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by John Stossel

        Congress and the media obsess endlessly over whether President Donald Trump should be impeached.
        Both ignore $23 trillion of bigger problems.
        That's how deep in debt the federal government is now, and because they keep spending much more than they could ever hope to collect in taxes, that number will only go up. It's increasing by $1 trillion a year.
        "Shut up, Stossel," you say. "You've been crying wolf about America's debt for years, but we're doing great!"
        You have a point.
        For many years, I've predicted that government, to fund freebies both parties want, would print boatloads of money. That would cause massive inflation. I bought silver coins so I might afford a loaf of bread while the rest of you haul suitcases full of nearly worthless paper currency to the bakery -- or go hungry!
        Clearly, that inflation crisis hasn't happened.
        Thanks to Trump's contempt for the "deep state's" love of endless regulation, businesses are hiring and stock prices are up. America is doing great.
        But while our deficits haven't yet created a crisis, they will. You can stretch a rubber band farther and farther. Eventually, it will snap back -- or break.
        We can't pay off our increasing debt -- unless we're willing to tell the government to stop stationing soldiers in 80 countries, stop sending checks to poor people and old people, and stop paying for "free" health care for people like me. If the government did stop, the public would revolt.
        Voters scream if there's even talk of cuts to Medicare or Social Security. But the programs are unsustainable. Social Security was meant to help the minority of people who outlive their savings. When Social Security was created, most Americans didn't even reach age 65. Now it's an "entitlement" for everyone.
        Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health care spending account for about half of the federal budget, and because we old people rudely refuse to die, these "entitlements" consistently grow faster than the tax revenues meant to fund them.
        Anyone serious about giving our kids a future has to be willing to make big cuts to those programs, or at least privatize them and let individuals make our own decisions with our own money.
        But good luck to any politician who proposes that.
        By contrast, voters don't get stirred up as we just quietly sink farther and farther into debt.
        So politicians demand even more spending.
        Last week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said appropriations bills won't get passed by the end of the year unless Republicans agree to spend "significant resources" on fighting the opioid epidemic, gun violence, child care, violence against women, election security, infrastructure, etc.
        "With a Democratic House consumed with impeachment, there is very little appetite for the sorts of common-sense fiscal policies that could rein in our out-of-control deficits and debt," says Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
        That implies that if Republicans were in charge, they would restore fiscal order. But there's little evidence of that. Republicans talk about spending cuts and "responsibility" but rarely cut anything.
        Democrats want new social programs. Neither party wants to reduce the military budget. Trump wants his wall and tariffs. Farmers, once proud independent capitalists who criticized welfare, now get 40% of their income from the government.
        "The federal budget is on an unsustainable path," says Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.
        No matter who you vote for and no matter what speeches they make, none of them is doing anything to put us on a sustainable course. It's too bad.
        Fortunately, thanks to the inventiveness of American entrepreneurs, our economy keeps creating new wealth for politicians to grab.
        That might mean Congress wouldn't have to cut spending for America to gradually grow our way out of this terrible debt. All they'd need to do is make sure spending goes up slower than the rate of inflation.
        They won't even do 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

       Dr. Richard Ebeling, professor of economics at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, and my longtime friend and colleague, has written an important article, "Business Ethics and Morality of the Marketplace," appearing in the American Institute for Economic Research. Its importance and timeliness is enhanced by so many of America's youth, led by academic hacks, having fallen prey to the siren song of socialism.
        In a key section of his article, Ebeling lays out what he calls the ethical principles of free markets. He says: "The hallmark of a truly free market is that all associations and relationships are based on voluntary agreement and mutual consent. Another way of saying this is that in the free market society, people are morally and legally viewed as sovereign individuals possessing rights to their life, liberty, and honestly acquired property, who may not be coerced into any transaction that they do not consider being to their personal betterment and advantage."
        Ebeling says that the rules of a free market are simple and easy to understand: "You don't kill, you don't steal, and you don't cheat through fraud or misrepresentation. You can only improve your own position by improving the circumstances of others. Your talents, abilities, and efforts must all be focused on one thing: what will others take in trade from you for the revenues you want to earn as the source of your own income and profits?"
