2018-08-14 15:45:00

Today is the 83rd anniversary of Social Security, and this year it went into the red. In the long run, it has a shortfall of $32 trillion.

John Stossel says that the program is unsustainable. Young people shouldn’t expect it to cover their retirement.

Romina Boccia explains the Heritage Foundation’s plan to allow young people to contribute to their Social Security payments via private investment accounts.

Those private accounts would likely grow faster than people’s contributions to Social Security, and young people could invest in “whatever floats your boat,” Boccia tells Stossel.

Private investment accounts have been tried in other parts of the world. When Chile started them in 1981, it was poorer than most Latin American countries. Now it’s the very richest.

Yet mass demonstrations denounce it for being run privately, and for companies taking some of the profit. They miss the fact that Chileans have more money for retirement than most Latin Americans only because of their private accounts.

Privatization is also unpopular in America, and so are Boccia’s other proposals. She and Heritage would raise the retirement age to 70 to account for rising lifespans.

“When Social Security was actually founded, life expectancy was below 65,” Boccia tells Stossel. Now it’s 78.

Stossel tells Boccia: “What you guys are pushing is the right thing to do, but it’s not popular.” She replies: “It is not popular, but I think people don’t fully understand how these programs work.”

The good news is that this was the first time that when Stossel went to talk with people on the street, most people understood the problem.

One man called it a “Ponzi scheme” and asked, “why not take it and invest it in the stock market and let it grow that way?”

A woman summed it up well: “The country’s in a deficit; there’s a point where you can’t pay out and go in the negative forever.”

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The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.

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2018-08-15 04:01:00

Social Security is running out of money.

You may not believe that, but it’s a fact.

That FICA money taken from your paycheck was not saved for you in a “trust fund.” Politicians misled us. They spent every penny the moment it came in.

This started as soon as they created Social Security. They assumed that FICA payments from young workers would cover the cost of sending checks to older people. After all, at the time, most Americans died before they reached 65.

Now, however, people keep living longer. There just aren’t enough young people to cover my Social Security checks.

So Social Security is going broke. This year, the program went into the red for the first time.

Presidents routinely promise to fix this problem.

George W. Bush said he’d “strengthen and save” Social Security. Barack Obama said he’d “safeguard” it, and Donald Trump said that he’ll “save” it.

But none has done anything to save it.

“There is a plan out there to save it, but it requires some tough choices,” says Heritage Foundation budget analyst Romina Boccia.

Heritage proposes cutting payments to rich people and raising the retirement age to 70.

Good luck with that. Seniors vote. Most vote against politicians who suggest cutting benefits.

This summer, interviewing people for my new video about Social Security’s coming bankruptcy, was the first time I had heard the majority of such a group say they were aware there is a problem. One said, “We’re already at a trillion dollars (deficit)…. (I)t’s almost like a big Ponzi scheme.”

Actually, more like a pyramid scheme. Ponzi schemes secretly take your money. But the Social Security trick is written into the law—there for anyone who bothers to look.

Social Security isn’t the only hard choice ahead of us. Medicare will run out of money in just eight years. At that point, benefits will automatically be cut. Social Security hits its wall in 15 years.

Amazingly, as we approach this disaster, Democrats say—spend even more.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) proudly announced, “Nearly every Democrat in the United States Senate has voted in favor of expanding Social Security.”

How would they pay for it? “Raise taxes on the wealthy!” is the usual answer.

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2018-08-21 14:10:00

Bernie Sanders is all over the internet. His videos are everywhere and, unfortunately, millions watch.

How have his socialist ideas reached so many people? John Stossel explores.

Many of Sanders’ videos are just him ranting about how Republican ideas hurt people. He claims that the repeal of Obamacare will mean “tens of thousands of [people] will die.” He ignores the possibility that thousands will live if the economy is allowed to grow.

Many videos focus on President Trump. One claims Trump “uses the same kind of language the Nazis used” because he called people animals. The video didn’t mention that, in that case, Trump was talking about the MS-13 gang.

A common theme in Sanders’ videos is income inequality. Sanders says that’s “immoral” and “causes suffering for the working classes.” Stossel explains that the wealth gap doesn’t cause suffering. Yes, rich people got richer, but the poor and the middle class got richer too. Sanders never says that.

Stossel says Sanders’ videos are a mix of socialist propaganda and economic ignorance.

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2018-08-28 14:30:00

“Gouging” becomes an issue every hurricane season. After big storms, some people raise prices. Then politicians and the media freak out. Both demand tougher laws against “gouging.”

But Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman says, “the gougers deserve a medal” because they take risks to bring in goods that people desperately need.

Annelise Kofod, Erika Lewis, and Maggie Hroncich are students who get that.

