2020-03-25 04:30:38

Coronavirus is frightening.

I’m working from home, practicing “social distancing.” Experts say it’ll help “flatten the curve” so fewer people will be infected simultaneously. Then hospitals won’t be overwhelmed.

But the infection rate grows. Doctors and hospitals may yet be overwhelmed.

It didn’t have to get to this point.

COVID-19 deaths leveled off in South Korea.

That’s because people in Korea could easily find out if they had the disease. There are hundreds of testing locations—even pop-up drive-thru testing centers.

Because Koreans got tested, Korean doctors knew who needed to be isolated and who didn’t. As a result, Korea limited the disease without mass quarantines and shortages.

Not in America. In America, a shortage of COVID-19 tests has made it hard for people to get tested. Even those who show all the symptoms have a difficult time.

Why weren’t there enough tests?

Because our government insists on control of medical innovation.

That’s the topic of my new video.

When the new coronavirus appeared, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made its own tests and insisted that people only use those CDC tests. But the CDC test often gave inaccurate results. Some early versions of the test couldn’t distinguish between the new coronavirus and water.

Private companies might have offered better tests, and more of them, but that wasn’t allowed. The World Health Organization even released information on how to make such tests, but our government still said no. Instead, all tests must go through the government’s cumbersome approval process. That takes months. Or years.

Hundreds of labs had the ability to test for the virus, but they weren’t allowed to test.

As a result, doctors can’t be sure exactly where outbreaks are happening. Instead of quarantining just sick people, state governors are forcing entire states to go on lockdown.

At the same time, many people who show no symptoms do have COVID-19. Without widespread testing, we don’t know who they are, and so the symptomless sick are infecting others.

A few weeks ago, the government finally gave up its monopoly and said it was relaxing the rules. There would be quick “emergency use authorizations” replacing the months- or years-long wait for approval. But even that took so long that few independent tests were approved.

So President Donald Trump waived those rules, too.

Now tests are finally being made. But that delay killed people. It’s still killing people.

Other needlessly repressive rules prevented doctors and hospitals from trying more efficient ways to treat patients.

For example, telemedicine allows doctors and patients to communicate through the internet. When sick people consult doctors from home, they don’t pass on the virus in crowded waiting rooms.

But lawyers and bureaucrats claimed such communications wouldn’t be “secure,” and would violate patients’ privacy.

Only last week did officials announce they would allow doctors to “serve patients through everyday communications technologies.”

Americans shouldn’t have to ask permission to use “everyday” technologies.

Now doctors fear that as more people get sick, hospitals won’t have enough beds for the critically ill.

But the bed shortage is another consequence of bad law. Critical access hospitals in rural areas are not allowed to have more than 25 beds. Trump has now announced that he’s waiving those rules.

In some states, there’s a shortage of doctors or nurses. That, too, is often a product of bad law—state licensing laws that make it illegal for professionals licensed in one state to work in another. Trump said he would waive “license requirements so that the doctors from other states can provide services to states with the greatest need.” Then it turned out that he could only allow that for Medicare; he didn’t have the power to override stupid state licensing rules.

Fortunately, many states finally waived harmful licensing laws on their own.

It’s good that governments finally removed some rules.

But the time that took killed people.

Once COVID-19 passes, America should leave those regulations waived.

And we should repeal many others.

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2020-03-18 04:01:14

“We don’t have any…!” Fill in the blank.

People are stocking up on things, fearing that we will be stuck in our homes, under quarantine, without essential supplies.

Some hoard toilet paper. A popular internet video features someone driving up to what appears to be a drug dealer but is really someone selling toilet paper.

When it became hard to find hand sanitizer in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state would produce its own, made by prison labor.

Yet in-demand items like masks and hand sanitizer can still be found. It’s just that we have to pay an inflated price.

People on social media are outraged by that. They post pictures showing stores charging high prices, like $19.99 for a can of Lysol spray and $22.99 for a 12 oz bottle of Purell.

We’re encouraged to report such high prices to the government because “gouging” is illegal. New York has an online “price gouging complaint form” that people can fill out if they are charged “unconscionably high prices.”

“On my watch, we will not tolerate schemes or frauds designed to turn large profits by exploiting people’s health concerns,” said New York’s economically clueless Attorney General Letitia James. “Some people are looking to prey on others’ anxiety and line their own pockets.”

Well, yes.

People always look for ways to line their own pockets.

But what politicians call “gouging” is just supply and demand. Prices rise and fall all the time.

Most state’s anti-gouging laws never even say exactly what is “unconscionably excessive.” That invites abuse. Vague laws give politicians dangerous power. They can use anti-gouging law to punish any merchant who doesn’t give them money or kiss their rings.

It seems cruel to charge customers more during a crisis, but when there are no laws against sharp price increases, people don’t experience long lines and shortages.

Think about what happens when stores don’t raise their prices: People rush to buy all they can get. The store sells out. Only the first customers get what they want.

But if the store charges more for items in extraordinary demand, people are less likely to hoard. Customers buy what we need and leave some for others.

Prices should rise during emergencies. That’s because prices aren’t just money; they are signals, information. They tell suppliers what their customers want most.

Entrepreneurs then make more of them and work hard to get them to the people who need them most. If “anti-gouging” laws don’t crush these incentives, prices quickly fall to normal levels.

Stossel in the Classroom contest winners explained that in a video.

Last week, some people bought lots of hand sanitizers and masks and then sold them on the internet. One couple boasted that they made over $100,000 reselling Lysol wipes.

They’re not bad people. Their actions allow people desperate for supplies to buy what they need, even if it’s at a higher price.

We’re supposed to stay indoors, so it’s good that we can get these products online. Then we don’t leave home and infect others.

Unfortunately, Amazon, eBay, and Facebook, worried about accusations of “profiteering,” cracked down on resellers. The companies removed listings for masks, hand sanitizers, and disinfectants.

This will only cause more shortages. Bigger profit was what encouraged people to sell online. Now no one gets those products until the market returns to normal.

In China, there was a severe mask shortage. That raised the price of masks and kickstarted production of face masks all around the world. A factory in France hired more people and raised its production of face masks from 170 million a year to half a billion.

The French company didn’t do it only because they want to help people in China. Extra profit motivated them.

Price “gouging” saves lives. In a crisis, we like to think that everyone will volunteer and be altruistic. But it’s not realistic to believe that all will.

If we want more supplies, we ask sellers to risk their money, their safety, and comfort. (Sellers often travel long distances to reach people most in need.) Most sellers won’t do that unless they’ll profit.

Government should dump its anti-price gouging laws and let the free market help those in need.

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2020-03-11 04:31:15

Freelance jobs are “feudalism,” says Democratic California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.

She persuaded California’s legislature to pass a new law reclassifying freelance workers as employees. That means many people who hire them must now give them benefits like overtime, unemployment insurance, etc. Politicians said it would help freelancers a lot.

Of course, much of the media agreed. Vox called it “a victory for workers everywhere”!

Sigh. Young reporters just don’t understand that stifling economic freedom always creates nasty side effects.

Actually, more understand now, because they got a very personal lesson. Once the bill passed, Vox media cut hundreds of freelance writing jobs.

When Gonzalez was asked if she felt bad about that, she sneered, those weren’t “real jobs.”

The arrogance of politicians! People choose jobs. Freelancers like flexibility. Politicians have no right to say certain jobs aren’t good enough.

“You’re thinking you’re helping us, but you’re not,” says musician Ari Herstand in my new video. He says the anti gig-work law could “crash the California music economy.”

Why? Before the law passed, if he played a gig where he’d hire a drummer, bassist, and guitar player, “I just cut (each) a check for $200. Now, I have to take that drummer, put him on payroll, W2 him, get workers’ comp insurance, unemployment insurance. I have to pay payroll taxes. I also have to now hire a payroll company.”

All to hire musicians for one just night. The paperwork alone might cost more than the music.

The anti-gig-work law originally targeted rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, because unions claimed the companies abuse drivers.

But now many rideshare drivers are upset because the law takes away their freedom.

“I liked being independent!” said one. “I don’t want a boss to tell me when or where to drive.”

Herstand says Uber and Lyft drivers would often tell him: “I’m a photographer and this is my fourth side gig. I want to do this when I want to do this, and if now I’m an employee, and I’m W2’d, they’re going to dictate my hours. I don’t want that. (The law is) preventing us from doing what we want to do.”

