John Stossel

She was once the darling of conservatives like Newt Gingrich, but now you can't watch a television news-talk program without seeing her calling for more government and showing scorn for those who want less.

She's Arianna Huffington, website impresario and author of "Right Is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution and Made Us All Less Safe".

I interviewed her for "20/20" last week because I was impressed by the success of the website she created. In just three years she made the Huffington Post a hot liberal opinion site.

What happened to Huffington's beliefs? In 1994, she worked to promote the Gingrich Revolution. She appeared at political events with Bob Dole.

"I definitely called myself a conservative," she told me. "I actually believed that the private sector would be able to address a lot of the issues that I believed were very important, like taking care of those in need. And then I saw firsthand how difficult it was. ... One of the problems with the Right is that they don't believe in facts, and they don't believe in evidence. And I was willing to change my mind, confronted with new evidence. And we would all be better off if we were willing to look at new evidence."

So she turned to big government.

"What we need is serious government policies to address poverty."

But they don't work, I said.

"They don't work as well as they should be working, but there's a lot more we can do."

She believes the old AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) program helped the poor and therefore welfare reform was not a good thing.

"[Reform was] not a success. A lot of people have been left without job training and therefore without the ability to really lead productive lives."

I pointed out that since welfare reform, eight million people left the welfare rolls, and many found jobs they like, jobs that pay better than welfare. Although her favorite political candidates say life for the poor has gotten worse, incomes of the poorest Americans are actually higher today.

Confronted with a chart showing that, Huffington acknowledged that lower-income people are generally better off.

"In general. In general ... But you know we have over 30 million Americans living below the poverty line."

But the Census Bureau says the percentage of families living below the poverty line fell from 11 percent in 1996 to 9.8 percent in 2006. The percentage of single mothers below the poverty line fell from 32.6 percent in 1996 to 28.3 in 2006. That looks like progress to me.

But Huffington had this retort: "The fact that we used to live in caves is not a justification for the state of affairs right now."

Like most liberals, she believes America needs more regulation. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) should be strengthened to protect workers.

I tried to acquaint her with the facts. While it's true that since OSHA started, deadly job accidents have dropped, the truth is, deaths were dropping before OSHA. Between the late 1930s and 1971, job fatalities fell from more than 40 to fewer than 20 per 100,000 workers. After OSHA was passed, fatalities continued to fall, but no faster than before. It's misleading to credit regulation for the improvement. Government gets in front of a parade and pretends to lead it.

Huffington's reply: "If you were the husband of one of the women who died recently because OSHA regulations were not sufficiently implemented, you would not be so cavalier about the speed at which things get better."

As if the government could guarantee zero job deaths.

Huffington has also joined the war on global warming. "We have two Priuses," she says.

I pointed out that she also has a $7-million house that burns more carbon than a hundred people in the Third World. She said:

"There is no question that the fact that I'm living in a big house, I occasionally travel on private planes -- all those things are contradictions. I'm not setting myself up as some paragon who only goes around on a bicycle."

That honesty is a relief. If only she and others would own up to the other contradictions in the Left's call for endlessly intrusive government.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate