Paul Jacob
According to some leading journalists and consumer activists, ABC's news division suffers from a major problem: John Stossel. He used to be such a good consumer reporter, years ago, worthy of his numerous Emmies. But now he thinks that markets protect consumers better than governments do, and he's skeptical of all sorts of beliefs that we all just know are right. No need to question them. None at all.

Stossel's media critics have it all wrong. There's a Stossel Problem, but it's not that he's broken ranks. The real Stossel problem is that he's so alone, that "the ranks" still file forward (or is that backward?), marching left, left, left, right, left.

Give Me a Break!

On his regular 20/20 "Give Me A Break!" segment, and in his recent book of the same title, you get a good idea of the niche he's carved out for himself. In TV's vast wasteland, so much nonsense passes for truth that he can spend most of his time hacking at the biggest tangles of bunk.

Because of this, much of what he does can seem a bit obvious. Take his highly rated recent special "Lies, Myths, and Downright Stupidities." He took up ten common beliefs and showed how each one was grossly in error.

Among the shockers?

He debunks the idea that "money can buy happiness." Sure, we workers and consumers -- and our politicians -- often act as if everything depended on money, and lots of it, but recent studies show differently. Stossel almost shames his viewers when he builds his common-sense argument.

The popular belief that "we're drowning in garbage," that we're running out of space to put all our refuse, turns out also to have no basis in fact. Landfills compete for our trash; communities put up golf courses and parks over landfills that have completed their functions. There's more space being put to use in this way all the time.

He also attacks Republican and Democratic myths. "For more than 75 years," he notes, "no Republican administration has cut the size of government." To believe that Republicans cut government is to deny a whole lot of evidence. Turnabout being fair play, Democrats fare no better at his hand. They are always talking about how the rich should pay more taxes. But in an amusing interview with Al Sharpton, who thought that the top one percent of income earners in America pay less than five percent of taxes, Stossel shows the ignorance behind standard Democratic envy-mongering. In truth, the top one percent of income earners pay 34 percent of all income taxes.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.

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