"BAILOUTS AND BULL," A JOHN STOSSEL REPORT, ON "20/20" FRIDAY, MARCH 13
From the stimulus and bailout to claims that America is no longer the "land of opportunity," from the controversy surrounding a border wall to the government's plans for Universal Pre-K, from fixing killer commutes to medical marijuana, John Stossel teams up with Drew Carey and Reason TV to report on "Bailouts and Bull." The hour report airs on "20/20," FRIDAY, MARCH 13 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
The Conceit of the Ruling Class: Politicians and pundits say government must do "something" to "fix" the economy. 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 actions do more harm than good. Stossel interviews some, calculates the amount per taxpayer the stimulus costs (about $16,000), and asks lawmakers: Where will you get the money? If debt and wild lending was a problem, why is it now a solution? Why do politicians know better than I how my money should be spent?
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 bestseller that argues that it's almost impossible for an entry level worker to make it in America. College student Adam Shepard decided to test that theory. He picked a city out of a hat and went there with $25 in his pocket and told 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."
Universal Pre-K: President Obama's campaign promise sounds great: let's help preschoolers get a strong start in school. But Stossel asks: should that be the job of our government? President Obama says, "We'll see a $10 return for every dollar we spend." Stossel investigates those statistics. States like Oklahoma and Georgia have already spent billions on universal Pre-K, and what do they have to show for it? He reports that even the famous Head Start program turns out to have no noticeable effect by grade 4. Dumping more money into an already failing public school system? Stossel says, "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, or climb over it, or cut holes in it. If we further reinforce the entire southern border, then what about Canada? 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, then staying after their visas expired.
Killer commute: Got traffic on your morning commute? It's only going to get worse. Drew Carey and John Stossel profile commuters who have 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 Governor Mitch Daniels did that with the Indiana Toll Road, and he says of the company that now leases the road: "They either build a road 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." Indiana taxpayers made money on the lease, but Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) says that's selling out the public good. "Privatizing existing taxpayer infrastructure is not a solution for anybody."
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, the U.S. government says federal rules trump state law, and the federal government classifies marijuana as worse than crack cocaine. 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.
"20/20" is anchored by Elizabeth Vargas and John Stossel. David Sloan is executive producer.