        For many people, profit has become a dirty word and as such has generated slogans such as "people before profits." Many believe the pursuit of profits is the source of mankind's troubles. However, it's often the absence of profit motivation that's the true villain. For example, contrast the number of complaints heard about profit-oriented establishments such as computer stores, supermarkets and clothing stores to the complaints that one hears about nonprofit establishments such as the U.S. Post Office, the public education system and departments of motor vehicles. Computer stores, supermarkets and clothing stores face competition and must satisfy customers to earn profits and stay in business. Postal workers, public teachers and department of motor vehicles employees depend on politicians and coercion to get their pay. They stay in business whether customers are satisfied with their services or not.
        In a free market society, income is neither taken nor distributed. Income is earned by serving one's fellow man. Say I mow your lawn. When I'm finished, you pay me $50. Then, I go to my grocer and demand, "Give me two pounds of sirloin and a six-pack of beer that my fellow man produced." In effect, the grocer asks: "Williams, what did you do to deserve a claim on what your fellow man produced?" I say, "I served him." The grocer says, "Prove it." That's when I pull out the $50. We might think of dollars as "certificates of performance," proof of serving our fellow man.
        Free markets are morally superior to other economic systems. To have a claim on what my fellow man produces, I'm forced to serve him. Contrast that requirement to government handouts, where a politician says to me: "You don't have to get out in that hot sun to mow your fellow man's lawn. Vote for me and I'll take what your fellow man produces and give it to you."
        Ebeling says that those deserving condemnation are those who use government coercion to gain at the expense of others. There are thousands of such examples: government subsidies at taxpayers' expense, paying farmers not to grow crops or guaranteeing them a minimum price paid for through tax dollars and higher prices for consumers, regulations that limit entry into various professions and occupations, regulations that limit consumer choice, and corporate handouts and bailouts.
        In a word or so, our protest should not be against capitalism. People should protest crony capitalism, where people use the political arena to buy government favors. If millennials and others want to wage war against government favors and crony capitalism, I'm with them 100%. But I'm all too afraid that anti-capitalists just want their share of the government loot.
        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

        This year's education scandal saw parents shelling out megabucks to gain college admittance for their children. Federal prosecutors have charged more than 50 people with participating in a scheme to get their children into colleges by cheating on entrance exams or bribing athletic coaches. They paid William Singer, a college-prep professional, more than $25 million to bribe coaches and university administrators and to change test scores on college admittance exams such as the SAT and ACT. As disgusting as this grossly dishonest behavior is, it is only the tiny tip of fraud in higher education.
        According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, only 37% of white high school graduates tested as college-ready, but colleges admitted 70% of them. Roughly 17% of black high school graduates tested as college-ready, but colleges admitted 58% of them. A 2018 Hechinger Report found, "More than four in 10 college students end up in developmental math and English classes at an annual cost of approximately $7 billion, and many of them have a worse chance of eventually graduating than if they went straight into college-level classes."
        According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, "when considering all first-time undergraduates, studies have found anywhere from 28 percent to 40 percent of students enroll in at least one remedial course. When looking at only community college students, several studies have found remediation rates surpassing 50 percent." Only 25% of students who took the ACT in 2012 met the test's readiness benchmarks in all four subjects (English, reading, math and science).
        It's clear that high schools confer diplomas that attest that a student can read, write and do math at a 12th-grade level when, in fact, most cannot. That means most high diplomas represent fraudulent documents. But when high school graduates enter college, what happens? To get a hint, we can turn to an article by Craig E. Klafter, "Good Grieve! America's Grade Inflation Culture," published in the Fall 2019 edition of Academic Questions. In 1940, only 15% of all grades awarded were A's. By 2018, the average grade point average at some of the nation's leading colleges was A-minus. For example, the average GPA at Brown University (3.75), Stanford (3.68), Harvard College (3.63), Yale University (3.63), Columbia University (3.6), University of California, Berkeley (3.59).