The law upset independent truck drivers, too. After some nosily drove big rigs in front of the legislature, they got an exemption from the law. Other politically connected professions, like lawyers and realtors, got exemptions as well.

Now Herstand’s working on getting an exemption for musicians, too.

“Why is that good law?” I asked him. “An exception for whoever is clever enough to get to the politicians?”

“It’s definitely not the solution,” laughed Herstand. “‘Write us out of this law and help us out? Here’s money for your next campaign.’ No, that doesn’t seem like that’s a way to legislate.”

But that’s how it’s often done. The more rules politicians pass, the more money they extract from people who are regulated.

Now other politicians want to copy California’s law. New York, New Jersey, and Illinois have their own versions of gig economy bills. The House of Representatives wants to nationalize the law. And, this week, Democratic front-runner Joe Biden cluelessly said such a law “will give workers the dignity they deserve.”

Democrats do what unions ask them to do. Politico points out that just a few years ago, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) called gig work “a great service for people, giving people jobs. I don’t think government should be in the business of trying to restrict job growth.” He even joked that Uber drivers might earn more than he does.

But now he wants to outlaw most gig work and calls it “exploitive, abusive!”

It’s no surprise that Gonzalez’s biggest political donors are unions. She talks a lot about “protecting our union jobs.” But now that her bill is killing jobs, she wouldn’t agree to an interview.

Neither would the California unions, or any of 75 law professors, political scientists, sociologists, etc., who published a letter in support of the law.

Yes, we contacted all 75.

Herstand says that’s because the law now embarrasses its supporters, but politicians won’t repeal it because “no politician ever wants to admit they did something wrong.”

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2020-03-04 11:00:32

South Carolina mom Debra Harrell worked at McDonald’s. She couldn’t afford day care for Regina, her 9-year-old daughter, so she took her to work.

But Regina was bored at McDonald’s.

One day, she asked if she could just play in the neighborhood park instead. “I felt safe there,” tells me in my new video, “because I was with my friends and their parents.”

“She had her cellphone, a pocketbook with money in it,” says Debra. “She had everything she needed.”

Regina was happy. Debra was happy.

But one parent asked Regina where her mom was, and then called the police. Officers went to McDonald’s and arrested Debra.

In jail, they berated her.

“You can’t leave a child who is 9 years old in the park by herself!” said one officer. “What if some sex offender came by?”

People interviewed by the media were also outraged.

“What if a man came and just snatched her?” asked one.

“This day and time, you never know who’s around!” said another.

But what are they talking about? Crime in America is way down, half what it was in the ’90s. Reports of missing children are also down.

If kids are kidnapped or molested, it’s almost always by a relative or an acquaintance, not by a stranger in a park.

Nevertheless, prosecutors charged Debra Harrell with “willful abandonment of a child,” a crime that carries up to a 10-year sentence.

They also took Regina away from her mom—for two weeks. “I would cry as night because I was really scared,” Regina told me. “I didn’t know where I was, or what was going on.”

Fortunately, attorney Robert Phillips took Debra’s case for free. He didn’t like the way police and media portrayed her.

“Here was this black female that society gives a hard time. ‘Welfare queens, living at home, not getting a job!’ Well, that’s what she was doing,” he said. “She was out working, trying the best she could to take care of her child. And now we’re beating her up because we didn’t like the way she took care of her child.”

The cops said that Harrell should have sent her daughter to day care. But even if she could have afforded it, it’s not clear that day care is safer. “We found 42 incidents of sexual molestations, rapes in day cares,” said Phillips. “We couldn’t find (in South Carolina in the last 20 years) a single abduction in a park.”

Philips blames people in my business for scaring people about the wrong things. “The media has brought up this ‘stranger danger’ to where, if you’re not under the protective wings of mom and dad 24/7, then you’re exposing your child to some unknown danger.”

That has frightened police and child welfare workers into taking absurd steps when parents leave children alone.

In Maryland, police accused parents of child neglect for letting their kids roam around their neighborhood.

In Kentucky, after police reported a mom who left her kids in the car while she dashed into a store, child welfare workers strip-searched the kids to make sure they weren’t being abused.

This doesn’t protect kids. It mostly scares parents into depriving their kids of chances to learn. “When you don’t let them spread their wings, that’s when they get in trouble!” says Debra.

