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by John Stossel

        Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign was just disrupted by campaign workers demanding the same $15 per hour Sanders demands government force all employers to pay.
        It serves him right.
        Years ago, the activist group ACORN faced the same problem. After fighting for a higher minimum wage, they tried to convince a judge they should be granted an exception when paying their own workers, since they were involved in such important and productive work.
        Government telling employers what to pay people creates nasty side effects.
        Five years ago, Seattle won fame by becoming the first American city to mandate a $15 per hour minimum.
        "Fifteen in Seattle is just a beginning. We have an entire world to win! Solidarity!" vowed City Councilmember Kshama Sawant.
        New York state and many cities followed in Seattle's footsteps.
        But now the results from Seattle are in:
        Some people who already had jobs are being paid more. They're the winners under the new law.
        But the losers are needier people: people who are looking for jobs.
        After Seattle raised its minimum wage to $15, entry-level job growth stalled. Job growth continued in the rest of Washington state but not in Seattle.
        The $15 minimum helped some people while hurting even poorer people.
        "It's presented by minimum wage advocates as a win-win ... no negatives," complains a skeptical Erin Shannon of the Washington Policy Center in my latest video.
        Shannon points out the negatives. For example, stores that once hired inexperienced kids and trained them, giving them valuable starter experience, stopped doing so once Seattle raised its minimum wage.
        "Politicians," one store owner told my video producer, "have no sense whatsoever about what it means to small businesses like us."
        Today, for companies with more than 500 workers, Seattle's minimum wage is $16 per hour.
        It's as if the politicians never learned about supply and demand. They think prices can be set wherever government decrees, with no consequences.
        But there are many bad consequences.
        Twenty-year-old Dillon Hodes understands that. He's a winner of the video-making contest run by my charity, Stossel in the Classroom. Hodes saw what happened to his friend when the Kroger she worked at raised its minimum wage to $12 an hour.
        "She was getting paid $12 an hour, but slowly, they started cutting her days, her hours. She was (eventually) regulated to only working on Sundays. That's because she was young and inexperienced," explains Hodes. "She's worth the world to me, but she wasn't worth $12 to Kroger."
        The $12 minimum wage took away her job. How much more damage will a $15 minimum do?
        Rigel Nobel-Kosa, another sitc.org video contest winner, pointed out that many high employment "countries such as Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland" have no minimum wage laws.
        They do not end up with impoverished workers making a penny an hour. Wages, like all prices, are a function of supply and demand. Switzerland has much less unemployment than the U.S.
        Esther Rhodes won our high school essay contest, pointing out that America's first minimum wage laws were racist. At the time they were passed, blacks were more likely to be employed than whites. Blacks were paid less -- but they had jobs.
        Congressman Miles Clayton Allgood, D-Ala., then said he hoped a minimum wage law would stop "cheap colored labor in competition with white labor."
        So, explains Rhodes, although Americans now think a minimum wage was meant to help the neediest people, "it was meant for the opposite: to keep the poor and the minorities from getting jobs!"
        She also understands that the law now makes it harder for her to get a job.
        "I'm 14," says Rhodes. "My labor wouldn't be worth $15 an hour!"
        All government's workplace rules have nasty unintended consequences.
        If only the politicians were as smart as the sitc.org kids.
        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

    Recording events from public land shouldn't be a crime.

    Yet when a woman in Utah, standing by a public road, filmed farmworkers pushing a cow with a bulldozer, the farmer drove up to her and said, "You cannot videotape my property."

    Soon the police came and local prosecutors charged her with "agricultural operation interference."

    They dropped the charges several months later since she was on public land.

    But what if she'd posed as a farmworker, got a job on the farm and then secretly recorded what she saw?

    Increasingly, activists do that. More than a hundred such undercover investigations have been done.

    They then distribute video that sometimes shows animals being cruelly abused. In my video this week, we see calves being hit, kicked and thrown.

    Farmers, upset about such recordings, are now asking politicians to outlaw them, and several state legislatures have obliged. They've passed "ag-gag" laws -- bans on sneaking onto farms to secretly record what they see.

    Kay Johnson Smith of the Animal Agriculture Alliance supports such laws, though she doesn't use the term "ag-gag."

    "We call it 'farm protection,'" she told me. "Activists stalk farms to try to capture something that the public doesn't understand. The agricultural community is the only business where this sort of tactic is really being used."

    Smith says the activists' real agenda is not just preventing cruelty to animals: "These activist groups want to eliminate all of animal agriculture."

    I believe her. Many activists are animal rights extremists.

    But I also worry that laws like ag-gag rules will stop people from revealing abuses. I'm an investigative reporter. I can't do my job well if laws prevent me from showing the abuse. Audiences often won't believe what I report if they can't see it for themselves.

    Videos made by the group Mercy for Animals have led to criminal charges. Some of their investigations led Walmart to create new purchasing policies.

    The Animal Legal Defense Fund claims ag-gag laws violate the First Amendment. They've succeeded in getting several states' ag-gag laws struck down.

    When Iowa's law was ruled unconstitutional, legislators simply replaced it with a narrower law that forbids activists to lie to get access to farms.

