John Stossel

They also continually mislead us about what their schemes will cost.

President Bush said the war in Iraq would cost $50 billion to $60 billion. It cost $800 billion. When Medicare Part A was created, the government said it would cost $9 billion in 1990. It cost $67 billion. They said the hiring of TSA airport security screeners would cost $100 million. Then they spent $700 million. Yet the media report the estimates as if they are realistic. Again and again, politicians get away with underestimating the cost of their programs.

Often the cost goes up because people change their behavior to get free stuff. A program meant to help the needy costs a certain amount. The next year, it costs more, because now more of the needy know about the program and more social workers know how to tap it. The next year, the non-needy feel like suckers if they don't get the handout, and they figure out a way to game the system.

Then, Mitchell point out, "what do politicians do the next year? They expand the program to buy more votes. And the year after that, they add a new benefit. That's what's happened with Medicare. It's not just that they got the fundamental estimates wrong. They did. But every new generation of politicians figures out some new expansion, some new benefit."

And so we're on the road to Greece.

Bottom line: Don't trust the politicians' numbers.

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 > To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at ©Creators Syndicate