She was fortunate that her case got enough attention that even Nikki Haley, then South Carolina’s governor, asked that Regina be given back to her mom.

Prosecutors finally dropped the child abandonment charge.

It’s just not right that when stranger kidnappings are increasingly rare, police and child welfare workers are more eager to punish parents who let kids play on their own.

“A Utah law guarantees that giving kids some reasonable independence isn’t ‘neglect,'” says Lenore Skenazy, of the nonprofit Let Grow, “More states need this!”

Of course, some parents are so neglectful that government should intervene.

But as lawyer Phillips put it, they should intervene “only if you are subjecting your child to a real harm. We should not have unreasonable intrusions by the government telling us every little detail how to raise our children.”

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2020-02-19 05:30:32

Bernie Sanders leads the race for the Democratic nomination.

He may become America’s first self-described “democratic socialist” president.

What does that mean?

Today, when Sanders talks about socialism, he says: “I’m not looking at Cuba. I’m looking at countries like Denmark and Sweden.”

But Denmark and Sweden are not socialist. Denmark’s prime minister even came to America to refute Sanders’ claims, pointing out that “Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy.”

Both Denmark and Sweden do give citizens government-run health care and have bigger welfare programs than America has. However,  recently, they’ve moved away from socialism. Because their socialist policies killed economic growth, they cut regulations and ended government control of many industries.

Sanders probably doesn’t know that. He, like many young people, just loves the idea of socialism.

For my new video this week, Stossel TV producer Maxim Lott went through hours of Sanders’ old speeches. What he found reveals a lot about what Sanders believes.

When Sanders was mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he went out of his way to defend Fidel Castro. “He educated the kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society!” Fortunately, Sanders added, “Not to say Fidel Castro or Cuba are perfect.”

No, they are not perfect. Castro’s government tortured and murdered thousands. By confiscating private property, they destroyed the island’s economy. Life got bad enough that thousands died trying to escape.

Even now in Cuba, most people try to live on less than $2 a day

Sanders focuses on other things, like: “They did a lot to eliminate illiteracy!”

Sanders has long had a soft spot for socialist countries. He chose to honeymoon in Communist Russia, where he said people “seem reasonably happy and content.” He was “extremely impressed by their public transportation system…[the] cleanest, most effective mass transit system I’ve ever seen in my life!”

He praised Soviet youth programs: “Cultural programs go far beyond what we do in this country.”

He did at least qualify his support, calling the Soviet government “authoritarian.”

But Sanders made no such criticism after Nicaragua’s socialist revolution. He praised the Sandinistas’ land “reform” because they were “giving, for the first time in their lives, real land to farmers so that they can have something that they grow. Nobody denies that they are making significant progress.”

Former landowners sure denied it. They’d had their land stolen. Sanders suggested that was OK because landowners are rich.

“Rich people, who used to have a good life there, are not terribly happy,” he said. “As a socialist, the word socialism does not frighten me… (P)oor people respect that.”

What about the hunger and poverty that socialism creates? Bernie had an odd take on that.

“American journalists talk about how bad a country is because people are lining up for food. That’s a good thing! In other countries people don’t line up for food; the rich get the food and the poor starve.”

After he said he was “impressed” by Sandinista leaders, Sanders added, “Obviously I will be attacked by every editorial writer in the free press for being a dumb dupe.”

I join them.

Bernie Sanders is indeed a “dumb dupe” about economics. Or as the Soviet Communists used to put it, “a useful idiot.”

Under Ortega’s rule, Nicaragua quickly fell further into poverty, and the socialists were voted out in 1990. Ortega later returned as a violent dictator. For most people in Nicaragua, Cuba, and other centrally planned economies, life is hell.

Once Sanders was elected to Congress, he mostly stopped praising violent socialist revolutions.

At that time, Communist governments in Europe were collapsing. It was convenient for embarrassed former supporters of those governments to rebrand themselves.

In Congress, Sanders would call himself an independent and, in the estimation of his fellow Vermonter, former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, he “votes with the Democrats 98 percent of the time.”

But Sanders has never taken back the enthusiastic praise he gave to socialist regimes.

