald Trump is such a powerful communicator and pot-stirrer that other countries, embarrassed by their own trade barriers, will eliminate them.

Then I will thank the president for the wonderful thing he did. Genuine free trade will be a recipe for wonderful economic growth.

But I fear the opposite: a trade war and stagnation — because much of what Trump and his followers say is economically absurd.

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“(If) you don’t have steel, you don’t have a country!” announced the president.

Lots of things are essential to America — and international trade is the best way to make sure we have them. When a storm blocks roads in the Midwest, we get supplies from Canada, Mexico, even China. Why add roadblocks?

Steel is important, but “the choice isn’t between producing 100 percent of our steel (and having a country) or producing no steel (and presumably losing our country),” writes Veronique De Rugy of the Mercatus Center.

Today, most steel we use is made in America. Imports come from friendly places like Canada and Europe. Just 3 percent come from China.

Still, insists the president, “Nearly two-thirds of American raw steel companies have gone out of business!”

There’s been consolidation. But so what? For 30 years, American steel production has stayed about the same. Profits rose from $714 million in 2016 to $2.8 billion last year. And the industry added nearly 8,000 jobs.

Trump says, “Our factories were left to rot and to rust all over the place. Thriving communities turned into ghost towns. You guys know that, right?”

No. Few American communities became ghost towns. More boomed because of cheap imports.

It’s sad when a steelworker loses work, but for every steelworker, 40 Americans work in industries that use steel. They, and we, benefit from lower prices.

Trump touts the handful of companies benefiting from his tariffs: “Century Aluminum in Kentucky — Century is a great company — will be investing over $100 million.”

Great. But now we’ll get a feeding frenzy of businesses competing to catch Trump’s ear. Century Aluminum got his attention. Your company better pay lobbyists. Countries, too.

After speaking to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia, Trump tweeted: “We don’t have to impose steel or aluminum tariffs on our ally, the great nation of Australia!”

Economies thrive when there are clear rules that everyone understands. Now we’ve got “The Art of the Deal,” one company and country at a time.

I understand that Trump the developer liked to make special deals, but when presidents do that, it’s crony capitalism — crapitalism. You get the deal if you know the right people. That’s what kept most of Africa and South America poor.

But Trump thinks trade itself makes us poorer: “We lose … on trade. Every year $800 billion.”

Actually, last year’s trade deficit with China was $375 billion. But even if it were $800 billion, who cares? All a trade deficit shows is that a country sells us more than we sell them. We get the better of that deal. They get excess dollar bills, but we get stuff.

Real problems are imbalances like next year’s $1 trillion federal government budget deficit. That will bankrupt us. Trade deficits are trivial. You run one with your supermarket. Do you worry because you bought more from them than they buy from you? No. The free market sorts it out.

Trump makes commerce sound mysterious: “The action that I’m taking today follows a nine-month investigation by the Department of Commerce, Secretary Ross.”

But Wilber Ross is a hustler who phoned Forbes Magazine to lie about how much money he has. Now he goes on TV and claims, “3 cents worth of tin plate steel in this can. So if it goes up 25 percent, that’s a tiny fraction of one penny. Not a noticeable thing.”

Not to him maybe, but Americans buy 2 billion cans of soup.

Political figures like Ross — and Trump — shouldn’t decide what we’re allowed to buy. If they understood markets, they’d know enough to stay out of the way.

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.” For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

(Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

(JFS Productions, Copyright 2018)