    The activists argue that because farms lie about their practices, the only way to reveal the truth is to lie to get onto farms.

    Activists simply "want to ensure that the American public knows how these foods are processed, what happens to animals," says Animal Legal Defense Fund lawyer Amanda Howell.

    "You've got tens of thousands of animals in warehouses standing on concrete floors never seeing the light of day. ... If that affects people's purchasing decisions, then there's a reason for it," says Howell.

    "They want to make their movie ... their sensational video," retorts Smith. "If they really cared about animals, they would stop it right then! Instead, they go weeks and months without reporting anything to the farm owners."

    That's often true.

    Activists say long-term investigations are necessary because otherwise "a company can say this is a one-off," says Howell. Long-term investigations "show that's something that happens every day."

    I took that argument to Smith.

    "What they really want is to stop people from eating meat, milk and eggs," she said. "There are bad apples in every industry, (but) 99.9% of farmers in America, they do the right thing every single day. Farming isn't always pretty."

    I asked Howell if she and her group do want to end all consumption of meat and eggs. It's funny watching her response on the video. She never gives a straight answer.

    But her evasions bother me less than corporations using politicians to censor their critics.

    Whatever you think of the activists -- and I have problems with many of them -- government shouldn't pass special laws that prevent people from revealing what's true.

    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

    Here's a suggestion. How about setting up some high school rifle clubs? Students would bring their own rifles to school, store them with the team coach and, after classes, collect them for practice. You say: "Williams, you must be crazy! To prevent gun violence, we must do all we can to keep guns out of the hands of kids."

    There's a problem with this reasoning. Prior to the 1960s, many public high schools had shooting clubs. In New York City, shooting clubs were started at Boys, Curtis, Commercial, Manual Training and Stuyvesant high schools. Students carried their rifles to school on the subway and turned them over to their homeroom or gym teacher. Rifles were retrieved after school for target practice. In some rural areas across the nation, there was a long tradition of high school students hunting before classes and storing their rifles in the trunks of their cars, parked on school grounds, during the school day.

    Today, any school principal permitting rifles clubs or allowing rifles on school grounds would be fired, possibly imprisoned. Here's my question: Have .30-30 caliber Winchesters and .22 caliber rifles changed to become more violent? If indeed rifles have become more violent, what can be done to pacify them? Will rifle psychiatric counseling help to stop these weapons from committing gun violence? You say: "Williams, that's lunacy! Guns are inanimate objects and as such cannot act." You're right. Only people can act. That means that we ought to abandon the phrase "gun violence" because guns cannot act and hence cannot be violent.

    If guns haven't changed, it must be that people, and what's considered acceptable behavior, have changed. Violence with guns is just a tiny example. What explains a lot of what we see today is growing cultural deviancy. Twenty-nine percent of white children, 53% of Hispanic children and 73% of black children are born to unmarried women. The absence of a husband and father in the home is a strong contributing factor to poverty, school failure, crime, drug abuse, emotional disturbance and a host of other social problems. By the way, the low marriage rate among blacks is relatively new. Census data shows that a slightly higher percentage of black adults had married than white adults from 1890 to 1940. According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year only 11% of black children and 3% of white children were born to unwed mothers.

    In 1954, I graduated from Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin High School, the city's poorest school. During those days, there were no school policemen. Today, close to 400 police patrol Philadelphia schools. According to federal education data, in the 2015-16 school year, 5.8% of the nation's 3.8 million teachers were physically attacked by a student. Almost 10% were threatened with injury.

    Other forms of cultural deviancy are found in the music accepted today that advocates murder, rape and other vile acts. In previous generations, people were held responsible for their behavior. Today, society at large pays for irresponsible behavior. Years ago, there was little tolerance for the crude behavior and language that are accepted today. To see men sitting while a woman was standing on a public conveyance was once unthinkable. Children addressing adults by their first name, and their use of foul language in the presence of, and often to, teachers and other adults was unacceptable.

    A society's first line of defense is not the law or the criminal justice system but customs, traditions and moral values. These behavioral norms, mostly imparted by example, word-of-mouth and religious teachings, represent a body of wisdom distilled over the ages through experience and trial and error. Police and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct. At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. Today's true tragedy is that most people think what we see today has always been so. As such, today's Americans accept behavior that our parents and grandparents never would have accepted.

