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Watchdog.org Podcast

Watchdog Podcasts. Taking you behind the headlines and inside the stories. We examine the news that matters to you - from the school board to the state Capitol and Washington DC - because we know that someone has to keep an eye on how government is spending your money. Education, health care, budgets and more; our reporters have the inside story that you need to know - and a free market perspective that you won't find anywhere else.
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Now displaying: June, 2015
Jun 26, 2015

On this week's podcast: a busy week at the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled on Thursday in favor of upholding the federal health insurance exchange and on Friday in favor of same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, the media and the Internet are in a tizzy over the Confederate flag, which has become a lightning rod for criticism after the tragic shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, last week.  Is the flag legitimately to blame for the actions of crazy racists, or is it a scapegoat for a terrible tragedy that has no obvious explanation?

Hosts Eric Boehm and Will Swaim tackle the big issues of the week. Then, Robert Grayboys of the Mercatus Center sits down for an interview about the future of health care reform in the United States, now that it seems like the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.  The good news? Politics doesn't have to be a factor in fixing some of the major problems with how we provide health care, he says.

All that, plus a check-in with the California lawsuit where students are suing their teachers (and the teachers' union) over seniority rules, on this edition of the Watchdog Podcast.

Jun 22, 2015

This is The Fraudcast, a special Watchdog.org podcast in partnership with our friends at Lexus Nexus and their Fraud Of The Day project.

Host Ben Yount sits down with Larry Benson from Fraud of the Day to talk about the origins of their project and how much public fraud there really is. At Fraud of the Day, Benson and his staff track local and national news from around the country to expose governmental waste, fraud and abuse.

Fraud in government is often an invisible crime, but in reality it is something that hurts everyone. Whether it's the theft of taxpayer dollars or the exposure of personal information in government databases to identity thieves, fraud in government is a serious problem that could affect just about everyone.

Why is there fraud in government? The same reason that criminal used to rob banks, says Benson: because that's where the money is.

This week's top three "frauds of the week" include $1 million in bogus tax refunds going to the Ukraine, massive Medicaid fraud in Louisiana and Social Security payments that continued for years and years after an elderly woman died.

Jun 19, 2015

Code Blue is Watchdog Radio’s weekly look at heath issues, ranging from the latest public health debates to small government views on health-care reform.

Medicaid and Medicare are breaking the budgets of states and the federal government, but there are other options out there. Is Obamacare the best we can do?

On this week's episode, hosts Jason Hart and Ben Yount discuss the upcoming Supreme Court ruling in the King v. Burwell case, which could effectively neuter a huge part of the Affordable Care Act by eliminating health insurance subsidies handed out through the federal exchange.

It could be a very big deal. There are 34 states that rely on the federal exchange to provide health insurance subsidies to their residents, and many of them have passed laws that would block state-level exchanges.  States that have already formed state-level exchanges would be fine, but many of them are facing their own problems (like Hawaii, which recently ditched its own exchange after blowing millions on dollars on it).

If the Supreme Court tosses the federal health insurance exchanges, it will provide "the best political window" for Congress to seriously change how Obamacare works, says Josh Archambault, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability.

Jun 18, 2015

By Ben Yount | Watchdog Radio

In this episode, guest host Ben Yount sits down with John Berlau from the Competitive Enterprise Institute to talk about how the Obama administration is planning to change how Americans plan for retirement.

And how are they planning to do that? By having the government take a larger role in retirement planning, of course.

Are individuals unable to handle their own money? The U.S. Department of Labor seems to think so, arguing in a recent report that most individual investors don't understand how to manage their money or plan for their own retirements.

The paternalism is worrying enough, says Berlau, but its almost comical for the federal government to assume it is more responsible with money than the average American. After all, this is the same government that has bankrupted social security, blown millions on boondoggles like Solyndra, and on and on.

Jun 17, 2015

This is Behind the Headlines, Watchdog.org’s podcast that takes a deeper look at the political news of the day.

In this week’s episode, hosts Eric Boehm and Ben Yount sit down with Watchdog reporter Art Kane to talk about the federal government losing as much as $1 billion by backing bad loans to luxury businesses like two Lamborghini dealerships.

