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by John Stossel

    Bernie Sanders leads the race for the Democratic nomination.
    He may become America's first self-described "democratic socialist" president.
    What does that mean?
    Today, when Sanders talks about socialism, he says: "I'm not looking at Cuba. I'm looking at countries like Denmark and Sweden."
    But Denmark and Sweden are not socialist. Denmark's prime minister even came to America to refute Sanders' claims, pointing out that "Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy."
    Both Denmark and Sweden do give citizens government-run health care and have bigger welfare programs than America has. However,  recently, they've moved away from socialism. Because their socialist policies killed economic growth, they cut regulations and ended government control of many industries.
    Sanders probably doesn't know that. He, like many young people, just loves the idea of socialism.
    For my new video this week, Stossel TV producer Maxim Lott went through hours of Sanders' old speeches. What he found reveals a lot about what Sanders believes.
    When Sanders was mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he went out of his way to defend Fidel Castro. "He educated the kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society!" Fortunately, Sanders added, "Not to say Fidel Castro or Cuba are perfect."
    No, they are not perfect. Castro's government tortured and murdered thousands. By confiscating private property, they destroyed the island's economy. Life got bad enough that thousands died trying to escape.
    Even now in Cuba, most people try to live on less than $2 a day
    Sanders focuses on other things, like: "They did a lot to eliminate illiteracy!"
    Sanders has long had a soft spot for socialist countries. He chose to honeymoon in Communist Russia, where he said people "seem reasonably happy and content." He was "extremely impressed by their public transportation system... cleanest, most effective mass transit system I've ever seen in my life!"
    He praised Soviet youth programs: "Cultural programs go far beyond what we do in this country."
    He did at least qualify his support, calling the Soviet government "authoritarian."
    But Sanders made no such criticism after Nicaragua's socialist revolution. He praised the Sandinistas' land "reform" because they were "giving, for the first time in their lives, real land to farmers so that they can have something that they grow. Nobody denies that they are making significant progress."
    Former landowners sure denied it. They'd had their land stolen. Sanders suggested that was OK because landowners are rich.
    "Rich people, who used to have a good life there, are not terribly happy," he said. "As a socialist, the word socialism does not frighten me... (P)oor people respect that."
    What about the hunger and poverty that socialism creates? Bernie had an odd take on that.
    "American journalists talk about how bad a country is because people are lining up for food. That's a good thing! In other countries people don't line up for food; the rich get the food and the poor starve."
    After he said he was "impressed" by Sandinista leaders, Sanders added, "Obviously I will be attacked by every editorial writer in the free press for being a dumb dupe."
    I join them.
    Bernie Sanders is indeed a "dumb dupe" about economics. Or as the Soviet Communists used to put it, "a useful idiot."
    Under Ortega's rule, Nicaragua quickly fell further into poverty, and the socialists were voted out in 1990. Ortega later returned as a violent dictator. For most people in Nicaragua, Cuba and other centrally planned economies, life is hell.
    Once Sanders was elected to Congress, he mostly stopped praising violent socialist revolutions.
    At that time, Communist governments in Europe were collapsing. It was convenient for embarrassed former supporters of those governments to rebrand themselves.
    In Congress, Sanders would call himself an independent and, in the estimation of his fellow Vermonter, former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, he "votes with the Democrats 98% of the time."
    But Sanders has never taken back the enthusiastic praise he gave to socialist regimes.
    John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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by Walter E. Williams

    "A More or Less Perfect Union" is a three-part series, produced by Free to Choose Network, that will air on various PBS stations across the nation starting in February. The documentary is a personal exploration of the U.S. Constitution by Justice Douglas Ginsburg, who served on the U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit and is now a senior justice on the court. Ginsburg explores the U.S. Constitution and features interviews with and gains the perspectives from constitutional experts of all political views -- liberal, conservative and libertarian. He examines the key issues of liberty in the U.S. both from a historical and contemporary perspective. Among those issues are freedom of the press and religion, slavery and civil rights, the Second Amendment, separation of powers and the number of ways that the Constitution's framers sought to limit the power of the federal government.
