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by John Stossel

    Last Sunday, Mother's Day, made me think how my mom warned me, as a young teen: "Work hard! Or you'll freeze in the dark!"
    Sometimes, the warning ended, "Or you'll starve in the cold."
    She grew up during the depression. She and her peers were sensibly worried about freezing in the dark.
    The message scared me, and I worked hard in school.
    When I got my first job, I always put some pay in a savings account, even when (OK, it was long ago) I made only $132 a week. I feared a bad future, and I wanted to make sure I could support myself.
    This wasn't all good. I've probably been too anxious all my life. I missed out on things. I didn't contribute to charities until I was in my 40s.
    But fear of "freezing in the dark" made me persevere. I studied when I didn't want to. Then I took a job that frightened me.
    I'm a stutterer. Stuttering is now among disabilities covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    I wonder, had the ADA been law when I started in TV news, would I have struggled as hard to overcome my stutter? Would I have had the career I've had? Probably not.
    The TV station wouldn't have hired me. Once the ADA passed, my stutter makes me a member of a "protected class." The station, reasonably, would have viewed me as potential poison.
    That's because if they fired me because I didn't work out, I might sue. I could have accused them of failing to "accommodate the disabled," as the law requires. Even if I didn't win, the lawsuit would be expensive. It's safer for employers to avoid members of "protected classes."
    Far-fetched? Look at the stats:
    Before the ADA passed, 59% of disabled men had jobs. After it passed, the number fell to 48%. Today, fewer than 30% have jobs.
    Once again, a law that was supposed to help people did the opposite of what politicians intended.
    I think about that when I read about today's $600/week federal unemployment check subsidies for the coronavirus. Added to average $378 state payments, unemployment now often pays better than working.
    Incentives matter.
    "We have not seen an application in weeks," says Steve Anthony, CEO of the Anthony Timberlands sawmill in Arkansas. He's offering jobs that pay $800/week. But in Arkansas, federal and state unemployment benefits reach $1,051/week.
    Anthony told my TV producer Maxim Lott, "If Congress elects to extend this $600 unemployment bonus, it will simply support a higher level of unemployment."
    Lott also interviewed Otis Mitchell Jr., who quit his job transporting hospital patients once he learned about the increase in unemployment benefits.
    "My little girl is loving it," said Mitchell, because he has more time to spend with her.
    But it's bad for hospital patients who need transportation.
    Shame on the U.S. government for making unemployment pay better than work.
    People who lose jobs because government won't let them work do deserve help. I'm giving more to charities because of that. Charities are able to discriminate -- to discern who really needs help while ignoring freeloaders.
    But government is a blunt instrument. Its checks go to people whether or not they try to find work or overcome disabilities.
    Over time, as people depend on handouts, they often feel that their lives are no longer within their control. They become passive. They don't push through obstacles. They wait for government help.
    Social scientists call this "learned helplessness."
    It's the struggle to overcome obstacles that that brings fulfillment.
    When government programs "take care of us," they kill off some of the best of life and make us much less productive. They don't even make people happy.
    If we keep giving the state more power over our lives, we will freeze in the dark.
    John Stossel is author of "Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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by Walter E. Williams

      The Department of Education just released results of the quadrennial National Assessment of Educational Progress tests in U.S. history, civics and geography given in 2018 to thousands of American eighth-graders: "Grade 8 Students' NAEP Scores Decline in Geography and U.S. History; Results in Civics Unchanged Since 2014."
        The tests were administered from January to March 2018 to a nationally representative sample of 42,700 eighth-graders from about 780 schools. The news is not very good. Only 24% of students performed at or above the "proficient" level in civics. Worse yet, only 15% scored proficient or above in American history and 25% were proficient in geography. At least 25% of America's eighth-graders are what NAEP defines as "below basic" in U.S. history, civics and geography. That means they have no understanding of historical and civic issues and cannot point out basic locations on a map.