They are winners of the contest held by John Stossel’s Charity Stossel in the Classroom (SITC). They collected $1500, plus a free trip for them and their teacher to visit Stossel in New York City.

This year’s contest invited students to write about “price gouging.”

“When people hear ‘price gouging’ they think, oh, ‘gouging’—this awful thing. But it really is kind of just another name for ‘supply and demand,'” explains 17-year-old Annelise Kofod of Raleigh, North Carolina, who won the High School video award.

“Supply and demand,” she says in her video, can help people get things they desperately need.

Stossel’s classroom video reports on a so-called gouger, John Shepperson. Watching news reports after Hurricane Katrina, he learned that people desperately needed electric generators. So Shepperson bought 19 generators and drove them 600 miles to the hurricane disaster zone. He offered to sell them for twice what he paid. Lots of people wanted to buy them.

But Mississippi police called that price gouging. They confiscated his generators, and locked him up. Did that benefit the public? Stossel doesn’t think so.

Erika Lewis of Towson University, who won the college-level video category, says, “as I did more and more research I was like, ‘ok, maybe price gouging isn’t such a bad thing.'”

Maggie Hroncich of Grove City, Pennsylvania, won the high school essay contest. She points out that, “actually, the price gougers are the moral ones.”

Stossel agrees. He’s glad that SITC students understand the benefits of market forces, even when politicians and the media don’t.

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2018-09-04 13:33:00

Hearings begin today for President Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh.

John Stossel wonders whether Kavanaugh will be good for liberty.

Libertarians are right to worry. Kavanaugh has shown deference to government when it spies on people.

In one case, Kavanaugh allowed the government’s “metadata collection program,” in which the government stored phone data collected from millions of Americans.

Kavanaugh even went out of his way give comments on that case, saying the metadata program “serves a critically important special need—preventing terrorist attacks on the United States.”

But a government report later found “no instance in which the program directly contributed to…disruption of a terrorist attack.”

Yes, says Ilya Shaprio, the Cato Institute’s senior fellow in constitutional studies, Kavanaugh disagrees with libertarians on national security. But on just about every other issue, Kavanaugh would likely advance liberty.

Shapiro notes that Kavanaugh is one of the best judges in the country at opposing government regulation on individuals and companies. As a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Kavanaugh tried to strike down lots of regulations: net neutrality, EPA admissions rules, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He didn’t always succeed, but he argued that they were all bureaucratic overreaches.

Shapiro tells Stossel that Kavanaugh would also likely overturn Kelo v. City of New London, the eminent domain decision that upheld the right of governments to take private property for nearly any reason.

Kavanaugh is also good on gun rights. Citing the Second Amendment, he tried to overturn a D.C. ban on all semi-automatic rifles.

The left fears Kavanaugh mostly for other reasons. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand warns, “What’s at stake is freedom for LGBTQ Americans, for equal rights, for civil rights.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, warns he would “tell women they don’t have the constitutional right to control their own bodies.”

But their biggest fears are misplaced, Shapiro tells Stossel. Kavanaugh is unlikely to change rulings on Roe v. Wade and gay marriage, because he and Chief Justice John Roberts respect precedent, especially if changing it would disrupt people’s lives.

The left can breathe easier on those things, says Shapiro, but he notes that Kavanaugh will likely overturn one thing that is dear to the left: affirmative action.

“Kavanaugh could provide the fifth vote to overturn that 40-year-old experiment with using racial preferences to promote some kind of nebulous diversity.”

Should libertarians be happy with Kavanaugh overall, Stossel asks? “Definitely,” Shapiro says. “He’s not going to agree with us all the time, certainly. But no judges or justices do.”

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2018-09-05 04:01:00

Some people are very angry about President Trump’s new Supreme Court pick.

“Hell no, Kavanaugh! He is a dangerous man!” protesters shouted on the steps of the Supreme Court. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand yelled, “What is at stake is freedom for LGBTQ Americans, for equal rights, civil rights…”

“They are freaking out because they don’t understand,” Ilya Shapiro, editor of the Cato Institute’s Supreme Court Review, tells me. “Those top areas, abortion or gay rights or Citizens United, there’s really not going to be a change.”

Every time one party appoints a judge, the other party acts as if the appointment will fundamentally change America. But the Supreme Court is the most cautious of the three branches of government. Today’s Court, headed by Chief Justice John Roberts, is especially respectful of precedent.

They almost always base their decisions on decisions made by prior justices, and they often defer to lower courts. That doesn’t lead to many surprising changes.

Maybe that’s why, despite activists protesting most every recent appointment, a study finds most Americans can’t name a single Supreme Court justice.

We notice the president, and most of us can name at least some members of Congress. Those people might do something surprising.

