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by John Stossel

  Laura Pekarik bakes cupcakes and sells them from a food truck. Her truck provided a great opportunity, letting her open a business without having to spend big to hire a staff and rent space in a building.
    "Instead of renting a whole brick and mortar and managing a team of people, it was just me and one baker," she explains.
    But increased regulations, such as new rules that forbid trucks to park near established restaurants, make life hard for people like Pekarik.
    "It became ever more difficult to find parking locations when we went to the city (Chicago) to try to sell our cupcakes," she says. "I would have customers calling me trying to find us and I was like, I'm trying to find a parking spot! I'll post as soon as I land."
    Jumping through hurdles like that forced her to waste gas, money and time, so she cut back her business and rarely, if ever, drives to Chicago. "Every moment that we're driving around and not parked in a location with our window open meant that we couldn't sell."
    Food truck operator Joey Vanoni is tortured by regulations, too. He sells pizza in Baltimore.
    That rescued him from unemployment. After serving in Afghanistan, he couldn't find a job. But then he learned about food trucks. "It really started taking off right around the recession ... 2008," he told me for my YouTube video this week. "A lot of restaurant entrepreneurs -- capital they had was not enough to go out and start a restaurant on their own. Banks weren't willing to give loans. So the food truck phenomenon really took off."
    But now Baltimore's anti-food truck rules make that harder. Vanoni is not allowed to park within 300 feet of any established restaurant selling the same product. Since there are pizza restaurants all over town, that leaves him few places to park.
    Why do bureaucrats create hurdles like that?
    People who trust government assume it's to reduce congestion, or something like that.
    But the real purpose is to protect already-established restaurants. They don't like competition. No business does.
    They shouldn't have to face such competition, argues Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney. He sets food truck parking rules in his district.
    "A brick and mortar is a much more stable enterprise," he says. "I'm going to be prejudicial towards those kinds of businesses."
    Tunney has another reason "to be prejudicial." He owns brick and mortar restaurants in the area. At least he discloses that.
    Regulations that limit food truck operations are a protectionist scam, says Dick Carpenter of the libertarian law firm Institute for Justice. Carpenter says such rules are "a bottleneck" that established businesses use to kill competition.
    The rules, like demands for licensing of florists, moving companies, hair dressers, tour guides, etc., are passed by politicians. But often these politicians are in cahoots with owners of established businesses.
    "But in the case of food trucks, is the competition fair?" I asked Carpenter. "The guy who opened the restaurant and had to pay real estate taxes -- and pay for his building. Isn't he getting ripped off by these new guys?"
    "That assumes the food truck operator doesn't pay expenses of the same type," answered Carpenter, but they do. "Food truck operators pay taxes, they pay rents, and through their rents they pay property taxes."
    With the help of the Institute for Justice, Pekarik and Vanoni are suing Chicago and Baltimore, arguing that it's unconstitutional for regulators to favor one industry over another.
    It's been a long battle, says Carpenter. "This case with Laura: five years and going." Food truck owners face very organized opposition, he adds. "The restaurant association has so much influence over those who are elected officials."
    All these battles against "bottleneckers" are important, argues the Institute, because Americans have a right to economic liberty -- the right to earn a living in an occupation of their choice, free from excessive government interference.
    Getting rid of that interference will give us all more choices, even if it's just one cupcake and pizza slice at a time.
    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

    Officials in Catalonia, Spain's richest and most highly industrialized region, whose capital is Barcelona, recently held a referendum in which there was a 92 percent vote in favor of independence from Spain. The Spanish authorities opposed the referendum and claimed that independence is illegal. Catalans are not the only Europeans seeking independence. Some Bavarian people are demanding independence from Germany, while others demand greater autonomy. Germany's Federal Constitutional Court ruled: "In the Federal Republic of Germany ... states are not 'masters of the constitution.' ... Therefore, there is no room under the constitution for individual states to attempt to secede. This violates the constitutional order."
