Thursday, May 07, 2009

ABC 20-20: Stossel to report on taboo topics like "generational theft" (Medicare), and pregnancy discrimination litigation

While I usually wait until after airing to review a show, I thought I would pass along on my TV blog an advance notice on "libertarianesque" John Stossel’s ultimate “Give Me a Break” session, “You Can’t Even Talk About It”, Friday May 8, at 10 PM EDT, on the ABC network.

The most important portion of the show seems to have to do with spending on seniors, which President Obama said, before the inauguration, that he would look at, because we can’t keep “kicking the can down the road.” The segment will be called “America needs to do less for its senior citizens”.

Stossel reports that the average Medicare beneficiary collects two or three times more than they paid in with Medicare taxes when they (or their spouses) worked. Middle and upper class seniors have a lot of political clout (look at the AARP) whereas the children of poor people do not.

Andrew G. Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute calls this “generational theft”. What could happen is a much greater burden will go back on adult children, some of whom have never been parents and had to support others, who will have to take care of their aged as they live longer than they used to. States (there are 28 of them now) might well start enforcing their filial responsibility laws for nursing home Medicaid coverage (I’m referring to poor laws, not just the lookback period for early inheritance disbursements, which has already been extended). A typical article by Biggs is “Retirement Math”(April 13, 2009) and appears in Forbes here. Stossel's report did highlight the problem of longer lifespans and fewer workers to pay for each retiree. Stossel called Medicare the world's biggest Ponzi Scheme, or perhaps it should be called "Madoff-Care" (after Bernie Madoff). The seniors interviewed on the show claimed they have earned their benefits and paid their dues. The seniors said, "tell the kids to change the voting. Who said life is fair?" Donald Trump, on "The Apprentice", always says, life indeed isn't fair, it shouldn't be; never give in on protecting your own life.

Stossel will report on “Rescuing Idiots” – in the preview video – the rescuing of people who take foolish risks in wilderness areas. The video talks about “personal responsibility” – that good old libertarian and even Southpark idea. The video also goes on to air a July 2008 segment on age discrimination laws. Stossel admits in the video that at his age now he can’t do all-nighters like he once could. Should the law protect him? Of course, he doesn’t “need” the protection, probably. But he says that turnover of workers is a necessary component of "creative destruction" in the economy.

Stossel will also cover “Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuits” which he says are on the increase despite strict laws. Carrie Lucas, of the Independent Women’s Forum, will appear and she has an article, May 7, 2009, “IWF in the News: Pregnancy Discrimination Laws: Do They Hurt Women More Than They Help?”, link here. He says (in the email, referring to her) that sometimes pregnant women cannot work as hard and that turns them into “lawsuit bombs”. I once took a weekend long night call in an IT shop for a pregnant employee without compensation, back in 1993. But the real point is that employers may refuse to hire pregnant women in the first place, on the fear that they may be more likely to litigate. In fact, employers may be afraid to hire women, or at least married women, at all (in the 1950s sometimes they were, before Betty Friedan). Stossel says (in a Good Morning America preview Friday) that after the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990, hiring of the disabled went down out of fear of litigation. He says that a law designed to help a class of people may actually hurt them. There is a Pregnancy Discrimination Act, described here on Wikipedia. Visitors may want to check the "Broadsheet" (May 9, 2009) on Salon called "Pregnancy Discrimination Act: fail?" with discussion of Novartis Pharmaceuticals, link here.

Stossel appear on ABC's "The View" on Friday May 9. A heated debate followed on discrimination laws, and particularly on social spending on the elderly. Stossel says that people must save up for their own retirements outside of government.

Stossel also argued that laws protecting wild animals don't necessarily protect endangered species. He said animals go extinct when no one owns them (like bison, which came back when ranchers owned them). As for tigers, no, I don't like the idea of eating cats; I like cats.

Stossel was the guest speaker back in 2002 at an American Experiment luncheon in Minneapolis, which I attended. This is a conservative group, but the luncheon discussion definitely took on a libertarian tone. Stossel then said he feared that gay marriage could be abused by people who wanted only the benefits and didn’t really want commitment.

Libertarian claims that workplace laws should not be designed around specific classes of worker could defeat ENDA, the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act for gays and lesbians, proposed in 1993. I've heard silly claims made, that gay bars should be able not to hire straight men if they don't want to. Well, actually, straight people often do work at gay bars!

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