        Education Secretary Betsy DeVos referred to the recent national report card as "stark and inexcusable." She blamed "antiquated" education methods for low test scores among the nation's eighth-graders. That's nonsense. I'd bet the rent money that eighth-grade students of earlier periods, say during the 1920s, '30s and '40s who were burdened with "antiquated" education methods such as having to learn algebra and geometry, identifying parts of speech and memorizing poems like "Old Ironsides" could run circles around today's eighth-graders, high school graduates and perhaps some college graduates. I think we need to bring back these authentically antiquated education methods.
        Part of the solution to our education problem is given by Dr. Jeffrey Sikkenga, professor of political science and executive director of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University. He said: "Students need to go back to America's past and ask it questions, starting with our Founding. They need to study great documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Abraham Lincoln's 'Gettysburg Address,' and Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech. Not just read about them in boring textbooks, but read the documents themselves, for themselves. Have great conversations with those great minds -- discover for themselves the story of America in the words of those who lived it."
        The school climate, seldom discussed, plays a very important role in education. During the 2017-18 school year, there were an estimated 962,300 violent incidents and 476,100 nonviolent incidents U.S. public schools nationwide. Seventy-one percent of schools reported having at least one violent incident, and 65% reported having at least one nonviolent incident. Schools with 1,000 or more students had at least one sworn law enforcement officer. About 90% of those law enforcement officers carry firearms.
        I bet that decades ago, one would be hard put to find either armed or unarmed police officers patrolling the building. For example, between 1950 and 1954, I attended Benjamin Franklin High School in Philadelphia. The only time we saw a police officer in the building was during an assembly where we had to listen to a boring lecture on safety. Today, police patrol the hallways. Another school in north Philadelphia, Strawberry Mansion High School, once had 94 security cameras, six school police officers and two metal detectors. Students had to walk through the metal detectors to enter the building and were often searched by police officers. It was on the list of those most persistently dangerous schools in Pennsylvania.
        Aside from violence, there are many instances of outright disrespect for teachers. First- and second-graders telling teachers to "Shut the f--- up" and calling teachers "bitch." To note the attitude of some school administrators, a New Jersey teacher was seriously assaulted by a student. When she asked her principal to permanently remove the student from her classroom, the principal told her to "put on her big girl panties and deal with it."
        Years ago, the behavior of young people that we see today would have never been tolerated. There was the vice principal's office where corporal punishment would be administered for gross infractions. If the kid was unwise enough to tell his parents what happened, he might get more punishment at home. Today, unfortunately, we've replaced practices that work with practices that sound good and caring, and we're witnessing the results.
        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

       Recently, many politicians were in such a hurry to ban plastic bags.
        California and Hawaii banned them, then New York. Then Oregon, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont passed laws against them. More than 400 cities did, too.
        Why? Because plastic bags are evil, didn't you know?
        "Look at the damage done by plastic bags! It is everywhere!" complained New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
        A Washington state senator cited "videos of animals choked by plastics, tangled in garbage!"
        So what should we use instead of plastic? Cloth bags! They're reusable! "Certainly the way to go!" said New Jersey's assembly speaker.
        But now, suddenly, politicians are canceling their bans. Instead, they're banning the once praised reusable bags.
        It's because of COVID-19, of course.
        Reusable bags already brought bacteria into stores. We're supposed to wash them, but almost no one does. Studies found reusable bags crawling with dangerous bacteria. After plastic bags were banned in San Francisco, food poisoning deaths increased sharply.
        But environmental groups, like Greenpeace, call those disease fears "misinformation."
        "There are no studies or evidence that reusable bags are transmitting viruses," says Alex Truelove of the Public Interest Research Group, in my new video.
        He's right. There are no human studies, but COVID-19 is so new. Millions of piglets died from swine coronavirus. The agriculture department concluded that reusable feed bags were probably the cause.
        Still, even now, some politicians can't wait to ban plastic again. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says "as soon as this crisis is over we'll go back to all paper bags and reusable bags."
        "Politicians are always just looking for something to do," complains supermarket executive Andrea Catsimatidis.
        She points out that paper bags cost five times what plastic costs. "When you're talking billions of bags, it really adds up!"
