Interviews

What Does the Government Owe Unemployed Americans?

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," July 20, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Stossel Matters" segment tonight: Congress has approved an extension of unemployment benefits until next November. You know, they've got the last-minute thing wrapping up here, and that makes up to 99 weeks these subsidies are being paid to those who have lost their jobs. The action is costing $34 billion, money the government does not have, so it will be added to the colossal deficit.

The question: What does the government owe unemployed Americans? Here now, Fox Business anchor John Stossel. So you remember in the Depression, they had Hoovervilles. Remember that? Hoovervilles.

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JOHN STOSSEL, FOX NEWS BUSINESS ANCHOR: I do. I wasn't alive then. You may think I was.

O'REILLY: You were 15 during -- anyway, Hoovervilles were, you know, places where people who were destitute would go, and pretty much they were being fed by private, charitable concerns. There wasn't a welfare deal. That came after FDR launched the New Deal. Up to that time in American history, if you were unemployed, you were hosed unless somebody would be charitable towards you, as most Americans were. You know, towns took care of themselves. Now we have a philosophy that the government owes people what when they're unemployed. What does the government owe you?

STOSSEL: Well, I'm a libertarian. I say government owes you the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The government does not owe you money. The government owes us an economy that has low unemployment. Instead, government passed a thousand-page bill that killed jobs.

O'REILLY: So -- but it's not the fault of most Americans who lost their jobs, because the Wall Street wise-guys traded in bad mortgage paper that led to the collapse of the economy.

STOSSEL: Terrible for them.

O'REILLY: So they're victimized by their own government. Their own government victimized them. They can't support their family. So, shouldn't the government then provide something to bring relief to these people?

STOSSEL: No, because government makes it worse. And I know that sounds cruel, and it's hard to imagine, and I know it's not going to happen, and we're going to have to have a transition. But government offers a safety net, and that sounds nice, but now it's a safety net for two years? The safety net catches you when you fall. Two years later you're supposed to be getting up. The safety net encourages people not to look for work.

O'REILLY: So you say short period of time you give unemployment service, and then you cut it off after six months or something like that?

STOSSEL: It used to be 26 weeks, half a year. That seemed plenty to me. But as a libertarian I would say you don't have unemployment insurance.

O'REILLY: At all?

STOSSEL: Hong Kong and Singapore don't have it. It sounds cruel, but they create lots of jobs.

O'REILLY: That's not just -- OK. But you can't pursue happiness if you're destitute, No. 1. If it is the government's faults that you can't work, that you lost your job, which in this case it is because the government did not oversee these crooked deals that led to the economy collapsing. The government didn't. So, I don't know, I think the government has an obligation to help these people to some extent. Now, what is teeing me off here is that Obama continues to run up the massive deficit, which is going to come back on the backend to hurt everybody.

STOSSEL: The Republicans at least want to pay for it.

O'REILLY: Right. And it could be paid for out of the stimulus money, which is still, half of it, lying there. But, no. And I don't understand that. I just don't get it.

STOSSEL: Well, they just want to spend.

O'REILLY: Why?

STOSSEL: Because it's nice. It's popular.

O'REILLY: It isn't popular. The -- everybody is onto the deficit now.

STOSSEL: Starting to change.

O'REILLY: Right.

STOSSEL: But even this 99-week unemployment benefit, the Republicans are for it because it's popular.

O'REILLY: If it's funded. They objected when it wasn't funded. Well, the Republicans don't want to put themselves in the kill zone and be a John Stossel. See, nobody is going to vote for you, Stossel. You would run for office, and no one would vote for you. You would have no votes.

STOSSEL: Before government stepped in with its big, ugly, smelly feet and drove out private charity, there were mutual aid societies all over the country.

O'REILLY: Yes.

STOSSEL: They helped people, and they knew who needed help.

O'REILLY: Who was legitimate and who was buying booze with it.

STOSSEL: They were much better than government bureaucracies.

O'REILLY: All right. John Stossel, everybody, the meanest guy in the world.

STOSSEL: No.

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