    Germany has done in Bavaria what Spain and Italy, in its Veneto region, have done; it has upheld the integrity of state borders. There is an excellent article written by Joseph E. Fallon, a research associate at the UK Defence Forum, titled "The Catalan Referendum, regional pressures, the EU, and the 'Ghosts' of Eastern Europe" (http://tinyurl.com/y8dnj6s6). Fallon writes that by doing what it's doing in Bavaria, "Berlin is violating international law on national self-determination. It denies to Bavaria what it granted to the 19 states that seceded from Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. In fact, Germany rushed to be first to recognize the independence of Slovenia and Croatia." It did that, according to Beverly Crawford, an expert on Europe at the University of California, Berkeley, "in open disregard of (a European Community) agreement to recognize the two states under EC conditionality requirements."
    The secessionist movements in Spain, Germany and Italy have encountered resistance and threats from the central governments, and in Catalonia's case, secessionist leaders have been jailed. The central governments of Spain, Germany and Italy have resisted independence despite the fact that they are signatories to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which holds that "all peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development."
    Fallon notes the hypocrisy of Spain, Germany and Italy, as well as the entire European Union. Back in 1991, the EC -- the precursor to the EU -- "issued its conditions for recognizing the unilateral declarations of independence by states seceding from Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union." Fallon argues that these same guidelines should be applied to the states of Catalonia, Bavaria and Veneto. Isn't it double talk for members of the EU to condemn independence movements today, given that they welcomed and supported independence movements for states that were members of the communist bloc?
    Catalonia, Bavaria and Veneto are relatively prosperous jurisdictions in their countries. They feel that what they get from the central governments is not worth the taxes they pay. Each wants the central government off its back. They think they could be far more prosperous on their own. That should sound familiar. Some of the motivation for secessionist movements in Europe is similar to the motivation found in the Confederacy's independence movement of the early 1860s.
    Throughout most of our nation's history, the only sources of federal revenue were excise taxes and tariffs. In the 1830s, the North used its power in Congress to push through massive tariffs to fund the government. During the 1850s, tariffs amounted to 90 percent of federal revenue. The Southern states were primarily producers of agricultural products, which they exported to Europe. In return, they imported manufactured goods. These tariffs fell much harder upon the export-dependent South than they did upon the more insular North. In 1859, Southern ports paid 75 percent of federal tariff revenue. However, the majority of the tariff revenue generated was spent on projects that benefited the North.
    Tariffs being a contributing cause of the Civil War is hardly ever mentioned. Using the abolition of slavery as an excuse for a war that took the lives of 620,000 Americans confers greater moral standing for the Union.
    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

  My hometown paper drives me crazy.
    I read The New York Times because it often has good coverage. The newspaper pays to send reporters to dangerous places all around the world.
    This weekend, the Times Magazine did a surprisingly fair profile of Sean Hannity, although they chose photos that make him look evil.
    But mostly I read the Times because my neighbors read it, and I need to understand what they think.
    Sadly, many think dumb things because most every day the Times runs deceitful, biased stories and headlines that mislead.
    Opinion columns have license to do that, but these days, Times' smears extend to "news" stories.
    A recent headline said that that President Trump's tweets had "united Britain in outrage." Wow. Really? The whole country?
    Only if you read the entire story would you learn that the outraged people include "the opposition Labour party," "several" Conservatives and comedian John Cleese.
    That's a whole country "united in Trump outrage"? Please.
    Another headline said ending President Obama's net neutrality bureaucracy would be "hastening the Internet's death."
    Ridiculous. I understand that many statists like the regulation, but all the net neutrality repeal really will do is restore some of the permissionless innovation that allowed the internet to blossom in the first place.
    Yet the continuation of the Times story carried the headline "So long to the internet."
    Give me a break. That's just irresponsible scaremongering.
    Now that the Republicans' tax bill passed the House and Senate, some legislators say they will try to reform entitlements.
    Yes! Finally! This is a responsible thing to do. But Times reporters hate Republicans so much that they twisted this new effort at reform into a headline that said: "Next objective -- cut the safety net."
    That is just a smear.
    Billions in entitlement dollars go to relatively rich people. The Times once applauded entitlement reform. But if Republicans support it, then it's bad. Apparently, Republicans' "objective" is not delaying America's bankruptcy; it's "cutting the safety net."