        And paper bags don't hold as much. They rip.
        Plastic is more convenient. Why must politicians take away what's convenient?
        "Over two-thirds of everything we use is not recycled or composted and ends up in a landfill," complains Truelove.
        So what?
        People think America is running out of room for landfills, but that's not true.
        "All America's trash for the next century would fit in one landfill just 18 miles square," says environmental economist Ross McKitrick. Landfills take up so little space that "if you look the air you wouldn't even be able to see where landfills are."
        And modern landfills hardly pollute. They're surrounded by layers of clay and plastic that keep nasty stuff in the garbage from leaking out.
        But what about all that plastic in the ocean?
        Plastic bags are sometimes eaten by animals. Some sea turtles mistake the bags for jellyfish and then starve. Islands of floating garbage have formed in the Pacific Ocean.
        Green groups have convinced Americans that we are to blame.
        But we aren't! Even if you litter -- and today, fewer Americans do -- your litter is unlikely to end up in an ocean.
        Almost all the plastic in oceans comes from Asia and Africa. Less than 1% comes from North America.
        In other words, banning plastic bags in America will accomplish roughly ... nothing.
        What it will do is inconvenience Americans and make some of us sick.
        Truelove says, "We should ... set an example for the rest of the world."
        "That's posturing," replies McKitrick. "The rest of the world isn't looking to see what you do with your Starbucks cup.
        "If we are concerned about other countries' waste going into their river systems," he adds, "there are better things we can do. We can share technology with them so they process their waste better. That's better than imposing on consumers' tiresome inconveniences in hopes that it will somehow change behavior on the other side of the planet."
        Politicians "looking for something to do" routinely do more harm than good.
        John Stossel is author of "Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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by Walter E. Williams

        One of the first lessons in an economics class is everything has a cost. That's in stark contrast to lessons in the political arena where politicians talk about free stuff. In our personal lives, decision-making involves weighing costs against benefits. Businessmen make the same calculation if they want to stay in business. It's an entirely different story for politicians running the government where any benefit, however minuscule, is often deemed to be worth any cost, however large.
        Related to decision-making is the issue of being overly safe versus not safe enough. Sometimes, being as safe as one can be is worthless. A minor example: How many of us before driving our cars inspect the hydraulic brake system for damage? We'd be safer if we did, but most of us just assume everything is OK and get into our car and drive away. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 40,000 Americans lose their lives each year because of highway fatalities. Virtually all those lives could be saved with a mandated 5 mph speed limit. Fortunately, we consider costs and rightfully conclude that saving those 40,000 lives aren't worth the costs and inconvenience of a 5 mph mandate.
        With the costs and benefits in mind, we might examine our government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first thing to keep in mind about any crisis, be it war, natural disasters or pandemics, is we should keep markets open and private incentives strong. Markets solve problems because they provide the right incentives to use resources effectively. Federal, state and local governments have ordered an unprecedented and disastrous shutdown of much of the U.S. economy in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
        There's a strictly health-related downside to the shutdown of the U.S. economy ignored by our leadership that has been argued by epidemiologist Dr. Knut Wittkowski, formerly the head of the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design at Rockefeller University in New York City. Wittkowski argues that the lockdown prolongs the development of the "herd immunity," which is our only weapon in "exterminating" the novel coronavirus -- outside of a vaccine that's going to optimistically take 18 months or more to produce. He says we should focus on shielding the elderly and people with comorbidities while allowing the young and healthy to associate with one another in order to build up immunities. Wittkowski says, "So, it's very important to keep the schools open and kids mingling to spread the virus to get herd immunity as fast as possible, and then the elderly people, who should be separated, and the nursing homes should be closed during that time, can come back!
  and meet their children and grandchildren after about 4 weeks when the virus has been exterminated." Herd immunity, Wittkowski argues, would stop a "second wave" headed for the United States in the fall. Dr. David L. Katz, president of True Health Initiative and the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, shares Wittkowski's vision. Writing in The New York Times, he argued that our fight against COVID-19 could be worse than the virus itself.
