John Stossel tonight: Bailouts and Bull

Don’t miss this new John Stossel special tonight on ABC’s 20/20:
The Conceit of the Ruling Class
Politicians and pundits say government must do “something.” It sound like a Viagra ad: “Does your economy have performance issues? If it’s hard to achieve and maintain growth, ‘stimulus’ is right for you!” But shouldn’t “stimulus” come with a warning label? “Side effects may include hyper-inflation, dollar devaluation, horrible debt, growth of welfare state, and unrealized expectations. Stimulus has not been proven successful, so it should not be used in the hopes of achieving actual growth …”
While politicians claim that “all” or a “consensus” of economists agree that something “big” must be done, more than 300 economists say that the government’s action do more harm than good. I interview some, calculate the amount the stimulus costs per taxpayer (about $16,000) and ask lawmakers: Where will you get the money? If too much debt was a problem, why is more debt now a solution?
I confront House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer about his claim that “all economists agree.”
Land of Opportunity
Even before the current recession, we were told that the American dream was out of reach for many. Arthur Brooks of The American Enterprise Institute says: Don’t believe the doom and gloom — wages and living standards have been on the rise since the 1950s. Despite what folks like Barbara Ehrenreich claim (“It is definitely harder to be middle class today than it was a generation ago”), the American dream is alive and well. Ehrenreich published “Nickel and Dimed”, a best-seller that argues that it’s almost impossible for an entry level worker to make it in America. College student Adam Shepard decided to test her theory. He picked a city out of a hat, went there with $25 in his pocket, telling no one of his college degree. Soon he had a job, an apartment, enough savings to buy a used truck, and thousands of dollars in the bank. He says he thinks Barbara Ehrenreich “wanted to fail.” I confront Ehrenreich.
Universal Pre-K
Yesterday President Obama made a speech promoting Universal Pre-School. The promise sounds wonderful: Let’s help sweet little pre-schoolers get a strong start in school. But SHOULD that be the job of our government? President Obama says, “We’ll see a $10 return for every dollar we spend.” I investigate those statistics. They turn out to be largely bull, based on a tiny study of severely disadvantaged kids. States like Oklahoma and Georgia have already spent billions on universal Pre-K and have nothing to show for it. Even the famous Head Start turns out to have no noticeable effect by the fourth grade. Dumping more money into an already failing government-monopoly school system? Give me a break.
Run for the Border
Do you sleep better at night knowing there’s an expensive fence on America’s southern border? Will a giant wall really secure our country? So far, those wanting to come here just go around the wall, climb over it, or cut holes in it. If we further reinforce the entire southern border, then what about Canada? Won’t terrorists, illegals, and drug smugglers just come across from the north? And what about the miles of east and west coast beaches? Will we patrol our coastline with machine guns? In fact, half the illegals in America entered legally by using tourist or student visas, and staying after their visa expired. It’s absolute BULL to think an expensive fence will keep anyone determined to get in this country out.
Killer Commute
Got traffic on your morning commute? It’s only going to get worse. Drew Carey and I profile workers with terrible commutes. Wouldn’t traffic flow better if we had some extra lanes on the freeway or new roads? Wouldn’t it be good if they were paid for by someone other than taxpayers? Some politicians say yes: privatize the roads. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels did that with the Indiana Toll Road. Of the company that now leases the road, Daniels says: “They either build and maintain a road that is attractive enough and inexpensive enough, or they’ll lose money. Your first insurance that they’re gonna run a better road than the politicians did is, if they don’t, people won’t drive on it and they’ll lose a lot of money. They have every incentive to make traffic flow swiftly, to make that drive as pleasant and safe as possible.” Indianataxpayers made billions of dollars on the lease, but Congressman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., says :”Privatizing existing taxpayer infrastructure is not a solution for anybody.” I confront Defazio.
Medical Marijuana
Melissa Etheridge, Montel Williams and thousands more say that without medical marijuana, they would be very sick. Fortunately for them, 13 states now allow medical marijuana. Unfortunately for them, U.S. government says federal rules trump state law, and the federal government classifies marijuana as worse than crack cocaine. This is odd, since politicians from the party in power like Barack Obama, John Kerry and John Edwards have all joked about their own marijuana use. Charlie Lynch made the mistake of running a medical marijuana dispensary that tried to obey all the state laws. But still fell afoul of federal prosecutors. He now faces up to 100 years behind bars in a federal prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 23.