    The first episode is titled "A Constitution in Writing." It examines the contentious atmosphere that arose among the delegates in that hot, humid Philadelphia summer of 1787. State delegates were sent to Philadelphia to work out the problems of the Articles of Confederation, which served as the first Constitution of the 13 original states. This part of the documentary examines some of the efforts to deal with the problems of the Articles of Confederation while maintaining its guiding principle to preserve the independence and sovereignty of the states. It also examines the compromises and struggles that led to the document we know as the U.S. Constitution. Some of the framers, particularly the Anti-Federalists, led by Patrick Henry, saw the Constitution as defective and demanded amendments be added that contained specific guarantees of personal freedoms and rights and clear limitations on the federal government's power. They swore that they would never ratify the Constitution unless it contained a Bill of Rights.
    The second episode is titled "A Constitution for All." One major emphasis of this episode is the examination of the Supreme Court decisions that undermined racial justice both for slaves and later ex-slaves for a century after the Civil War. Several constitutional scholars discuss how the courts and states ignored and weakened the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, known collectively as the Civil War Amendments, which were designed to ensure equality for recently emancipated slaves. There is also discussion of Bill of Rights guarantees to people accused of a crime. There is more exploration into the Bill of Rights guarantees of free speech, religious freedom and the notion that "due process of law" be part of any proceeding that denies a citizen "life, liberty or property." This forced the government to compensate citizens when it takes private property for public use.
    Episode three, "Our Constitution at Risk," examines the many ways that our Constitution is under assault today. It points out that the framers would be shocked by how all three branches of government have grown as a result of what we the people demand from our elected representatives. There's a discussion about how some of our Bill of Rights guarantees mean absolutely nothing today, namely the 9th and 10th Amendments, which reaffirm personal liberty by specifically limiting the federal government to its "enumerated powers."
    "A More or Less Perfect Union" is not just a bunch of academics and constitutional experts preaching. It features interviews with everyday Americans weighing in with their visions on the rule of law, the branches of government and the debate over originalism. There's a companion book titled "Voices of Our Republic," edited by Ginsburg. It is a collection of thoughts about the Constitution from judges, journalists, and academics. It includes the thoughts of Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Neil Gorsuch and Sandra Day O'Connor, publisher Arthur Sulzberger, professor Alan Dershowitz, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and historians Joseph Ellis and Ron Chernow, along with Jack Nicklaus, Gene Simmons and many others.
    The most important audience for "A More or Less Perfect Union" is high school and college students. For it is they who stand a good chance of losing the liberties that made our nation the greatest and freest on earth.
    Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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by John Stossel

  President Donald Trump "saved the United States," says former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
    He's one of the "smartest, most clever, and successful" presidents, says Fox's Jeanine Pirro.
    No, he's "dumb and racist," says comedian Seth Meyers, and guilty of "rampant corruption," say commentators on MSNBC.
    The man divides opinion like no one else in America.
    My latest video looks at the "good, bad and ugly" of Trump. The good is wonderful.
    Unemployment is down, and the stock market is up.
    Trump deserves credit for that. By criticizing "job-crushing regulations" and appointing some regulators who fear government overreach, Trump signaled people that government would not crush you merely because you make a profit or want to try something new. As a result, 6 million more Americans were hired.
    Unemployment fell during Barack Obama's presidency, too, but under Obama, fewer Americans chose to even look for work. People dropped out of the labor force.
    Once Trump was elected, more people applied for jobs again.
    Why? I say it's because his administration sent a new message. Instead of telling people: "You're victims of an unfair system! You need handouts," Trump said: "You don't need welfare. Most of you can get a job."
    Even disability claims, which had been steadily rising, have declined.
    Trump did other good things, like appointing judges that tend to rule in favor of free speech and private property.
    On the other hand, Trump's done a lot of bad.
    To undermine a political opponent and expose the sleaziness of the opponent's son, Trump sleazily withheld aid to an ally. Then he lied about it.
    Trump lies about all sorts of things -- big and small.
    He said his inauguration had "the biggest audience in... history." He kept saying it, even after reports showed it wasn't true.
    He broke his promises about ending America's wars.
    Unlike his predecessors, he hasn't started new wars -- but he's increased bombings. The USA is now dropping more bombs on Afghanistan than at any time in the last 10 years.