        The bottom line is that costs can be concealed but not eliminated. Moreover, if people only look at the benefits from a particular course of action, they will do just about anything, because everything has a benefit. Political hustlers and demagogues love promising benefits when the costs can easily be concealed. By the way, the best time to be wrong and persist in being wrong is when the costs of being wrong are borne by others.
        The absolute worst part of the COVID-19 pandemic, and possibly its most unrecoverable damage, is the massive power that Americans have given to their federal, state and local governments to regulate our lives in the name of protecting our health. Taking back that power should be the most urgent component of our recovery efforts. It's going to be challenging; once a politician, and his bureaucracy, gains power, he will fight tooth and nail to keep it.
        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

        I'm "social distancing." I stay away from people.
        I do it voluntarily.
        There's a big difference between voluntary -- and force.
        Government is force. The media want more of that.
        "Ten states have no stay-at-home orders!" complains Don Lemon On CNN. "Some governors are still refusing to take action!"
        Fox News' host Steve Hilton agreed. "Shut things down! Everywhere. That includes Utah, Wyoming..."
        But wait a second. People in Utah and Wyoming already socially distanced just by living there. Why must Utah and Wyoming have the same stay-at-home rules as New York?
        I find it creepy how eager some people are for authorities to boss us around.
        That's the topic of my new video.
        In Raleigh, North Carolina, people gathered to protest a "stay-at-home" order. The police arrested a protester and tweeted, "Protesting is a non-essential activity."
        I bet they got a chuckle out of that. But our Constitution guarantees Americans the right to "peaceably assemble" and "petition the government for a redress of grievances."
        The coronavirus doesn't override the Constitution.
        Protests also erupted in Michigan, where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer imposed some absurd rules. She declared, "All public or private gatherings of any size are prohibited." Her executive order stopped people from seeing relatives and banned anyone with more than one home to travel between them.
        Big-box stores are allowed to stay open, but they must not sell things like carpet, flooring, furniture, garden supplies, paint, etc. So, Walmart stores are open, but some of their shelves have tape blocking certain products.
        That's just dumb.
        Gardening and painting can be done far away from other people.
        So can exercise. But in California, police chased down and arrested a paddleboarder paddling in the ocean. He was far more than 6 feet away from anyone.
        In Encinitas, California, police fined people $1,000 just for sitting in cars to watch the sunset at the beach. Yes, inside their cars. The police said, "We want compliance from everybody (because of) lives that we're trying to save."
        But it's not clear that demanding total compliance is the best way to save lives.
        Sweden took a near-opposite approach.
        Yes, they encouraged older people to stay inside and sick people to stay home. They didn't want hospitals overwhelmed. But otherwise, Sweden is carrying on almost as normal.
        "Closing schools, stringent measures like that, closing borders, you cannot do that for months or years," said epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Swedish Health Agency. "What we are doing in Sweden we can continue doing for a very long time. I think that's going to prove to be very important in the long run."
        The long run matters most.
        Since a vaccine is probably at least a year away, the Swedes reason that the best protection is what epidemiologists call "herd immunity," a critical mass of people who get the disease and then are resistant to it.
        The hope is that once enough people get coronavirus, there will be enough immunity to prevent mass outbreaks later. Many of the most vulnerable may then be able to avoid ever getting the virus.
        The jury is still out on this experiment. More than 1,500 Swedes have died, five times the death rate of neighboring Norway. But if Swedes acquire "herd immunity," their death rate will be the first to drop.
        Other European countries agree that lockdowns are not sustainable.
        Last week, Denmark reopened nursery and elementary schools. Germany opened retail stores this week. Norway opens schools next week. Austria reopens shops to people who wear masks on May 1.
        That seems smarter than the "absolute shutdown" promoted by so many American authorities. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has threatened to "shut off water and power" to homes of people who do not shelter in place.
        Shut off water and power?
        Politicians rush to limit our choices in the name of "keeping us safe." They don't even want to think about places like Sweden or the argument that leaving us alone might make us safer.
        They just like pushing people around.
        John Stossel is author of "Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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