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Give Me a Break

Author: John Stossel
Publisher: Harper Perennial • 2005 • 294 pages
4.06 out of 5 • View Ratings Details • 16 Ratings
Give Me a Break

For thirty years now, 20/20 co-anchor John Stossel has unmasked hordes of snake-oil peddlers, rip-off artists, and corporate thieves. Even more importantly, he has courageously gone against the grain of the liberal media by proving that the free market makes life better. In “Give Me A Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media,” he does it again. Taking on such sacred cows as the FDA, feminists, and scaremongering environmental activists, he shows how the problems that government tries and fails to fix can be solved better by the extraordinary power of the free market.

Although he touches on numerous contemporary issues (including junk science, welfare reform, big government, tort reform, and life and free speech issues), the story Stossel tells is a deeply personal account of how, as he rose to the top of the television news industry, his passionate commitment to truth led him increasingly to oppose the big government nanny state that tries to choke off all individual initiative. The more he did, the more he drew the wrath of his liberal colleagues; he quips: “I was once a heroic consumer reporter; now I’m a threat to journalism.”

But Stossel will not be silenced. In this book he explains that “my epiphany was seeing that we don’t need experts to ‘run the country.’ We do need limited government, a referee that keeps the peace. But that’s all. Then free minds and free markets make good things happen.” Best of all, Stossel (who is more libertarian than conservative — and wrong, we think, on some important issues) includes here a provocative but simple plan in the spirit of the Founding Fathers, designed to ensure that America remains a place “where free minds — and free markets — make good things happen.”

Some of John Stossel’s adventures:

  • How Stossel finally concluded, after fifteen years of reporting, that government was the problem, not the solution
  • Safety lawsuits: how they not only don’t make people safer, but actually threaten those who really work to make people safer — such as the company that halted research into an AIDS vaccine because of fear of lawsuits
  • The scandal of the obvious: how Stossel became embroiled in controversy for doing a show about how gender differences are probably not all the result of sexist child-raising and media propaganda
  • How Stossel caught greedy abortionists who were pretending to perform abortions on women who weren’t pregnant
  • Junk science and junk reporting: appalling details of how the media establishment uncritically repeats the faulty findings of flawed scientific studies without checking the facts
  • “You just can’t say that on network TV”: when Stossel’s truth-telling became too hot for the liberal media to handle
  • Erin Brockovich: how Stossel unmasked the nanny-state propaganda of this movie — drawing the ire of the real Brockovich
  • Making Dick Gephardt squirm: the question from Stossel that the House Democrat leader wouldn’t — or couldn’t — answer
  • Stossel’s “criminals”: hard-working Americans who run afoul of liberal red tape for having initiative and succeeding in business
  • How both businesses and unions try to use government to suppress competition, keeping prices high and quality low
  • The Agriculture Department boondoggle that is supposed to make chickens safer to eat, but actually only makes taxpayers poorer
  • Why government regulation in general is not in fact a necessary evil, but an unnecessary hindrance that limits our freedom — while not making us any safer at all
  • How the free market solves problems in numerous surprising areas where conventional wisdom holds that it harms consumers
  • The countless positive results of airline deregulation
  • How the government’s short-sighted overreactions to safety hazards often do more harm than good
  • he scare over silicone breast implants: how lawyers used the media to terrify the nation
  • Why the Big Tobacco settlement was termed by one observer “the foulest, rankest scandal I have seen in 20 years in Washington”
  • The outrageous story of how the government destroyed an entire town because of fears that it might have been contaminated by a chemical that had not even been proven to be unsafe
  • Lies and distortions the liberal media has spread because reporters agreed with the politics of the people who originated them
  • Why the federalization of airport security after September 11 was a potentially disastrous mistake
  • The truth about organic foods: no healthier than ordinary foods (although Stossel caused outrage by saying so on the air)
  • Why American workplaces actually need no regulations governing sexual harassment
  • LBJ’s War on Poverty: how this liberal success story was actually a miserable failure, slowing the decrease of the poverty rate
  • America’s universities: how they have become hotbeds of totalitarian censorship, where dissenters like Stossel are shouted down and vilified
  • Why the media speaks incessantly of the danger posed by “the Right” — but seldom if ever speaks of “the Left”

“There’s nothing matter-of-fact about John Stossel’s fact-finding. He seeks the truths that destroy truisms, wields reason against all that’s unreasonable and uses and upholds the ideals that puncture sanctimonious idealism. He loves liberty in a way that goes far beyond liberalism. He makes the maddening mad. And Stossel’s tales of the outrageous are outrageously amusing.” —P.J. O’ROURKE

“John Stossel is one of the most tenacious, insightful reporters of all time, a true forerunner in investigative journalism.” —SEAN HANNITY

“Rips the covers off medical myths, bogus lawsuits and wasteful government spending. The powerful will not be happy with this book – but you will be.” — BILL O’REILLY

“Stossel is that rare creature, a TV commentator who understands economics, in all its subtlety. Read this fascinating book to learn — by example after example — how the indirect, unseen, effects of government policies often dominate the direct, seen, effects. Again and again, policies have effects the opposite of those intended.” —MILTON FRIEDMAN

“Stossel is a breath of fresh air in a world of stodgy, conformist, knee-jerk journalism.” —BERNARD GOLDBERG

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