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by John Stossel

    In the movie "The Matrix," swallowing a red pill reveals the truth, while downing a blue pill leaves you trapped in illusion.
    Today, in the parlance of some political activists, "taking the red pill" means seeing the lies of mainstream media -- and learning the truth.
    "People don't care to watch CNN anymore: People pay attention to YouTubers," says Candace Owens. Owens is a young black woman who created a YouTube site she calls Red Pill Black. "My second video went trending worldwide with 80 million views."
    My new internet videos sometimes reach 10 million people; I consider that a lot. This woman's video reached 80 million?
    She released it shortly after a man at a Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacist rally drove his car into a crowd of protesters, killing a woman.
    At that time, media coverage of racism was everywhere. Cable news talked about "America's lack of racial progress" and threats to minorities posed by white nationalists.
    "CNN was trying to sell to me, as a black person, that the KKK was alive and well," Owens added. "That was ridiculous."
    In her video, she sarcastically shouts, "OMG, Charlottesville! White supremacy is alive and well!" Then she goes on to argue, "Black people have scarier things on the horizon than the almost-endangered species of white supremacy."
    Owens also objects to the way the media cover police brutality. It leads some people to believe that the biggest threat to young blacks is the police.
    "Fact No. 1: Approximately 93 percent of black homicide victims are killed by other black people," she says.
    I pushed back, pointing out that there still is plenty of racism, and some innocent people have been tortured by police.
    "That's absolutely right. Some innocent people have also been struck by lightning. Sixteen unarmed black men were killed by police officers in 2016. If you are watching CNN you would've thought it happened every single day. OK? That's a problem."
    Owens (correctly) said thousands of young black men were killed by other black men, whereas "sixteen represents .00004 percent of the black community."
    Media coverage of Black Lives Matter, she says, also creates a distorted picture of what's going on.
    "Black Lives Matter actually resulted in more black deaths across the country, because police officers don't want to answer the call." (Some authorities dispute that. Killings nationwide did rise after the shooting in Ferguson, but more recently they dropped.)
    But Owen's main argument is that the media mislead. The biggest issue facing blacks today is not racism or police shootings, she says, but dependence on government that began 50 years ago with Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" programs.
    "They incentivized mothers not to marry fathers. That's why single motherhood is up. The government would give you more if you didn't marry him."
    That's a fairly common view among conservatives, but among blacks, says Owens, it's easier to tell your family you're gay than to reveal that you're a conservative.
    "My entire family's on welfare, save a couple people. What (welfare) does is essentially offer you some money and then say, 'Whenever you work, you don't make enough, so we're gonna give you this much money on top of that.'" As a result, she says people think, "I don't want to make more because the government is already giving me $500 that I don't want to lose."
    Saying such things brings Owens criticism from social justice warriors of the left.
    "What people don't understand," though, she says, "is how many black people are excited about what I'm doing ... how many are very aware that they have been duped by the left."
    Owens is far from the first black conservative. But, she says, others "have not been successful in the past because they cared too much about what people thought. ... We're doing it differently ... talking a lot of trash." Giving out red pills.
    Having an edgy sense of humor is one way she does it. So is knowing history and literature better than her critics.
    "You can feel free to call me an Uncle Tom. You can feel free to call me an Auntie Tom. It does not affect me," she says. "Do you want to know why? Because I actually read the book. Uncle Tom was the hero."
    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

   President Trump's pick to be the new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is not a fan of the Paris climate agreement, the treaty that claims it will slow global warning by reducing the world's carbon dioxide emissions. Politicians from most of the world's nations signed the deal, and President Obama said "we may see this as the moment that we finally decided to save our planet."
    That's dubious.
    Trump wisely said he will pull America out of the deal. He called it a "massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries."
    Unfortunately, Trump often reverses himself.
    The climate change lobby has been trying to change Trump's mind. Al Gore called his stance "reckless and indefensible." Most of the media agree. So do most of my neighbors in New York.
