MediaWatch: March 1997

Vol. Eleven No. 3

Focusing on Freeloaders

Is everyone trying to get something for nothing? In a February 24 ABC News special Freeloaders: The People Who Want and Get Something for Nothing, reporter John Stossel put people to the test.

Stossel showed how panhandlers who say they'll work for food really won't. But he also highlighted those at the top of society. He opened a segment on taxpayer-paid stadiums: "Wouldn't you like to have your very own stadium without having to pay the $150 million or so that it costs? Well, sorry, you're probably not rich enough to get a gift like that. It's reserved for the multimillionaires who own athletic teams. You poorer people, however, you do get the right to pay for it." Stossel confronted Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago Bulls and White Sox:

"You're a freeloader. You're taking money from poor taxpayers to make you, a rich guy, richer."

He then examined corporate freeloaders: "But America's biggest freeloaders aren't street people or poor people who collect welfare. No, the big freeloaders are rich people -- people well connected enough to use the power of government to freeload." Stossel profiled the biggest of them all, Dwayne Andreas, chairman of Archer Daniels Midland. Stossel looked at special deals that benefit ADM -- sugar price fixing and the ethanol tax break. "What does sugar cost? Today's Wall Street Journal says the world price is about 11 cents per pound. But American producers are not permitted to pay the world price. Here, if say, Coke or Pepsi want to buy sugar for their soda they have to pay 22 cents a pound. That's the government-required price. It's kept artificially high to protect sugar growers. As a result, these 18 cents a pound to use corn sweetener instead, and ADM makes corn sweetener. As long as sugar stays expensive, ADM makes a killing....This also means that American consumers pay billions more to buy things that have sugar in them."