    No wonder President Trump keeps shouting, "Fake news!"
    But Trump gets plenty wrong, too. He often talks about "the failing New York Times."
    But the Times isn't failing. In fact, they gained readers since he was elected -- 300,000 new subscriptions last quarter.
    The Times also makes money selling ads. I find it funny that so much of that money comes from glitzy ads directed at the rich people who Times reporters constantly criticize. The newspaper's magazines are filled with expensive ads for lavish apartments, $2,000 purses and dubious beauty treatments that many people could never afford.
    This weekend's fluff included a worshipful feature on Jay-Z by Times' executive editor Dean Baquet. Baquet didn't criticize the rapper for living in an $80 million mansion but instead asked him penetrating questions like, "Would you rather be a trend? Or Ralph Lauren?"
    But this week's most disgusting feature was a nearly full-page "Style" section profile of black-clad antifa thugs. The Times made them sound fashionable and fun as they punch people who aren't looking for any physical fight, just spouting their beliefs.
    The headline: "What to Wear to Smash the State."
    The Times explained what a stylish vandal wears: "Black work or military boots, pants, balaclavas or ski masks, gloves and jackets, North Face brand ... makes it easier for saboteurs to take the offensive against storefronts..."
    Gee, thanks, New York Times. I doubt that you'd be so enthusiastic about property destruction if the "saboteurs ... take the offensive against" your storefront.
    Fortunately, Times readership is relatively small -- probably less than 1 percent of Americans. Unfortunately, that readership matters because many of those readers work for other media, so what the Times prints gets imitated.
    Sometimes that's good. Much of what's in the "paper of record" is important and fact-checked.
    Unfortunately, much of it is mean-spirited and absurdly biased.
    I'll keep reading it, hoping to separate the good from the bad.
    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

    The educational achievement of white youngsters is nothing to write home about, but that achieved by blacks is nothing less than disgraceful. Let's look at a recent example of an educational outcome all too common. In 2016, in 13 of Baltimore's 39 high schools, not a single student scored proficient on the state's mathematics exam. In six other high schools, only 1 percent tested proficient in math. In raw numbers, 3,804 Baltimore students took the state's math test, and 14 tested proficient (http://tinyurl.com/y7f56kg2). Citywide, only 15 percent of Baltimore students passed the state's English test.
    Last spring, graduation exercises were held at one Baltimore high school, 90 percent of whose students received the lowest possible math score. Just one student came even close to being proficient. Parents and family members applauded the conferring of diplomas. Some of the students won achievement awards and college scholarships (http://tinyurl.com/ydb3v2ya). Baltimore is by no means unique. It's a small part of the ongoing education disaster for black students across the nation. Baltimore schools are not underfunded. Of the nation's 100 largest school systems, Baltimore schools rank third in spending per pupil (http://tinyurl.com/ybzglbyp).
    Baltimore's black students receive diplomas that attest that they can function at a 12th-grade level when in fact they may not be able to do so at a seventh- or eighth-grade level. These students and their families have little reason to suspect that their diplomas are fraudulent. Thus, if they cannot land a good job, cannot pass a civil service exam, get poor grades in college and flunk out of college, they will attribute their plight to racism. After all, they have a high school diploma, just as a white person has a high school diploma. In their minds, the only explanation for being treated differently is racism.
    Let's look at math. If one graduates from high school without a minimum proficiency in algebra and geometry, he is likely to find whole fields and professions hermetically sealed off to him for life. In many fields and professions, a minimum level of math proficiency is taken for granted.
    Let's look at just one endeavor -- being a fighter jet pilot. There are relatively few black fighter jet pilots. There are stringent physical, character and mental requirements that many blacks can meet. But fighter pilots must also have a strong knowledge of air navigation, aircraft operating procedures, flight theory, fluid mechanics and meteorology. The college majors that help prepare undergraduates for a career as a fighter pilot include mathematics, physical science and engineering.