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2020-02-12 05:45:44

President Donald Trump “saved the United States,” says former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

He’s one of the “smartest, most clever, and successful” presidents, says Fox’s Jeanine Pirro.

No, he’s “dumb and racist,” says comedian Seth Meyers, and guilty of “rampant corruption,” say commentators on MSNBC.

The man divides opinion like no one else in America.

My latest video looks at the “good, bad, and ugly” of Trump. The good is wonderful.

Unemployment is down, and the stock market is up.

Trump deserves credit for that. By criticizing “job-crushing regulations” and appointing some regulators who fear government overreach, Trump signaled people that government would not crush you merely because you make a profit or want to try something new. As a result, 6 million more Americans were hired.

Unemployment fell during Barack Obama’s presidency, too, but under Obama, fewer Americans chose to even look for work. People dropped out of the labor force.

Once Trump was elected, more people applied for jobs again.

Why? I say it’s because his administration sent a new message. Instead of telling people: “You’re victims of an unfair system! You need handouts,” Trump said: “You don’t need welfare. Most of you can get a job.”

Even disability claims, which had been steadily rising, have declined.

Trump did other good things, like appointing judges that tend to rule in favor of free speech and private property.

On the other hand, Trump’s done a lot of bad.

To undermine a political opponent and expose the sleaziness of the opponent’s son, Trump sleazily withheld aid to an ally. Then he lied about it.

Trump lies about all sorts of things—big and small.

He said his inauguration had “the biggest audience in… history.” He kept saying it, even after reports showed it wasn’t true.

He broke his promises about ending America’s wars.

Unlike his predecessors, he hasn’t started new wars—but he’s increased bombings. The USA is now dropping more bombs on Afghanistan than at any time in the last 10 years.

Trump broke promises about spending. He promised he’d “cut spending, big-league.”

But he did the opposite. Spending has increased by half a trillion dollars since Trump was elected.

Rep. Warren Davidson (R–Ohio) is a Trump supporter, but he’s upset that Trump’s gone along with a big increase in the national debt. Davidson complained to his fellow Republicans, but suddenly, they didn’t seem to care much about the debt now that someone from their party was president.

This week, Trump proposed a budget that would slow the growth of most unsustainable welfare programs. But he knows that won’t get through Congress. Probably, he’ll sign the gusher of spending that Congress produces instead.

“We are on a path to bankrupting our country,” says Davidson.

Trump also says false things about trade. He claimed our $500 billion trade deficit means the U.S. is “losing on trade with China.” But that’s absurd.

“He’s telling people trade isn’t win-win; there’s a winner and a loser.” I complained to Davidson, adding, “I don’t think Trump understands trade.”

“He has a metaphor that the average American understands,” responded Davidson.

“But it’s a wrong metaphor, right?” I asked.

“It is technically inaccurate,” said Davidson.

Trump is also a bully. That’s his ugly part.

He calls people “stupid,” “pathetic,” “a low-IQ individual.” He makes fun of their looks and weight. It’s unpresidential.

“Some of his words certainly have been ugly,” Davidson agreed.

“He’s like a 3-year-old!” I said. “We’re supposed to outgrow that narcissism when we’re an adult.”

“This is all baked into Donald Trump,” replied Davidson. “He is true to who everyone knows Donald Trump as, and they love him anyway.”

“You love him anyway?” I asked.

“I do,” said Davidson. “His policies have been great, and the results are measurably great.”

Many are. And Trump is likely to be reelected, according to the odds on my site ElectionBettingOdds.com. So it looks like we’ll see much more of him.

I hope we get more of the good and less of the bad and ugly.

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2020-02-05 05:30:17

A law in South Carolina bans playing pinball if you’re under 18. That’s just one of America’s many ridiculous laws restricting freedom.

“There is a role for the government in keeping people safe from actual criminals, people who commit murder, robbery,” says Rafael Mangual, a “tough-on-crime” guy at the Manhattan Institute.

“But a lot of laws don’t keep people safe,” he says. “There’s a federal prohibition on walking a dog on a leash longer than six feet on federal property. It is a jailable offense.”

Three hundred thousand federal criminal offenses are on the books. “It’s way too big,” says Mangual. “Part of that is because we don’t take any old or outmoded laws off the books.”