        The falling standards witnessed at our primary and secondary levels are becoming increasingly the case at tertiary levels. "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses" is a study conducted by Professors Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa. They found that 45% of 2,300 students at 24 colleges showed no significant improvement in "critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years."
        An article in News Forum for Lawyers titled "Study Finds College Students Remarkably Incompetent" cites a study done by the American Institutes for Research that revealed that over 75% of two-year college students and 50% of four-year college students were incapable of completing everyday tasks. About 20% of four-year college students demonstrated only basic mathematical ability, while a steeper 30% of two-year college students could not progress past elementary arithmetic. NBC News reported that Fortune 500 companies spend about $3 billion annually to train employees in "basic English."
        Here is a list of some other actual college courses that have been taught at U.S. colleges in recent years: "What If Harry Potter Is Real?" "Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame," "Philosophy and Star Trek," "Learning from YouTube," "How To Watch Television," and "Oh, Look, a Chicken!" The questions that immediately come to mind are these: What kind of professor would teach such courses, and what kind of student would spend his time taking such courses? Most importantly, what kind of college president and board of trustees would permit classes in such nonsense?
        The fact that unscrupulous parents paid millions for special favors from college administrators to enroll their children pales in comparison to the poor educational outcomes, not to mention the gross indoctrination of young people by leftist professors.
        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

        Hollywood is now obsessing about increasing ethnic and gender diversity. Good. There's been nasty racial and gender discrimination in the movie business.
        Unfortunately, Hollywood has no interest in one type of diversity: diversity of thought.
        In most every movie, capitalism is evil.
        Greedy miners want to kill nature-loving aliens in "Avatar." Director James Cameron says: "The mining company boss will be the villain again in several sequels. ... Same guy. Same mother----er through all four movies."
        One reviewer calls a scene in the recent "Star Wars" movie "a beautiful critique of unregulated capitalism."
        "Unregulated capitalism" is such a stupid cliche. Markets are regulated by customers, who have choices; we routinely abandon suppliers who don't serve us well.
        In the movie "In Time," rich people live forever by buying more time, which they hoard while arranging for higher prices so poor people die.
        I guess rich movie people feel guilty about being rich.
        In the new Amazon series "Jack Ryan," the hero asks a good question about Venezuela: "Why is this country in the midst of one of the greatest humanitarian crises in history?"
        Because socialism ruined the country's economy! But no, that's not the answer Jack Ryan gives.
        "Nationalist pride," not socialism, is named as the culprit -- and the politician who will fix things is an activist running "on a social justice platform."
        The producers (SET ITAL)reversed(END ITAL) reality, portraying leftists as Venezuela's saviors rather than as the people who destroyed it.
        Hollywood reserves praise for people who share their politics. A documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is full of people gushing praise, calling her things like "the closest thing to a superhero."
        "RBG" is a good documentary and Ginsburg is impressive. But so is Justice Clarence Thomas. Hollywood would never praise him like that.
        Recently, my former bosses at ABC surprised me by interviewing Thomas. Promotion for the video suggests that they actually let Thomas speak, without sneering at him. Good. But I'm sure no one on the show will be allowed to call Thomas "a superhero."
        Hollywood's love for the left frustrates actors who lean right. Most fear saying anything because they fear they'd lose work.
        Actor Kevin Sorbo spoke out about his conservative views.
        Then, recounts Sorbo in my video this week, "all of a sudden, less and less calls. My agent said we'd better part ways. And I made a lot of money for these guys!"
        Sorbo says in Hollywood, being a conservative Christian is "like being a double leper."
        He was even banned from a comic book convention.
        "They're the ones who say, 'We need to be tolerant; we need to have love,'" observes Sorbo. But "they're the most anti-tolerant people... Every movie, every TV show ... there's always some point, someplace, where they'll pretty much degrade anybody who's conservative or Republican."
        When a Republican is shown -- someone like president George W. Bush in 2018's "Vice" -- Sorbo says, "They make him as dumb and as hick-y as possible."