    Trump broke promises about spending. He promised he'd "cut spending, big-league."
    But he did the opposite. Spending has increased by half a trillion dollars since Trump was elected.
    Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, is a Trump supporter, but he's upset that Trump's gone along with a big increase in the national debt. Davidson complained to his fellow Republicans, but suddenly, they didn't seem to care much about the debt now that someone from their party was president.
    This week, Trump proposed a budget that would slow the growth of most unsustainable welfare programs. But he knows that won't get through Congress. Probably, he'll sign the gusher of spending that Congress produces instead.
    "We are on a path to bankrupting our country," says Davidson.
    Trump also says false things about trade. He claimed our $500 billion trade deficit means the U.S. is "losing on trade with China." But that's absurd.
    "He's telling people trade isn't win-win; there's a winner and a loser." I complained to Davidson, adding, "I don't think Trump understands trade."
    "He has a metaphor that the average American understands," responded Davidson.
    "But it's a wrong metaphor, right?" I asked.
    "It is technically inaccurate," said Davidson.
    Trump is also a bully. That's his ugly part.
    He calls people "stupid," "pathetic," "a low-IQ individual." He makes fun of their looks and weight. It's unpresidential.
    "Some of his words certainly have been ugly," Davidson agreed.
    "He's like a 3-year-old!" I said. "We're supposed to outgrow that narcissism when we're an adult."
    "This is all baked into Donald Trump," replied Davidson. "He is true to who everyone knows Donald Trump as, and they love him anyway."
    "You love him anyway?" I asked.
    "I do," said Davidson. "His policies have been great, and the results are measurably great."
    Many are. And Trump is likely to be reelected, according to the odds on my site ElectionBettingOdds.com. So it looks like we'll see much more of him.
    I hope we get more of the good and less of the bad and ugly.
    John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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by John Stossel

        A law in South Carolina bans playing pinball if you're under 18. That's just one of America's many ridiculous laws restricting freedom.
        "There is a role for the government in keeping people safe from actual criminals, people who commit murder, robbery," says Rafael Mangual, a "tough-on-crime" guy at the Manhattan Institute.
        "But a lot of laws don't keep people safe," he says. "There's a federal prohibition on walking a dog on a leash longer than six feet on federal property. It is a jailable offense."
        Three hundred thousand federal criminal offenses are on the books. "It's way too big," says Mangual. "Part of that is because we don't take any old or outmoded laws off the books."
        In Michigan, prosecutors filed criminal charges against a 10-year-old who, during a dodgeball game, threw a ball at another kid's face.
        "Anyone can be prosecuted for almost anything," says Mangual. "Lying to your boss over the phone about why you didn't come in. That could constitute wire fraud."
        Today's laws punish activities unlikely to be performed with criminal intent.
        "Taking a rake from New York into New Jersey, that's actually a federal crime," warns Mangual. "If you've ever had a rake in the back of your pickup truck and crossed state lines, you probably committed a federal crime."
        In my new video, I push back at Mangual, pointing out that nobody goes to jail for things like that.
        "That doesn't mean that it's not a problem," he responds. "Legal compliance is not free. It takes time, money, effort. It violates fundamental norms about fairness."
        One woman was prosecuted for sheltering animals during a hurricane. "My goal was to make sure that they were not out there drowning," she said. But North Carolina prosecutors filed criminal charges against her for practicing veterinary medicine without a license.
        In Kentucky, Holland Kendall gave eyeglasses to needy people who couldn't afford eye doctors. Then state officials told him that was a crime.
        What causes this excess? I was taught that the Constitution created checks and balances that make it difficult for any bill to become a law.
        "Everyone has this idea from 'Schoolhouse Rock'," says Mangual, "that a law gets made in a particular way (but) that's not how it works in practice. At the federal level, 98% of criminal laws are not passed by elected representatives. They are created by unelected bureaucrats who don't have to answer to anyone."
        Established businesses manipulate those bureaucrats into passing rules that squash new competition.
        "They can afford the lobbyists. They can afford to comply with the crazy webs of regulations," explains Mangual. "If you've got an established cookie business, you don't want a grandma from down the street who has a better recipe cutting into your business... You go to the legislature and ask them to pass arduous rules about an industrial kitchen and expensive equipment that you that need in order to qualify to participate in this business."