    That's why it's good that Pompeo opposes the Paris deal. Such treaties are State Department responsibilities. Pompeo is more likely to hold Trump to his word than his soon-to-be predecessor Rex Tillerson, who liked the agreement.
    The Paris accord is a bad deal because even if greenhouse gases really are a huge threat, this treaty wouldn't do much about them.
    I'll bet Al Gore and most of the media don't even know what's in the accord. I didn't until I researched it for this week's YouTube video.
    Manhattan Institute senior fellow Oren Cass is the rare person who actually read the Paris accord.
    Cass tells me it's "somewhere between a farce and a fraud." I interviewed him for a video project I am doing with City Journal, a smart policy magazine that often makes the case for smaller government. "You don't even have to mention greenhouse gases in your commitment if you don't want to. You send in any piece of paper you want."
    The Paris accord was just political theater, he says. "They stapled it together and held it up and said, 'This is amazing!'"
    The media announced that China and India made major commitments.
    In truth, says Cass, "They either pledged to do exactly what they were already going to do anyway, or pledged even less. China, for instance said, 'we pledge to reach peak emission by about 2030.' Well, the United States government had already done a study to guess when Chinese emissions would peak, and their guess was about 2030."
    In other words, China simply promised to do what was going to happen anyway.
    "China was actually one of the better pledges," says Cass. "India made no pledge to limit emissions at all. They pledged only to become more efficient. But they proposed to become more efficient less quickly than they were already becoming more efficient. So their pledge was to slow down."
    It's hard to see how that would help the planet.
    "My favorite was Pakistan, whose pledge was to 'Reach a peak at some point after which to begin reducing emissions,'" says Cass. "You can staple those together, and you can say we now have a global agreement, but what you have is an agreement to do nothing."
    However, Cass says one country did make a serious commitment. "The one country that showed up in Paris with a very costly, ambitious target was the United States. President Obama took all the zero commitments from everybody else but threw in a really expensive one for us."
    Obama pledged to reduce emissions by 26 percent. If that ever happened, it would squash America's economy.
    Nevertheless, when Trump said he was leaving the Paris accord, he was trashed by politicians around the world.
    The UK's Theresa May was "dismayed," and Obama said, "This administration joins a handful of nations that reject the future."
    Cass counters that if "the future is worthless climate agreements ... we should be proud to reject."
    Don't get me wrong: The Earth has been warming, and humans probably contribute to it.
    But the solution isn't to waste billions by making emissions cuts in America while other countries do nothing.
    Trump was right to repudiate this phony treaty. It's good that Pompeo is around to remind him of that.
    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

    One of the unavoidable tragedies of youth is the temptation to think that what is seen today has always been. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in our responses to the recent Parkland, Florida, massacre. Part of the responses to those murders are calls to raise the age to purchase a gun and to have more thorough background checks -- in a word, to make gun purchases more difficult. That's a vision that sees easy gun availability as the problem; thus, the solution is to reduce that availability.
    The vision that sees "easy" availability as the problem ignores the fact of U.S. history that guns were far more available yesteryear (http://tinyurl.com/y73sw4ev). With truly easy gun availability, there was nowhere near the gun mayhem and murder that we see today. I'm tempted to ask those who believe that guns are today's problem whether they think that guns were nicer yesteryear. What about the calls for bans on the AR-15 so-called assault rifle? It turns out that according to 2016 FBI statistics, rifles accounted for 368 of the 17,250 homicides in the U.S. that year. That means restrictions on the purchase of rifles would do little or nothing for the homicide rate. Leaders of the gun control movement know this. Their calls for more restrictive gun laws are part of a larger strategy to outlaw gun ownership.
    Gun ownership is not our problem. Our problem is a widespread decline in moral values that has nothing to do with guns. That decline includes disrespect for those in authority, disrespect for oneself, little accountability for anti-social behavior and a scuttling of religious teachings that reinforced moral values. Let's examine elements of this decline.
