Now for something completely different, or at least something pretty rare on network TV. ABC’s John Stossel has paired up with Drew Carey and the libertarian Reason TV for tonight’s 20/20 special headlined “Bailouts and Bull,” on the limits and unintended consequences of government involvement in the economy and in our lives.
While Stossel is known for his skepticism of big government solutions, most journalists at the big networks have been accepting of the premises of President Obama’s interventionist approach, not challenging his assertions the way President Bush’s economic policies were frequently challenged.
Stossel will tackle the idea that all economists support Obama’s government-spending-as-stimulus policies, liberal claims that the American Dream is now out of reach for most workers, and the idea that a fence along the Mexican border will really stem the tide of illegal immigrants.
For this morning’s Good Morning America, Stossel previewed the segment on Obama’s promise to put every small child into a pre-kindergarten program, universal pre-K. He showed a clip of a creepy ad put together by advocates showing four-year olds thanking those fighting on behalf of more government spending, with one little boy exclaiming “I love you.”
Stossel talked to a panel of parents, including one pre-school teacher who lambasted the proposed program as “a scam” and “a flagrant waste of money.”
Another angry mom said it was arrogant of the government to declare kids better off in pre-K than at home: “Parents are being told that we’re not capable of facilitating our child’s learning. And that’s bull****!”
Stossel told Good Morning America’s Chris Cuomo that he agreed with the parents: “It’s a waste of money and a government conceit that they can parent better than we can.” How many employees of ABC News do you think agree with that?
Given journalists’ pretense that their job is to be skeptical and confront those in power, it’s actually rather incredible how few reporters besides Stossel ever challenge the notion that big government creates solutions. More often, you get reporters challenging government to do even more to supposedly help solve problems, without ever acknowledging the consequences of ever-expanding government.
Here’s a transcript of the Good Morning America segment, that aired at about 8:07am on Friday:
ANCHOR CHRIS CUOMO: It’s been a big week here on ‘GMA’ for a lot of reasons, and it is time to tackle the big issues facing American democracy in the months ahead: How do we fix our schools? How do we get our economy back on track? I’m glad to say 20/20’s John Stossel has been thinking about these exact questions, and joins us now with a special report. Good to see you, John.
JOHN STOSSEL: Thank you, Chris. Did you go to preschool?
CUOMO: I did not. And that explains everything.
STOSSEL: I didn’t go to preschool, either. And when we were kids, few people did. But now, there’s a new movement for universal pre-K, for every child in America. They should have a chance to start school before kindergarten. Isn’t that a wonderful idea? Universal pre-K, was one of the President’s campaign promises.
BARACK OBAMA (2008): We need to enroll more children. And we need to start at an even earlier age.
STOSSEL: And 67% of Americans now favor universal pre-K, funded by the government. [Speaking to group of parents] It sounds so good.
NIA LEVY: “Of course, it sounds good. All they hear about is a little sweet pre-school program. And it’s for little children, and how can you say no to little children?
CLIP OF AD FOR PRE-K:KID #1: Thank you
KID #2: For all children.
KID #3 For me.
KID #4 For me.
STOSSEL: Advocates run ads like this.
CLIP OF AD:KID #5 Thank you to all advocates.
KID #6 Thank you.
KID #1 I love you.
LEVY: This whole thing, it’s a scam. It’s like some kind of a spin that they want everybody to believe.
STOSSEL: These parents hate the idea.
SECOND PARENT: Parents are being told that we’re not capable of facilitating our child’s learning. And that’s bull- [bleeped by network]
THIRD PARENT: There’s already lots of preschool programs in place.
STOSSEL: That’s true, and it’s argument one against government pre-K. Most American kids already attend pre-school. Parents pay for it themselves. If you can’t afford it, there are subsidies and free programs, like Head Start. But under universal pre-K, taxpayers would pay for every child.
NIA LEVY: It’s a flagrant waste of money. It’s as if I went shopping for myself because I needed a dress for a party, and I went and bought a dress for everybody else who was going to be at the party, whether they needed it or not. Who does that?
THIRD PARENT: Why are we going to let the system that’s already failed our children, educationally in this country, K through 12, why are we going to let them start with our 4-year-olds?
STOSSEL: Good question.Tuesday, even the President admitted-
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short, and other nations outpace us.
LEVY: Government is providing K through 12 education. And unfortunately, we are in the toilet.
STOSSEL: That’s point two. Government-run education isn’t doing very well.
LEVY: To say that they are the ones to define what quality is laughable. [Clip of Levy with kids on playground] What are you having for lunch?
STOSSEL: Nia Levy’s not only a parent. She runs six preschools. [to Levy] I’m surprised you’re against this. You would make money on this. Free government money.
LEVY: I don’t want to have to answer to the government. Our programs are so far superior, that it isn’t even funny. Now, with the economy, being what it is, you’re telling me that we’re going to devote billions of dollars that we don’t have? It’s a waste of money.
CUOMO: A lot of passion there.
STOSSEL: I agree with her. It’s a waste of money and a government conceit that they can parent better than we can.
CUOMO: So, it comes down to how do you spend that money best, to help the kids, give them the best head start?
CUOMO: Interesting. And obviously just one part of the special tonight. You can see all of John’s report, "Bailouts and Bull," on "20/20" tonight at 10:00 Eastern.