In Michigan, prosecutors filed criminal charges against a 10-year-old who, during a dodgeball game, threw a ball at another kid’s face.

“Anyone can be prosecuted for almost anything,” says Mangual. “Lying to your boss over the phone about why you didn’t come in. That could constitute wire fraud.”

Today’s laws punish activities unlikely to be performed with criminal intent.

“Taking a rake from New York into New Jersey, that’s actually a federal crime,” warns Mangual. “If you’ve ever had a rake in the back of your pickup truck and crossed state lines, you probably committed a federal crime.”

In my new video, I push back at Mangual, pointing out that nobody goes to jail for things like that.

“That doesn’t mean that it’s not a problem,” he responds. “Legal compliance is not free. It takes time, money, effort. It violates fundamental norms about fairness.”

One woman was prosecuted for sheltering animals during a hurricane. “My goal was to make sure that they were not out there drowning,” she said. But North Carolina prosecutors filed criminal charges against her for practicing veterinary medicine without a license.

In Kentucky, Holland Kendall gave eyeglasses to needy people who couldn’t afford eye doctors. Then state officials told him that was a crime.

What causes this excess? I was taught that the Constitution created checks and balances that make it difficult for any bill to become a law.

“Everyone has this idea from ‘Schoolhouse Rock’,” says Mangual, “that a law gets made in a particular way (but) that’s not how it works in practice. At the federal level, 98 percent of criminal laws are not passed by elected representatives. They are created by unelected bureaucrats who don’t have to answer to anyone.”

Established businesses manipulate those bureaucrats into passing rules that squash new competition.

“They can afford the lobbyists. They can afford to comply with the crazy webs of regulations,” explains Mangual. “If you’ve got an established cookie business, you don’t want a grandma from down the street who has a better recipe cutting into your business… You go to the legislature and ask them to pass arduous rules about an industrial kitchen and expensive equipment that you that need in order to qualify to participate in this business.”

One woman was prosecuted in a sting operation for selling ceviche on Facebook.

In Denver, a bartender mixed vodka with things like pickles and bacon and then put the mix back in the bottle. Some customers liked that. But authorities jailed the bartender for “infusing vodka.”

I wish I could jail that prosecutor.

Mangual warns: “People commit crimes all the time without knowing it. It’s impossible to know what sort of behavior is criminal.”

Law should stick to punishing assault, theft, and fraud. Otherwise, leave us all alone.

A recent Manhattan Institute report makes suggestions for getting closer to that ideal.

The absence of criminal intent should be taken more seriously by legislators. With hundreds of thousands of criminal offenses on the books, the old adage that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” no longer makes sense.

Lawmakers should also consider listing crimes in one place instead of sprinkling them throughout the statutory codes, which would take a lifetime to read.

And government should regularly repeal laws we no longer need.

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2020-01-29 05:30:54

The Iowa Caucus, the real start of the 2020 presidential primaries, is next week. Who’s favored to win? Sadly, as I write this, the smart money says it’s the candidate who’s promised Americans the most “free” stuff.

Six months ago, my staff and I tallied the candidates’ promises. All wanted to give away trillions—or more accurately, wanted government to tax you and spend your money on the candidates’ schemes.

At that point, Senator Kamala Harris led. Fortunately, her promises did not bring her sustained support, and she dropped out.

Unfortunately, now the other candidates are making even more promises.

So, it’s time for a new contest.

My new video ranks the current leading candidates by how much of your money they promise to spend. We divide the promises into four categories:

Education

Joe Biden would make community college free, cut student loans in half, increase Pell Grants, and modernize schools.

Added to his previous campaign promises, he’d increase federal spending by $157 billion per year.

Elizabeth Warren would spend much more. She wants government to “provide universal child care for every baby in this country age 0 to 5, universal pre-K for every child, raise the wages of every childcare worker and preschool teacher in America, provide for universal tuition-free college, put $50 billion into historically black colleges and universities… and cancel student loan debt for 95% of the people.”

She’d outspend Biden—but not Bernie Sanders.

Sanders would forgive all student loans—even for the rich. He also demands that government give everyone child care and pre-K.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg also promises free child care, more pay for teachers, more career education, free college and Pell Grants, plus the refinancing of student debt.

Good try, Pete, but Sanders “wins” in the education category, with nearly $300 billion in promises.