    If any of our great-grandparents or even grandparents who passed away before 1960 were to return, they would not believe the kind of personal behavior all too common today. They wouldn't believe that youngsters could get away with cursing and assaulting teachers (http://tinyurl.com/ya5zhyu6). They wouldn't believe that some school districts, such as Philadelphia's, employ more than 400 school police officers. During my primary and secondary schooling, from 1942 to 1954, the only time one saw a policeman in school was during an assembly period where we had to listen to a boring lecture on safety. Our ancestors also wouldn't believe that we're now debating whether teachers should be armed.
    There are other forms of behavior that would have been deemed grossly immoral yesteryear. There are companies such as National Debt Relief, CuraDebt and LendingTree, which advertise that they will help you to avoid paying all the money you owe. So after you and a seller agree to terms of a sale, if you fail to live up to your half of the bargain, there are companies that will assist you in ripping off the seller.
    There are companies that counsel senior citizens on how to shelter their assets from nursing home care costs. For example, a surviving spouse may own a completely paid-for home that's worth $500,000. The costs of nursing home care might run $50,000 a year. By selling her house, she could pay the nursing home costs, but her children wouldn't inherit the house. There are firms that come in to shelter her assets so that she can bequeath her home to her heirs and leave taxpayers to foot the nursing home bill. In my book, that's immoral, but it is so common that most of us give it no thought.
    There is one moral failing that is devastating to the future of our nation. That failing, which has wide acceptance by the American people, is the idea that Congress has the authority to forcibly use one American to serve the purposes of another American. That is nothing less than legalized theft and accounts for roughly three-quarters of federal spending. For the Christians among us, we should consider that when God gave Moses the commandment "Thou shalt not steal," he probably didn't mean thou shalt not steal unless you get a majority vote in the U.S. Congress.
    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 Walter E. Williams

    There are a couple of important economic lessons that the American people should learn. I'm going to title one "the seen and unseen" and the other "narrow well-defined large benefits versus widely dispersed small costs." These lessons are applicable to a wide range of government behavior, but let's look at just two examples.
    Last week, President Donald Trump enacted high tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. Why in the world would the U.S. steel and aluminum industries press the president to levy heavy tariffs? The answer is simple. Reducing the amounts of steel and aluminum that hit our shores enables American producers to charge higher prices. Thus, U.S. steel and aluminum producers will earn higher profits, hire more workers and pay them higher wages. They are the visible beneficiaries of Trump's tariffs.
    But when the government creates a benefit for one American, it is a virtual guarantee that it will come at the expense of another American -- an unseen victim. The victims of steel and aluminum tariffs are the companies that use steel and aluminum. Faced with higher input costs, they become less competitive on the world market. For example, companies such as John Deere may respond to higher steel prices by purchasing their parts in the international market rather than in the U.S. To become more competitive in the world market, some firms may move their production facilities to foreign countries that do not have tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum. Studies by both the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition show that steel-using industries -- such as the U.S. auto industry, its suppliers and manufacturers of heavy construction equipment -- were harmed by tariffs on steel enacted by George W. Bush.
    Politicians love having seen beneficiaries and unseen victims. The reason is quite simple. In the cases of the steel and aluminum industries, company executives will know whom to give political campaign contributions. Workers in those industries will know for whom to cast their votes. The people in the steel- and aluminum-using industries may not know whom to blame for declining profits, lack of competitiveness and job loss. There's no better scenario for politicians. It's heads politicians win and tails somebody else loses.
    Then there's the phenomenon of narrow well-defined large benefits versus widely dispersed small costs. A good example can be found in the sugar industry. Sugar producers lobby Congress to place restrictions on the importation of foreign sugar through tariffs and quotas. Those import restrictions force Americans to pay up to three times the world price for sugar. A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated that Americans pay an extra $2 billion a year because of sugar tariffs and quotas. Plus, taxpayers will be forced to pay more than $2 billion over the next 10 years to buy and store excess sugar produced because of higher prices. Another way to look at the cost side is that tens of millions of American families are forced to pay a little bit more, maybe $20, for the sugar we use every year.
