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John Stossel Breaks Down the Government-Fear Combination

This is a rush transcript from "Glenn Beck," January 22, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GLENN BECK, HOST: John Stossel is joining us with more government programs that fail the common sense test. The co-anchor of ABC News "20/20" and the author of the best-selling New York Times' "Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity."

Hello, John. How are you?

JOHN STOSSEL, CO-ANCHOR OF ABC NEWS "20/20": Hello, Glenn. Good to be here.

BECK: Good to see you, sir.

STOSSEL: It's nice.

BECK: Yes. OK. So, John, you are a common sense guy. I have watched you for years. You are — you are the one that always will come on TV and I go, "Yes, that kind of makes sense."

Tell me where I'm wrong that government programs don't make things much, much worse.

Video: Watch Glenn's interview with John Stossel

STOSSEL: You're not wrong, but it's not common sense. It wasn't common sense for me. I had to watch government fail for 25 years doing consumer reporting before I really saw it because intuitively, the reaction is problem, bring government and government will make it better.

And when we're scared, like we are now about the economy...

BECK: Yes.

STOSSEL: ...it's much worse. When we were scared about 9/11, we federalized the airport security, we spent millions for body armor for dogs in Ohio. All that over-reaction comes from fear and government — bad combination.

BECK: OK. So, tell me — give me some of the examples of where they have really gone awry, where the train has just come right off the tracks.

STOSSEL: I mean, I had just done "Give Me a Break" on an outhouse in a park that cost $500,000. Take more serious examples. After Hurricane Katrina, they said, "We got to rebuild the city," but nobody can get it rebuilt because you have to get 10 permits. Some charities know how to get through the permit process. I confront the mayor about it, he says, "Oh, we've made it's easier, we have a kiosk." I tried to make the kiosk work, it doesn't work.

And it's not that they don't have good intentions. And at the beginning, some government programs can work, you get those eager beavers to come in. But it took the Soviet Union 70 years to fail. Over time, the incentive structure in government is always, "keep doing the same thing, stay out of trouble," and you get these insanities like ethanol.

BECK: So, tell me. How is it — because I'm watching this bailout process going on, and I'm thinking to myself, the same people who said — like Barney Frank, he said over the summer, "Oh, Fannie and Freddie, it's fine. It's great, don't worry about it." Then it failed.

Nobody said, "Hey, Barney, didn't you just say that it was OK?" Then the people who said, "No, this will fix, if we don't have this by Friday, it's all going to fail." They didn't do it by Friday but it didn't fail. Now, they say, we've got to have even more. They can't find the money.

Where — at what point does common sense kick in?

STOSSEL: Not when you're scared. And Thomas Jefferson said, "It's a natural progress of things for government to grow and liberty to yield." And all these people feel they have to do something because we're in crisis.

But, why are we in crisis? We're at 7 1/2 percent unemployment. In 1982, it was over 10 percent. Nobody even remembers that. It may become a crisis, but it's not a crisis yet.

BECK: Can we — in reading the founding fathers, they were all very clear, this experiment will not work without a religious, moral people — without people who regulate themselves. Can we even regulate ourselves now?

I see people on TV and I'm watching — I don't know about you, America, but I see people on TV and they're like, "Yes, that's right, take it from the rich. And I need more healthcare, and I need more of this."

And, what does that lead to? Healthcare is going to lead to more regulation on what you can and cannot eat.

STOSSEL: And the rationing on what kind of healthcare you can get. But I don't think people have changed that much, but incentive structure, you're a sucker if you support yourself and you're expected to have other people pay for healthcare, then costs balloon. It's very hard to turn that around.

BECK: Do you believe that the global warming thing — and we start with the biodiesel. And the biodiesel story kind of bothers me because I know diesel also turns to gel, but that's the story. But here's the thing that bothers me is the rush to get in to save the planet, and the latest comment was: "The temperature of the earth being so cold is just proof on how warm it's getting."

I'm like, what? Maybe I don't understand the science that Obama was fixing back in her seat, but I don't understand that at all. This is really about more government regulation and power and money.

STOSSEL: On the part of the politicians ...

BECK: Yes.

STOSSEL: ... but to be fair, there are a lot of scientists that are genuinely scared.

BECK: I'm talking about the...

STOSSEL: They say that this is a real problem compared to Medicare's $45 trillion unfunded liability, and now we're spending 1 trillion on this dubious stimulus plan. That's a real problem.

BECK: OK. John, great to see you. Thank you so much.

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