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Debating A Pathological Liar on CNBC

05/25/2011 11:55 am ET
  • David Sirota Newspaper columnist, radio host (AM760), bestselling author

Yesterday afternoon, I was asked to appear on CNBC's Kudlow & Cramer to debate ABC News "reporter" John Stossel. You remember him - he's known for being a pathological liar. And on the show yesterday, Stossel's disdain for the truth was on full display. Check out the transcript of our exchange:

KUDLOW: All right. John Stossel, author of "Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity" and Dave Sirota, author of "Hostile Takeover." We're going to look at the minimum wage. According to Mr. Stossel, the myth is: A higher minimum wage helps workers. The truth is: A higher minimum wage helps some workers but hurts others. John, your thought.

Mr. STOSSEL: We all want to raise people's wages, but assuming the government can just set the wage is--better than supply and demand--is such nonsense. It assumes every employer has a fixed number of workers. But we don't have people washing windshields in gas station anymore because the minimum wage makes it foolish to hire a kid, to give an entry level worker a shot.

KUDLOW: This thing's back in Congress. A lot of states are either passing it or discussing it. How many people get the minimum wage across the country? This is a data from your own book.

Mr. STOSSEL: Three percent.

KUDLOW: Bingo. Dave Sirota, 3 percent, and it hurts some people. What's your take?

Mr. SIROTA: Well, listen, John, I would encourage you stop reciting these dishonest talking points and the chatter you're hearing on the cocktail party circuit because the stats don't bear that out in any way at all. And here are the stats that you cannot dispute. In states that have raised the minimum wage, above the federal level, those states have created jobs at a far faster rate than the states that have not. That is because, when you raise the minimum wage, you put money into the pockets of people who will spend it and it spurs the economy. Now, that might not be heard in your book which purports to debunk lies, but those are the facts.

Mr. STOSSEL: Well, if those are the facts, why stop at $7. We should pay everybody 20 bucks, 40 bucks an hour. Then we'll really have buying power. It's just...

Mr. SIROTA: You're changing the subject. You're changing the subject because you know you're wrong.

Mr. STOSSEL: Well, the study side, and I now realize who you are because you, on my Amazon page, he came on and said, `I'm a smarmy-looking liar.'

Mr. SIROTA: You are.

Mr. STOSSEL: But that one study was from Robert Reich, former employee. And it's been widely discredited by every serious economist who looked at this.

Mr. SIROTA: That's not a study. If you--if you look at the states. Just look at the states. That's not a study. If you look at the states, the states that have raised their minimum wage higher than the federal level have created jobs faster than states that haven't. That's a fact. That's not a study. That's a fact.

There are a bunch of desperate lies in just this one exchange. There is the sky-is-not-blue lie about the minimum wage supposedly hurting job growth (a lie) and hurting low-income workers (a blatant lie). Then, cornered, Stossel tries to change the subject. When he can't, he resorts to another lie, claiming I have written something on his Amazon page (I did proudly call him a pathological liar on the Huffington Post, but not on his Amazon page - you can check here).

Then, in a crescendo of dishonesty appropriate for a pathological liar, Stossel reaches for the first liberal economist that comes to his mind (in this case Robert Reich) and claims that the data about states, wages and job growth are from just "one study" from Reich and that this supposed "one study" has been "widely discredited by every serious economist who looked at this." Of course, none of this is from a "study" - it's the cold, hard fact, gleaned from simple arithmetic: states that have raised their minimum wage above the federal level have created jobs at a better clip than those that have not.

Unfortunately, Stossel uses both his perch at ABC News and the conservative movement's right-wing apparatus to promote these kinds of lies. He gets awards from right-wing groups, and is given a platform at corporate-funded, fringe-right-wing groups like Townhall.com and the Cato Institute. He is, in short, a good exmaple of why I wrote Hostile Takeover - because we have to start fighting back frontally against these professional pathological liars, and the first way to start fighting back is to start shoving the facts in their faces.

UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that an Amazon reviewer had posted an excerpt of an article I wrote about Stossel on Stossel's Amazon site. So it is true, me calling him a "smarmy looking liar" is on his Amazon site - Stossel (not surprisingly) lied in claiming I put it up there.