        Sorbo's also annoyed that movies like the latest "Ghostbusters" film shove women into what had been male parts. In the most recent "X-Men" movie, an actress says: "Women are always saving the men around here. You might want to think about changing the name to X-Women!"
        "What's wrong with that?" I pushed back. I like watching female superheroes.
        Sorbo replied, "It was created as 'X-Men.' We're in this business now of rewriting everything. ... It's not even politically correct; it's politically insane."
        Hollywood's recent movie about man's first trip to the moon chose to leave out the American flag. When asked about that, the film's star, Ryan Gosling, said, "This was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement."
        "An American human achievement!" replies Sorbo.
        Sorbo's response to Hollywood's rejection was to make his own movies. He says his Christian drama "God's Not Dead" cost $2 million to make but earned $140 million.
        Other conservative and Christian movies have done well. Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" is America's highest-grossing R-rated film ever.
        Those aren't my kind of movies, but I'm sure glad Hollywood doesn't have monopoly power.
        Maybe competition will make Hollywood a little less narrow-minded.
        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

       Families will argue this Thanksgiving.
        Such arguments have a long tradition.
        The Pilgrims had clashing ideas about how to organize their settlement in the New World. The resolution of that debate made the first Thanksgiving possible.
        The Pilgrims were religious, united by faith and a powerful desire to start anew, away from religious persecution in the Old World. Each member of the community professed a desire to labor together, on behalf of the whole settlement.
        In other words: socialism.
        But when they tried that, the Pilgrims almost starved.
        Their collective farming -- the whole community deciding when and how much to plant, when to harvest, who would do the work -- was an inefficient disaster.
        "By the spring," Pilgrim leader William Bradford wrote in his diary, "our food stores were used up and people grew weak and thin. Some swelled with hunger... So they began to think how ... they might not still thus languish in misery."
        His answer: divide the commune into parcels and assign each Pilgrim family its own property. As Bradford put it, they "set corn every man for his own particular. ... Assigned every family a parcel of land."
        Private property protects us from what economists call the tragedy of the commons. The "commons" is a shared resource. That means it's really owned by no one, and no one person has much incentive to protect it or develop it.
        The Pilgrims' simple change to private ownership, wrote Bradford, "made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been." Soon they had so much plenty that they could share food with the natives.
        The Indians weren't socialists, either. They had property rules of their own. That helped them grow enough so they had plenty, even during cold winters.
        When property rights are tossed aside, even for the sake of religious fellowship or in the name of the working class, people just don't work as hard.
        Why farm all day -- or invent new ways of farming -- when everyone else will get an equal share?
        You may not intend to be a slacker, but suddenly, reasons to stay in bed seem more compelling than they did when your own livelihood and family were dependent on your own efforts.
        Pilgrim teenagers were especially lazy. Some claimed they were too sick to work. Some stole the commune's crops, picking corn at night, before it was ready.
        But once Bradford created private lots, the Pilgrims worked hard. They could have sat around arguing about who should do how much work, whether English tribes or Indian ones were culturally superior, and what God would decree if She/He set rules for farming.
        None of that would have yielded the bounty that a simple division of land into private lots did.
        When people respect property rights, they also interact more peacefully.
        At this year's Thanksgiving dinner, if people start arguing about how society should be run, try being a peacemaker by suggesting that everyone should get to decide what to do with their own property.
        If your uncle wants government to tax imports or thinks police should seize people's marijuana, tell him that he doesn't have to smoke weed or buy Chinese products, but he should keep his hands off other people's property.
        If your niece says everyone loves socialism now, remind her she has enough trouble managing her own life without telling the rest of the world what to do. When families don't agree, they certainly shouldn't try to run millions of other people's lives.
        In America today, religious groups practice different rites but usually don't demand that government ban others' practices. Private schools set curricula without nasty public fights. Businesses stock shelves without politicians fighting about which products they should carry.
        All those systems work pretty well. That's because they are private.
        In most of our lives, private ownership makes political arguments unnecessary.
        I'm thankful for 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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