Supreme Court justices, whether Republican or Democratic appointees, are not very likely to undo existing laws, especially laws that millions of Americans have already acted on.

After 45 years of legal abortions, Roe v. Wade isn’t likely to be repealed. Gay marriage is pretty safe too after a quarter-million gay marriages. The Court’s unlikely to reverse itself on either issue.

Partisans would be smarter to keep their eyes on issues where the Court is closely divided.

Private property cases like the Kelo decision might go differently with Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court instead of swing-voter Anthony Kennedy. In that case, Kennedy joined the Court’s four liberals in affirming the government’s right to seize privately owned land and give it to other private landowners who might pay more in taxes.

Kennedy voted “for the bad guys,” says Shapiro, adding optimistically, “Kavanaugh could very well be the fifth vote to overturn Kelo.”

Also, affirmative action faces challenges. A lawsuit accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian-Americans may reach the court soon.

Shapiro says, “Kavanaugh could provide the fifth vote to overturn that 40-year-old experiment with using racial preferences to promote some kind of nebulous diversity.”

Kavanaugh also has a history of reining in government regulators—”all these alphabet agencies that increasingly intrude in people’s lives,” as Shapiro puts it. “He has written at length that the government keeps doing things that it doesn’t have the power to do.”

At the White House, the day he was nominated, Kavanaugh made a point of saying, “The Constitution’s separation of powers protects individual liberty.”

That was good to hear.

As a judge in D.C., Kavanaugh voted to strike down some environmental rules. “I like the idea of clean air and clean water,” says Shapiro, “but the EPA has taken a lot of liberties.”

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2018-09-11 13:38:00

If you live in one of 65 U.S. cities, you’ve probably seen electric scooters.

To unlock one, you just use an app on your phone. It costs one dollar to unlock and 15-cents a minute after that. You go where you need to go, and then just leave the scooter anywhere. The scooter stays there until someone else rents it. It has a GPS which allows riders to locate them and prevents theft.

John Stossel tested one in Washington, D.C. He wonders if this is the next revolution in urban travel.

Jennifer Skees, who studies technology policy at the Mercatus Center, calls the scooters “a new twist on old technology…something that works even better, to solve needs in dense urban areas.”

Yet some cities have banned electric scooters. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said they endanger “public health and safety.” Skees calls that ironic “because San Francisco always seems to be clamoring for more transportation options…complaining about the traffic and asking for green transportation.”

What about safety? A man reportedly died after falling off a scooter and reckless scooter riders have injured pedestrians. Skees answers, “we actually haven’t seen a large number of accidents or injuries…we don’t ban bicycles because somebody might get hurt on a bicycle.”

The scooters anger lots of people. Some complain about safety risks—others despise them as a symbol of techie gentrification. Videos show people throwing scooters into the ocean and setting scooters on fire.

But Maggie Gendron, director of strategic development at the scooter-sharing company Lime, tells Stossel, “it’s a low percentage of vandalism…[in one city] 10,000 rides and 18 vandalism complaints.”

Some cities are starting to welcome the scooters. San Francisco recently lifted its ban, granting permits to two small companies but rejecting permits to 10 companies including Lime and Bird. Washington, D.C., Austin, Seattle, and about 62 other cities have active scooter-sharing now.

Stossel says, as often happens, entrepreneurs invented something great. He wonders how many cities will impose destructive regulation.

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2018-09-12 04:01:00

I just zipped down a city street on an electric scooter. It cost me 15 cents a minute. Fast and fun!

My scooter was just lying on the ground. I picked it up, activated it with my phone, and rode away. When I was done, I simply abandoned it.

Won’t it be stolen? No, because you need an app to activate the scooter and a GPS device keeps track of it.

My wife loves using the newish Citi Bike shared bicycles that are locked in a big dock near our apartment. They were a good innovation.

But then entrepreneurs came up with “dockless” bikes. They’re even better.

Better still are these shared scooters. They’re small, flexible, cheap, and convenient. Maybe these scooters will be the next revolution in urban transit!

But politicians may kill them off before we get a chance to find out how useful they are.

Some places have already banned the scooters. San Francisco said they “endanger public health and safety.” City attorney Dennis Herrera complained about “broken bones, bruises, and near misses.”

Sigh. Yet San Francisco also complains about not having enough transportation options.

In San Francisco and other cities, scooter companies tried doing what Uber and Airbnb did: They dodged destructive regulation by simply putting their services out on the street, hoping that by the time sleepy regulators noticed them, they would be too popular to ban.

That worked for Uber and Airbnb. We consumers got cool new ways to travel and alternatives to hotels, and investors got rich—all because they didn’t ask for permission. Permissionless innovation brings good things.

But flying under the radar is harder for scooter companies. Scooters on sidewalks are very visible.