Climate

All the Democrats pretend they will do something useful about climate change. Biden would spend $170 billion per year, Buttigieg $150 billion to $200 billion, and Warren $300 billion. Sanders “wins” this category, too, by promising more than $1 trillion.

Health Care

Even the “moderate,” Biden, now wants to “build out Obamacare” and to cover people here illegally.

So does Buttigieg—but he’d spend twice as much on it.

Warren complains the Buttigieg plan “costs so much less” than her plan. She’d spend $2 trillion a year.

Sanders is again the biggest spender. He’d spend $3 trillion of your money on his “Medicare for All” plan.

Welfare

In this category, Biden, to his credit, plans no new spending.

But Buttigieg has been cranking out lots of new promises, like $45 billion for “affordable housing” and $27 billion to expand Social Security payments beyond what people paid in.

Warren would also spend more on “affordable housing” and give kids more food stamps.

Sanders “wins” again. He promises to guarantee everyone a job, provide “housing for all,” and give more people food stamps.

Miscellaneous

Then there’s spending that doesn’t neatly fit into major categories, like Biden’s plans for new foreign aid for Central America, Sanders’ high-speed internet, Buttigieg’s expanding national service programs like the Peace Corps, and Warren’s plan to force government to buy only American-made products.

Finally, we found a spending category that Sanders doesn’t win. With $130 billion in new plans, Biden wins the “miscellaneous” round.

And what about that incumbent Republican?

Donald Trump once talked about “cutting waste,” but government spending rose more than half a trillion dollars during his first three years.

Now Trump wants $267 billion in new spending for things like infrastructure and “access to high-quality, affordable childcare.”

At least Trump wants to spend less than the Democrats.

Biden and Buttigieg would double Trump’s increase. Warren would quadruple it. She’d increase spending by almost $3 trillion.

But Bernie Sanders blows them all out of the water, with nearly $5 trillion in proposed new spending!

“I’m not denying we’re going to spend a lot of money,” he admits.

He’ll probably win in Iowa next week. Whoever wins… taxpayers lose.

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2020-01-22 05:01:07

Reporters complain about business. We overlook the constant improvements in our lives made possible by greedy businesses competing for your money. Think about how our access to entertainment has improved.

“When I was a kid,” says Sean Malone in a new video for the Foundation for Economic Education, “my TV broadcast options were PBS, Fox, ABC, NBC, and CBS. Depending on the weather, it was hit or miss whether or not they were even watchable.”

1977 brought the first video rental store. “We literally had to rent a VCR along with two or three movies we could get on VHS from Blockbuster,” Malone reminds us, pointing out how much changed. “Now just about anything I’ve ever wanted to watch is available at the click of a button.”

Here’s a short version I released this week of the FEE video. It wasn’t government or big movie studios that made the amazing array of new options available. They dragged their feet. Malone points out that “the astounding wealth of home entertainment options we have today are the result of entrepreneurial start-ups, like Blockbuster.”

Blockbuster letting people watch movies whenever we wanted was a big improvement. But people are ingrates about the things capitalism makes possible. In the 1990s, people complained that Blockbuster’s chokehold on video entertainment was so strong that the company would be able to censor anything it didn’t like.

Special sanitized versions of movies were distributed through Blockbuster. How would we ever get to see the movies as they were originally intended? Clearly, Blockbuster was a monopoly. Government should regulate “Big Videotape” and break up the Blockbuster monopoly!

Government didn’t. Yet Blockbuster is now bankrupt. Its competitors offered so many better things.

That’s something to think about now when people call Facebook and Google monopolies. A few years ago, people claimed Netflix had a monopoly.

But without government suppressing competition, Netflix had no way to maintain its temporary hold on the streaming market. Other companies caught up fast. Customers decide which businesses succeed and which ones fail.

This is why centrally planning an economy doesn’t work. “Politicians and bureaucrats don’t know what people are going to value,” explains Malone. “They pick winners and losers based on what they want or what they think is going to earn them the most important allies.”

Blockbuster’s demise began when it charged a man named Reed Hastings $40 in late fees. That annoyed him so much, he started a subscription-based, mail-order movie rental company he called Netflix.

Then, Netflix made movies available online.

Now we have instant access to more entertainment than ever through Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc., all for a fraction of the cost of the original Netflix.

