By James Pero
At this point in his career, John Stossel is accustomed to speaking to diverse audiences.
Having transitioned from a lengthy stint as a correspondent on ABC’s “20/20” with Barbara Walters to a career in political punditry at Fox News Business, Stossel, 68, has catered to a wide swath of people on the political spectrum.
And on Friday, Oct. 30, when Stossel took the stage at Purchase College’s freshly-opened Humanities Theatre to espouse his libertarian take on modern-day America, his lecture again found an audience disparate from the norm.
During Stossel’s hour-long lecture, which was attended primarily by political science students and faculty at the college, he wove through various topics relating to regulation and big government as they pertain to his libertarian ideology, and more importantly how they affect today’s political and economic environment.
“Unemployment has stayed high after this last recession because we have so many rules,” Stossel said to the audience. “Because we can’t do anything unless you first ask permission—it’s the ‘mother, may I’ economy.”
To bolster his libertarian arguments, Stossel used a series of PowerPoint graphs depicting various trends, particularly ones which he believed showed the inefficiency of the American government.
On the topic of Occupational Safety and Environmental Association regulations, which have been touted by many as a major step toward important workplace safety standards, Stossel showed an unattributed graph depicting decreasing workplace fatalities following the creation of OSEA.
Then in the next unattributed graph, which depicted a trend of decreasing workplace fatalities decades preceding OSEA’s creation, Stossel argued that OSEA has had little impact.
“Government is like somebody who jumps in front of a parade and says ‘I lead the parade,” Stossel said. “But they didn’t.”
Not all of his graphs were well received, however; particularly one that depicted the growth of government over time. In the middle of his point, a student interjected, adding that the bulk of government spending can likely be attributed to military growth.
“Do you believe in the army?… Because a lot of that is military spending,” the student said.
Though much of the night centered on political ideology, Stossel—who is originally from Chicago—would touch briefly on a few of the more personal aspects of his career, namely his transition from “20/20” with Barbara Walters where he won an impressive 19 Emmy Awards, to his recent tenure at Fox News.
“I started to criticize the corrosive government and suddenly my life in television changed,” Stossel said. “I’m no longer so popular; I’m no longer winning Emmy Awards. Someone came up to me on the street in New York and said ‘Are you John Stossel?’ Yes. ‘I hope you
Stossel chalks the reaction up to a perception of him that has been formulated after taking his current role at Fox News.
“It’s because he’s considering me a conservative,” he said. “In Manhattan where I live it’s like being a child molester.”
While Stossel’s lecture was contentious at times, particularly during an engaging question and answer which allowed the traditionally liberal student body to broach topics of corporate greed, the sentiments from the audience members were primarily positive.
“I thought this was positive,” said Mitchell Kutin, a senior philosophy major at Purchase College. “I think it’s an important thing to hear the other side. We know what we think; we don’t need more people to affirm our thoughts. We need to hear the other side.”