“Unfortunately,” Mercatus Center tech policy analyst Jennifer Skees told me for my latest video, “cities haven’t learned from their experiences with companies like Uber and Airbnb. They want innovators to come ask for permission and go through the regulatory processes.”

But the “regulatory processes” take years. “That prevents consumers from accessing a transportation option that could be accessible now!” said Skees.

After a four-month ban, San Francisco granted permits to two small scooter companies. The politicians stiffed Lime and Bird, the innovators that started the business—presumably because they didn’t kiss the politicians’ rings and beg for permission first.

Still, even I acknowledge that there may be a role for government here. A public square needs some rules. Scooters, especially speedy electric scooters, can be dangerous.

“We haven’t seen a large number of accidents or injuries,” says Skees. “We don’t ban bicycles because somebody might get hurt…. Social norms (like hand signals) will evolve.”

Whenever there’s something new, the media hype the problems. The Los Angeles Times reports that some people hate the scooters so much that they “have been crammed into toilets, tossed off balconies and set on fire.” Internet videos show scooters abandoned in the Pacific Ocean.

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2018-09-19 04:01:00

Officials in states hit by Hurricane Florence are on the lookout for “price gouging.”

People who engage in “excessive pricing” face up to 30 days jail time, said North Carolina’s attorney general. South Carolina passed a “Price Gouging During Emergency” law that imposes a $1,000 fine per violation.

“Gouging” is an issue during every disaster because when supplies are short, some merchants raise prices.

These are “bad people,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi angrily during a previous storm.

Bad people?

I thought Republicans were the party that believed the market determines prices.

“Gougers deserve a medal,” Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman once told me. That’s because higher prices are the best indicator of which goods people want most.

This is a hard concept for people to understand.

“They’re not heroes. They’re scabs who prey off the desperate,” wrote James Kirkpatrick in the comments after watching my latest video about this. “Only Stossel would praise greed,” added Paul Nadrotowski.

I don’t praise greed. Pursuing profit is simply the best mechanism for bringing people supplies we need. Without rising prices indicating which materials are most sought-after, suppliers don’t know whether to rush in food, or bandages, or chainsaws.

After Hurricane Katrina, one so-called gouger was John Shepperson of Kentucky. Watching news reports, he learned that people desperately needed generators.

So Shepperson bought 19 of them, rented a U-Haul, and drove it 600 miles to a part of Mississippi that had no electricity. He offered to sell his generators for twice what he paid for them. People were eager to buy.

But Mississippi police said that was illegal. They confiscated Shepperson’s generators and locked him up.

Did the public benefit? No. The generators sat in police storage (I suspect some cops took them home to use while Shepperson sat in jail).

Who will bring supplies to a disaster area if it’s illegal to make extra profit? It’s risky to invest in 19 generators, leave home, rent a U-Haul, and drive 600 miles.

“Being moral is loading up supplies and donating them to people in need,” a person named Meirstein wrote on my YouTube page.

Yes, but in real life, not enough people do that to satisfy the needs of thousands of desperate people.

You can make a law against someone like Shepperson making extra profit, but you can’t force apathetic people to bring in supplies.

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2018-09-25 14:15:00

Dave Rubin is a popular YouTube host who was once on the left. He worked for The Young Turks TV show.

But Rubin tells John Stossel how he gradually changed his mind and became a classical liberal. For that, Rubin lost friends and gets protested at college campuses.

While many leftists are so angry at Rubin that they will no longer talk to him, conservatives are eager to talk. Rubin says that surprised him because, “I’m pro-choice. Most of them are pro-life. I’m against the death penalty, most of them are for the death penalty.”

Stossel had a similar experience. “When I went from left to libertarian, the right was willing to argue,” he tells Rubin.

Why would that be? Rubin speculates that it comes down to treating people as individuals rather than groups. “If you believe in the individual, then you fundamentally understand that individuals are different. So you are willing to sit down with someone different than you,” he says.

Rubin gets flak for talking with right-wing provocateurs like Milo Yiannopoulos, and for criticizing leftists.

When Rubin, who is gay, tried to give a speech at the University of New Hampshire, a gender studies professor screamed, “we don’t want you in the LGBT community, so get the f*** out.”

Another woman at the speech said Rubin is insensitive to victims. But when Rubin asked how she had been oppressed, she responded, “I have no reason to tell you about my oppression because that’s just like mental energy, unless I’m going to be paid.”

Rubin calls the atmosphere on many campuses an “Oppression Olympics,” where students and faculty compete to be the biggest victim.

As a result, ideas that offend “victims” are often off limits for discussion.

But Rubin says he will not bow to political correctness. He’ll keep discussing uncomfortable ideas: “I would rather live and stand for whatever I believe in than just bow forever.”

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