Still, we complain. That’s how it is with capitalism, and it’s a wonderful thing. While we complain, entrepreneurs like Hastings invent faster, easier ways to get us what we want. Many offer us options we never knew we wanted, putting old giants out of business.

There is an economics lesson in that. When entrepreneurs face competition, they often lose, but the fights make life better for us consumers.

This process of old things being replaced by new and better ones was dubbed “creative destruction” by economist Joseph Schumpeter. We see creative destruction in every industry.

The first flip phone cost $1,000 and couldn’t do the things we expect phones to do today. Competition drove further innovation. We got the Blackberry, and then the iPhone.

What amazing things will businesses come up with next?

Malone’s video points out that the best way to find out is to keep government and central planning out of the mix.

Once government wades in with regulations, it tends to freeze the current model in place, assuming it’s the best way to do things.

But the best way to do things is one that we haven’t even thought of yet, produced by the endless creative process called competition.

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2020-01-15 05:30:28

People who want to work should be allowed to work. That includes people who once went to jail.

With President Donald Trump’s support, Congress spends your money giving ex-cons “employment assistance.”

Why bother? State laws often make such employment impossible.

Courtney Haveman had an alcohol problem. When she was 19, she got a DUI. Then she took a swing at a security guard. “I made dumb decisions,” she admits in my new video. “Served three days in jail.”

Eight years later, and now sober, Courtney enrolled in beauty school. Such schools invite applicants to “turn your interest in beauty into a rewarding career.”

The schools do provide good careers—to owners of cosmetology schools. In Pennsylvania, where Courtney applied, they typically charge $6,000 tuition and require 1,000 hours of courses.

All that training is required by the state to work.

Courtney had worked in a salon and wanted to do more. Unfortunately, “doing more” requires not just serving customers well, but getting permission from bureaucrats.

Byzantine state laws demand you get a state-approved license before you may become a hairdresser, tour guide, travel agent, house painter, and all sorts of other jobs where customer happiness should be the guide.

So after taking hundreds of hours of cosmetology courses, Courtney paid more to apply for a Pennsylvania cosmetology license.

Pennsylvania then told her she couldn’t do cosmetology there because she has a criminal record.

The bureaucrats said she could appeal. She could prove she has good moral character.

“I sent letters, and people in my 12-step program wrote letters on my behalf, character letters,” she says.

The result?

“They sent me a rejection letter that said, ‘Sorry. You lack the good moral character requirement’,” says Courtney. “One time in my life that I felt like a productive member of society, I was proud of myself…people were proud of me, and then it was just like, you’re not good enough still.”

This is wrong.

Courtney did her time—all three days of it. She should be allowed the “second chance” that politicians keep promising former prisoners. Her arrest was eight years ago. She then got sober. Now she sponsors other women in AA. She has a toddler to support.

But Pennsylvania says, to protect “public health and safety,” she may not practice cosmetology.

The rule doesn’t “protect” anyone. Barbers don’t have to prove they have “good moral character.” Courtney is allowed to work as an “assistant.”

“I’m allowed to touch clients, just not allowed to do what I went to school to do!” says Courtney.

She shampoos customers’ hair and has intimate contact with them. She’s just not allowed to do facials, makeup, waxing—the work she trained for. “Our government makes it extremely difficult for people like me,” she says.

“People can’t just be kicked out of society,” says Institute for Justice lawyer Andrew Ward. He took Courtney’s case for free because he believes that the cosmetology law is unconstitutional. “Everyone has a right…to pursue their own happiness…a right to engage in any of the common occupations of life.”

Who benefits from restrictive licensing laws?

“It’s certainly convenient,” says Ward, “that established players have a law that gets to keep new people, that would compete with them, out.”

Right. Cosmetology boards are dominated by people who run beauty schools. They benefit by making it hard for newcomers to compete for customers by offering better service.

The established schools and salons lobby legislators, demanding stringent “safety” requirements. It’s “accidental” that they limit competition.

Courtney says, “Years of my life have been wasted.” She paid to train for a job she is not allowed to do.

State licensing rules like Pennsylvania’s cosmetology rule don’t protect public health. They don’t help customers.

They crush the little guy and limit competition.

Get rid of them.

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