        One woman was prosecuted in a sting operation for selling ceviche on Facebook.
        In Denver, a bartender mixed vodka with things like pickles and bacon and then put the mix back in the bottle. Some customers liked that. But authorities jailed the bartender for "infusing vodka."
        I wish I could jail that prosecutor.
        Mangual warns: "People commit crimes all the time without knowing it. It's impossible to know what sort of behavior is criminal."
        Law should stick to punishing assault, theft and fraud. Otherwise, leave us all alone.
        A recent Manhattan Institute report makes suggestions for getting closer to that ideal.
        The absence of criminal intent should be taken more seriously by legislators. With hundreds of thousands of criminal offenses on the books, the old adage that "ignorance of the law is no excuse" no longer makes sense.
        Lawmakers should also consider listing crimes in one place instead of sprinkling them throughout the statutory codes, which would take a lifetime to read.
        And government should regularly repeal laws we no longer need.
        John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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by Walter E. Williams

        I have been teaching economics since 1967 -- 40 years of it at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. During that interval, economic reality has not changed. Just as Galileo's law about the independent influence of gravity on falling objects has not changed, neither have the fundamental principles of economics. Economics is fun and simple. It's made complicated by some economics professors -- fortunately, not by my colleagues at George Mason University. Let's apply some simple tools of economics to reveal outright myths, lies and tricks.
        Who is punished by tariffs on imported goods? Let's go through the steps. The Canadian government imposes high tariffs on American dairy imports. That forces Canadians to pay higher prices for dairy products and protects Canada's dairy producers from American competition. What should be the U.S. government's response to Canada's screwing its citizens? If you were in the Trump administration, you might retaliate by imposing stiff tariffs on softwood products built from pine, spruce and fir trees used by U.S. homebuilders. In other words, the U.S. should retaliate against Canada's harming its citizens by forcing them to pay higher dairy product prices, by forcing Americans through tariffs to pay higher prices for wood and thereby raising the cost of building homes.
        Many politicians, pundits and some economists would have us believe that corporations pay taxes, but do they? Economists distinguish between entities who ultimately bear the tax burden and those upon whom tax is initially levied. Just because a tax is levied on a corporation doesn't mean that the corporation bears its burden. Faced with a tax, a corporation can shift the tax burden by raising its product prices, lowering dividends or laying off workers. The lesson here is that only people pay taxes, not legal fictions like corporations. Corporations are simply tax collectors for the government. Similarly, no one would fall for a politician telling a homeowner, "I'm not going to tax you; I'm going to tax your property." I guarantee that it will be a person, not the property, writing out the check to the taxing authority. Again, only people pay taxes.
        Here's a question: Are natural or manmade disasters good for the economy? Dr. Larry Summers, top economic adviser to President Obama, said about the Kobe, Japan, earthquake: "(The disaster) may lead to some temporary increments ironically to GDP as a process of rebuilding takes place. In the wake of the earlier Kobe earthquake Japan actually gained some economic strength." After devastating Floridian hurricanes, it's not uncommon to read newspaper headlines such as "Storms create lucrative times," or "Economic growth from hurricanes could outweigh costs," or "It's a perverse thing ... there's real pain, but from an economic point of view, it is a plus." Then there's Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman who wrote in his New York Times column "After the Horror," after the 9/11 attack, "Ghastly as it may seem to say this, the terror attack -- like the original day of infamy, which brought an end to the Great Depression -- could do some economic good." He went on to explain that rebuild!
 ing the destruction would stimulate the economy through business investment and job creation.
        One would never hear my colleagues in George Mason University's economics department spouting such insanities. Just ask yourself whether the Japanese economy would have faced even greater opportunities for economic growth had the earthquake also struck Tokyo, Hiroshima, Yokohama and other major cities? Would the 9/11 terrorists have made a greater contribution to our economy had they also destroyed lives and buildings in Chicago, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Atlanta? The belief that a society benefits from destruction is sheer lunacy.
        French economist Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) explained it in his pamphlet "What is Seen and What is Not Seen." He said, "There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen." That's why my George Mason University colleagues are good economists.
        Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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