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Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media... Hardcover – January 20, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Stossel doesn't offer much detail about how he became "the first of the in-your-face TV consumer reporters," rushing through his career's start and then shifting to anecdotes from his experiences to illustrate how he reached the ideological conclusions that have given him a reputation as a rogue, a tag he both embraces and tries to shake here. Free markets are great, the 20/20 correspondent repeatedly tells readers, while government regulation stifles innovation and keeps consumers from gaining access to the best, safest products possible. Stossel calls out the federal government in particular, citing its "incompetence" and comparing the FDA to a "malignant tumor" (he also claims September 11 happened because "the FAA never asked for tighter security"). While Stossel describes himself as a libertarian, his comments on the liberal media establishment are reminiscent of those of outspoken conservative Bernard Goldberg. Many readers who nod in agreement when Stossel complains about the "totalitarian left," however, may find it harder to share his enthusiasm for extending personal liberty to include assisted suicide, legalized prostitution and dwarf-tossing. Stossel may be effective in small doses on 20/20, but his rhetorical strength diminishes when the print format requires him to go on at length. 16-page b&w photo insert not seen by PW.
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From Booklist

Stossel, the well-known television correspondent, was one of the first consumer reporters, sticking up for the little folks who got scammed by quack doctors, envelope-stuffing schemes, and the like. But he found himself frustrated. He would expose the bad guys, and the next month they would be back in business. Why, he asked, can't government step in and help? "The more reporting I did," Stossel writes, "the more it dawned on me that the government is often the problem, not the solution." His book, drawn from his television pieces, is full of stories of government gone mad: entrepreneurs put out of business because they violated a ridiculous regulation; competition unfairly quashed by regulators acting in the interests of lobby groups; laws interpreted so narrowly that they become ludicrous. Rapidly, he went from an intrepid consumer reporter to--in the eyes of his critics--a turncoat who abandoned the cherished liberal belief in the ability of government to help people. Although the book is clearly one man's opinion, Stossel is very persuasive. His thesis is simple: there is nothing government can do that the private sector can't do better, more efficiently, and cheaper. We are being ripped off, he laments, by excessive taxation, incompetent and bloated bureaucracies, and politicians who make decisions based on self-interest rather than public interest. It's a powerful, well-argued, and immensely thought-provoking book, and with Stossel's visibility, not to mention the incendiary subject matter, it's sure to be a hot one, too. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (January 20, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060529148
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060529147
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (238 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #385,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

226 of 263 people found the following review helpful By D. Mikels on February 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Epiphanies are good things. They are psychological wake-up calls to clarity and truth. They cut through years of mental and societal conditioning to expose common sense like a bright copper penny at the bottom of a swimming pool.
ABC consumer reporter (and co-anchor of the news show "20/20") John Stossel shares his epiphany through the pages of his entertaining and informative book, GIVE ME A BREAK. For years, Stossel developed a reputation as a fearless and relentless crusader by exposing rip-off artists, scams, boondoggles, and other unspeakable corruption--all in the interest of protecting the public at large from greedy and selfish corporations. For this, Stossel was an award-winning media darling, a welcome addition to the leftist culture that permeates and controls network news.
But a funny thing happened on the way to liberal nirvana: Stossel began taking a look not only at the warts of the private sector, but at those who regulate the warts as well. And he found some troubling wart hairs--from a $330,000 outhouse paid by tax dollars, to a town in Missouri essentially bulldozed because dioxin found in the soil "might" be harmful to its inhabitants, to corporate "welfare queens" who grow even richer on the backs of hardworking taxpayers. Thus, after 15 years of reporting, Stossel's epiphany was born: government isn't the solution, it's the problem. We don't need more government to interfere and obstruct, we need less.
And this revelation really hit below the belt: capitalism actually works.
Accordingly, Stossel began broadcasting this heresy (giving credit to several people at ABC for having the backbone to air his opinions); he instantly went from media darling to pariah. The "totalitarian left," as Stossel phrases it, was incensed.
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303 of 355 people found the following review helpful By Tucker Andersen VINE VOICE on January 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As a long-time resident of the greater NYC Metropolitan area, I have been familiar with the work of John Stossel since his appearances on WCBS-TV as an in-your-face consumer reporter early in his career. I took notice when he moved to network TV after being hired by Roone Arledge, and continued to enjoy his reporting even though I sometimes disagreed with some of his premises. I then became a viewer of his specials which often questioned liberal orthodoxy with such catchy titles as "Are We Scaring Ourselves To Death?" I regularly found these to be both informative and provocative. Thus, I was very pleased to meet when we both attended a conference several years ago. Since then I have seen him once or twice a year at other events that we have both attended and regard him as a casual friend since we share a common philosophical outlook with regard to the role of government in our lives. When I happened to see John at a recent meeting and he mentioned that he was about to have a book published, I asked him if I could get a review copy in order to review it for Amazon and his publisher agreed. Of course, I recognized that if I didn't like the book, a bad review might chill our friendship, but fortunately this is a thoroughly enjoyable recounting of John's career. As a disclaimer, I want to mention that my belief in the educational value of John's work (and its potential to be a catalyst for classroom discussion of the topics involved) has led me to also provide some modest financial support to, the organization which provides copies of John's programs and classroom guides to high school and college teachers interested in the material.Read more ›
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106 of 125 people found the following review helpful By Kevin B. Register on January 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
John Stossel has been giving the world exactly what it needs: a shot of classical liberalism in the strict Austrian sense of the word. Leftists hate the book because it encourages free markets, and neoconservatives hate it because it spells out the obvious: Republicans have outspent Democrats for the last 75 years! Neoconservatives like more spending in their government pork than any other demographic, bar none. I expect that the book will ultimately be rated 4 stars, as the extreme left and rights will give this book a cursory glance and not the full attention it deserves. True intellectuals have no choice but to give it 5 stars. The facts are there people! Read the book! He has empirical data that is backed up not only by the "evil corporations" but also by the U.S. government. I would also like to add that Stossel has never pledged allegiance to any political party, but Libertarians know a great Jeffersonian when they see one. God bless you John. God bless you!
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63 of 77 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I really wish the reviewers of political books would actually read the works they review. This book should not be in that category. This book is not an Ann Coulter rant, it is more of a diary. Many of the reviewers below did not understand that.
For instance, the reviewer from La Quinta, CA just does not like the author. Obviously, he/she did not read, or was unable to understand the book. The reviewer says Stossel stated that the wealthiest 1% of taxpayers pay a marginal tax rate of 34%, then complains about loopholes. This is NOT what the author said, and shows that many of the reviewers have not read the book and are just here to state a political viewpoint. The actual story is about the author asking presidential candidate Al Sharpton how much of the total taxes should the top 1% pay. The Rev. Sharpton stated "somewhere around 15%". In fact the top 1% pay 34% of ALL taxes, not a 34% marginal rate. That means that the richest 1% pay a third of all taxes to the Treasury.
This book is not about politics per se, but the underlying bias that pervades the media as a whole and how the open arms that Mr. Stossel received in his early days were closed shut when he disagreed with the political bias of the media itself, exposing a hypocrasy. It's an easy read, not groundbreaking, but very interesting.
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