    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. Willaims

   The First Amendment to our Constitution was proposed by the 1788 Virginia ratification convention during its narrow 89 to 79 vote to ratify the Constitution. Virginia's resolution held that the free exercise of religion, right to assembly and free speech could not be canceled, abridged or restrained. These Madisonian principles were eventually ratified by the states on March 1, 1792.
    Gettysburg College professor Allen C. Guelzo, in his article "Free Speech and Its Present Crisis," appearing in the autumn 2018 edition of City Journal, explores the trials and tribulations associated with the First Amendment. The early attempts to suppress free speech were signed into law by President John Adams and became known as the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Later attempts to suppress free speech came during the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln and his generals attacked newspapers and suspended habeas corpus. It wasn't until 1919, in the case of Abrams v. United States, when the U.S. Supreme Court finally and unambiguously prohibited any kind of censorship.
    Today, there is growing contempt for free speech, most of which is found on the nation's college and university campuses. Guelzo cites the free speech vision of Princeton University professor Carolyn Rouse, who is chairperson of the department of Anthropology. Rouse shared her vision on speech during last year's Constitution Day lecture. She called free speech a political illusion, a baseless ruse to enable people to "say whatever they want, in any context, with no social, economic, legal or political repercussions." As an example, she says that a climate change skeptic has no right to make "claims about climate change, as if all the science discovered over the last X-number of centuries were irrelevant."
    Rouse is by no means unique in her contempt for our First Amendment rights. Faculty leaders of the University of California consider certain statements racist microagressions: "America is a melting pot"; "America is the land of opportunity"; "Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough"; and "There is only one race, the human race." The latter statement is seen as denying the individual as a racial/cultural being. Then there's "I believe the most qualified person should get the job." That's "racist" speech because it gives the impression that "people of color are given extra unfair benefits because of their race." Other seemingly innocuous statements deemed unacceptable are: "When I look at you, I don't see color," or "Affirmative action is racist." Perhaps worst of all is, "Where are you from, or where were you born?"
    We should reject any restriction on free speech. We might ask ourselves, "What's the true test of one's commitment to free speech?" It does not come when people permit others to say or publish ideas with which they agree. The true test of one's commitment to free speech comes when others are permitted to say and publish ideas they deem offensive.
    The test for one's commitment to freedom of association is similar. Christian Americans have been hounded for their refusal to cater same-sex weddings. For those who support such attacks, we might ask them whether they would seek prosecution of the owner of a Jewish delicatessen who refused to provide services for a neo-Nazi affair. Should a black catering company be forced to cater a Ku Klux Klan affair? Should the NAACP be forced to open its membership to racist skinheads? Should the Congressional Black Caucus be forced to open its membership to white members of Congress? The true test of a person's commitment to freedom of association does not come when he permits people to associate in ways he finds acceptable. It comes when he permits people to voluntarily associate in ways he deems offensive.
    I am afraid that too many of my fellow Americans are hostile to the principles of liberty. Most people want liberty for themselves. I differ. I want liberty for me and liberty for my fellow man.
    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

    The city of Dunedin, Florida, wants Jim Ficken's home.
    Ficken's mom died, so he went to South Carolina to take care of her estate. He asked a friend to look after his house.
    But then the friend died, and no one cut Ficken's grass. When it grew to 10 inches, Dunedin officials started fining him $500 a day.
    The fine is now about $30,000.
    "I was shocked," Ficken says in my latest video. City officials say they will foreclose on his home if he doesn't pay the fine, and Ficken doesn't have that much money.
    "Do you have $30,000 lying around?!" he asked me.
    "The city has gone nuclear!" complains his lawyer, Ari Bargil. "$500 per day for the violation of having tall grass. ... They could have done what their own ordinances permit them to do: hire a lawn service to come out and mow the grass. Then send Jim a bill for 150 bucks. But they didn't do that."
    Why not? Bargil and Ficken say it's because Dunedin's officials just want money.
    Dunedin's politicians wouldn't talk to us. Instead, they spent $25,000 on a public relations firm that told reporters, "Dunedin has no desire to impose large fines... (only to) ensure that Dunedin is a high-quality community."
    The cost of "high quality" keeps going up.
    Eleven years ago, Dunedin fined people $34,000. Today, they want about that much from Ficken alone. Last year Dunedin collected $1.3 million in fines from residents.
    "It's pretty apparent that code enforcement is a major cash cow for the city," says Bargil.
    "I got violated for a lawn mower in my yard!" says one resident who has been fined $32,000. "They violated me for a hole the size of a quarter in my stucco ... They find people they can pick on ... and they keep picking on them."
    She started crying as she recounted: "I can't tell you how many sleepless nights I've had because of the city of Dunedin. Just try to think of what to say to them, just to have them leave me alone."
    "The city is just a bunch of bullies, and they expect people not to stand up to 'em because to stand up to 'em requires expensive legal help," says Ficken.
    Ficken managed to get expensive legal help for free from the Institute for Justice, a law firm that defends individuals abused by governments.
    All across the country, "private citizens are being essentially extorted by their governments and fined incredible amounts of money for really, really small violations," says Bargil.
    You can be fined for not trimming plants, the way Ficken was, but you can also be fined for trimming too much. A city in North Carolina fined a local church $100 per branch ($4,000) for excessive tree-pruning.
    And in places such as Dunedin, if you can't pay a fine, they'll take your home.
    "The city attorney of Dunedin last year sought permission to foreclose on 18 properties," says Bargil.
    That violates the Eighth Amendment, says the Institute for Justice. The Amendment not only protects us from "cruel and unusual punishment" but also from "excessive fines."
    The Founding Fathers, says Bargil, "recognized that the ability to fine is the ability to cripple. It's one of the ways, other than incarceration, that government can really oppress."
    If governments can oppress, they usually will.
    We should be grateful for the Eighth Amendment's protection against excessive fines.
    And what's more excessive than politicians taking your home because you didn't cut your grass?
    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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