    What's the NAACP response to educational fraud? At a 2016 meeting, the NAACP's board of directors ratified a resolution that called for a moratorium on charter schools. Among the NAACP's reasons for this were that it wanted charter schools to refrain from "expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate" and "cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious." Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys is a charter school. In 2016, 9 percent of its students scored proficient on the state's math test. This year, over 14 percent did so. It's in the interest of black people for more of our youngsters to attend better schools. However, it's in the interest of the education establishment -- and its handmaidens at the NAACP -- to keep black youngsters in failing public schools.
    Few people bother to ask whether there's a connection between what goes on at predominantly black high schools and observed outcomes. Violence at many predominantly black schools is so routine that security guards are hired to patrol the hallways. The violence includes assaults on teachers. Some have been knocked out, had their jaws broken and required treatment by psychologists for post-traumatic stress disorder. On top of the violence is gross disorder and disrespect for authority.
    The puzzling question for me is: How long will black people accept the educational destruction of black youngsters -- something that only benefits the education establishment?
    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

As Republicans struggle to agree on a tax plan, Democrats and much of the media label each attempt at reform a "gift" to rich people.
    In one sense, they are right. Any tax cut disproportionately favors rich people since the rich pay much more tax.
    But the media and Democrats (is there a difference?) are wrong because they routinely portray rich people as parasites who take from other people.
    Flying Dog Brewery owner Jim Caruso objects to that kind of thinking. He took over a bankrupt brewery and made it successful by inventing new craft beers. I won't buy his beers -- with varieties like blood orange ale -- but enough people like them that Caruso has become relatively rich.
    He's the kind of person Sen. Bernie Sanders rails about. "The top 1 percent," complains Sanders, "earned 85 percent of all new income."
    That sounds unfair. But Caruso doesn't see it that way.
    "My goal in life is to be the best part of your day," he told me. "You will have unequal outcomes (but) we all benefit from that."
    He's right. Caruso provided consumers new choices and created more than 100 jobs.
    But for my YouTube video this week, I pushed back: "The top fraction of earners has half the assets in this country. This ticks people off. They view it as evil."
    "Think about it this way," responded Caruso. "Apple was the first company to be worth $800 billion dollars. I was curious, how much was (Apple founder) Steve Jobs worth in 2011 when he passed away? ... Ten billion dollars! I did some quick calculations..."
    His calculations revealed that because about 2 billion Apple devices were sold, Jobs collected about $5 for each device.
    Isn't your cellphone worth much more to you than $5? Mine is. It must be, since I just paid $800 for a new one. I got a machine worth hundreds of dollars to me, but the inventor got only $5.
    "Steve might have been underpaid," said Caruso. "The feeling tends to be that somebody like Steve Jobs took something away from everybody else ... (but) what did Jobs take? ... (H)e had this idea: Wouldn't it be great to have a thousand songs in your pocket? (He created) one of the most massively important tools for productivity and communication in life!"
    Generally, Jobs got a pass when the media attacked rich people, maybe because reporters liked Apple's products. But other rich Americans are routinely labeled "parasites." Sanders suggests that if some people have billions, the rest of us must have billions less.
    But that's not true, Caruso points out. "It's that zero-sum game mentality: that somehow people who create stuff are taking it from other people. That's simply inaccurate. It's not a zero-sum game. They're creating stuff that didn't exist before."
    He's right. It's not as if there's one pie and when rich people take a big piece, less is left for the rest of us. Billionaires like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, the Koch brothers, etc. got rich only by baking thousands of new pies.
    Entrepreneurs create things; they don't take from others.
    Well, they do take if they conspire with government to get special deals -- subsidies, bailouts, regulations that protect them from competition. But without government force, business people get rich only by selling us things we willingly purchase.
    We get to decide if we'd be better off with the products that creators offer to sell. Producers get to decide whether they can make enough money from those sales to make their efforts worth their while.
    This mutually beneficial exchange is the heart of a market economy.
    Government, on the other hand, only knows how to do two things: make you engage in exchanges you don't want, and prevent you from engaging in exchanges you do want. With every order it issues, government makes the pie a little smaller.
    As long as rich people don't collude with government, they make our lives better.
    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.
COPYRIGHT 2017 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS INC.