    You might wonder how this consumer rip-off sustains itself. After all, the people in the sugar industry are only a tiny percentage of the U.S. population. Here's how it works. It pays for workers and owners in the sugar industry to come up with millions of dollars to lobby congressmen to impose tariffs and quotas on foreign sugar. It means higher profits and higher wages. Also, it's easy to organize the relatively small number of people in the sugar industry. The costs are borne by tens of millions of Americans forced to pay more for the sugar they use. Even if the people knew what the politicians are doing, it wouldn't be worth the cost of trying to unseat a legislator whose vote cost them $20 a year. Politicians know that they won't bear a cost from sugar consumers. But they would pay a political cost from the sugar industry if they didn't vote for tariffs. So they put it to consumers -- but what else is new?
    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

   Maybe Donald Trump is such a powerful communicator and pot-stirrer that other countries, embarrassed by their own trade barriers, will eliminate them.
    Then I will thank the president for the wonderful thing he did. Genuine free trade will be a recipe for wonderful economic growth.
    But I fear the opposite: a trade war and stagnation -- because much of what Trump and his followers say is economically absurd.
    "(If) you don't have steel, you don't have a country!" announced the president.
    Lots of things are essential to America -- and international trade is the best way to make sure we have them. When a storm blocks roads in the Midwest, we get supplies from Canada, Mexico, even China. Why add roadblocks?
    Steel is important, but "the choice isn't between producing 100 percent of our steel (and having a country) or producing no steel (and presumably losing our country)," writes Veronique De Rugy of the Mercatus Center.
    Today, most steel we use is made in America. Imports come from friendly places like Canada and Europe. Just 3 percent come from China.
    Still, insists the president, "Nearly two-thirds of American raw steel companies have gone out of business!"
    There's been consolidation. But so what? For 30 years, American steel production has stayed about the same. Profits rose  from $714 million in 2016 to $2.8 billion last year. And the industry added nearly 8,000 jobs.
    Trump says, "Our factories were left to rot and to rust all over the place. Thriving communities turned into ghost towns. You guys know that, right?"
    No. Few American communities became ghost towns. More boomed because of cheap imports.
    It's sad when a steelworker loses work, but for every steelworker, 40 Americans work in industries that use steel. They, and we, benefit from lower prices.
    Trump touts the handful of companies benefiting from his tariffs: "Century Aluminum in Kentucky -- Century is a great company -- will be investing over $100 million."
    Great. But now we'll get a feeding frenzy of businesses competing to catch Trump's ear. Century Aluminum got his attention. Your company better pay lobbyists. Countries, too.
    After speaking to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia, Trump tweeted: "We don't have to impose steel or aluminum tariffs on our ally, the great nation of Australia!"
    Economies thrive when there are clear rules that everyone understands. Now we've got "The Art of the Deal," one company and country at a time.
    I understand that Trump the developer liked to make special deals, but when presidents do that, it's crony capitalism -- crapitalism. You get the deal if you know the right people. That's what kept most of Africa and South America poor.
    But Trump thinks trade itself makes us poorer: "We lose ... on trade. Every year $800 billion."
    Actually, last year's trade deficit with China was $375 billion. But even if it were $800 billion, who cares? All a trade deficit shows is that a country sells us more than we sell them. We get the better of that deal. They get excess dollar bills, but we get stuff.
    Real problems are imbalances like next year's $1 trillion federal government budget deficit. That will bankrupt us. Trade deficits are trivial. You run one with your supermarket. Do you worry because you bought more from them than they buy from you? No. The free market sorts it out.
    Trump makes commerce sound mysterious: "The action that I'm taking today follows a nine-month investigation by the Department of Commerce, Secretary Ross."
    But Wilber Ross is a hustler who phoned Forbes Magazine to lie about how much money he has. Now he goes on TV and claims, "3 cents worth of tin plate steel in this can. So if it goes up 25 percent, that's a tiny fraction of one penny. Not a noticeable thing."
    Not to him maybe, but Americans buy 2 billion cans of soup.
    Political figures like Ross -- and Trump -- shouldn't decide what we're allowed to buy. If they understood markets, they'd know enough to stay out of the way.
    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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