But that's not all: the Small Business Administration has lost millions of taxpayer dollars on bad loans to country clubs, boat dealers and wineries. In short, it seems like the SBA is doing more to help support the lifestyles of the wealthy than it is doing to support actual small businesses.

Watchdog.org found former executives of companies that the database shows failed to make good on the loans still running businesses and in one case apparently living a lavish lifestyle.

And even '90s rap star Missy Elliott has a role to play in this story before it's finished.

Jun 16, 2015

Breaking the Bank is Watchdog.org’s weekly look at the national public pension crisis, how it’s affecting state and city budgets and what can be done — if anything — to fix it.

In this week’s episode, hosts Eric Boehm and Steve Greenhut take a look at the budgetary conundrum facing New York City, which is considering a $10 million cut in funding for its iconic libraries because of increasing pension costs.

As Stephen Eide, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, put it in an article published this week: "New York City devoted $8.1 billion to pensions—a 152 percent increase over the prior decade. If pension costs had kept pace with the overall budget, which grew 42 percent between 2005 and 2014, the city would have had an additional $3.6 billion to spend on services."

But it's not just libraries that are facing a hit and it's not just New York City making tough choices. As pension costs eat away at a larger share of government budgets, money that could have been spent on other things has to be diverted to pay for public workers' retirements.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Governments spent lots of money on things – like Pennsylvania's liquor stores or, well, most libraries – that could be better off privatized. Perhaps the pension crisis will force governments to make changes they should have considered long ago.

Jun 15, 2015

This is “Sit Down, Shut Up,” Watchdog.org’s podcast examining education issues at the national, state and local levels.

Hosts Eric Boehm and Moriah Costa take a critical look at the education establishment, the growth of school choice and the ways free markets can be a part of fixing America’s broken school system.

In this week's episode, we take a look at Lee Siegel's insulting New York Times op-ed in which the writer congratulated himself for defaulting on his student loans and advised other college graduates to do the same (while acknowledging that if everyone followed his advice, the entire higher education system would come crashing down on itself). 

Siegel's was roundly trounced on the Internet (from both the left and the right) for his endorsement of personal irresponsibility, and rightfully so.

Then, Costa sits down with Nina Rees, CEO of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, to reflect on the past school year and look at where charter schools have seen growth - and where they are sorely needed in the near future.  Not surprisingly, it's politics that generally gets in the way of giving kids and parents more educational choice, Rees says.

Jun 12, 2015

This is “In Our Backyards,” Watchdog.org’s podcast that examines local government — because the government that’s closest to you often can be the most important, even if you don’t hear much about it.

We look at city councils, school boards and even water treatment authorities, because local officials can waste your tax dollars as easily as Congress can waste them. Government is real when it’s close by, in schools and local police forces.

In this week's episode, host Eric Boehm sits down with Watchdog reporter Rachel Martin to talk about the strange, sad tale of Elise Truchan and her tree house.

After Elise spent three months planning and then building an elaborate tree house for a school project, her family came home to find a note on their front door from the local building inspector telling them it had to come down

Now, in order to keep the tree house from being torn down, the family has to pay $500 just for a chance at an official permission slip from Leet Township.

Jun 11, 2015

Code Blue is Watchdog Radio’s weekly look at heath issues, ranging from the latest public health debates to small government views on health-care reform.

Medicaid and Medicare are breaking the budgets of states and the federal government, but there are other options out there. Is Obamacare the best we can do?

This week, hosts Eric Boehm and Jason Hart take a look at the Medicaid expansion in Ohio, which is running off the rails after less than a year and a half.

As Hart reported this week, after just 17 months, Gov. John Kasich’s Obamacare expansion has cost federal taxpayers $3.7 billion. That’s over $1 billion more than the Kasich administration projected for the expansion’s first 18 months.

For now, the higher-than-expected costs are being picked up by federal taxpayers, but that will change in a few years and state taxpayers will have to pay as much as $30 million per month to cover the increased costs brought by the expansion.

Then, with the Supreme Court getting ready to issue a decision in the King v. Burwell case, Boehm and Hart preview some of the big arguments and the bigger consequences that the legal challenge to Obamacare could have for people and state governments.

Jun 10, 2015

This is Behind the Headlines, Watchdog.org’s podcast that takes a deeper look at the political news of the day.

In this week's episode, host Eric Boehm sits down with Rob Port, Watchdog.org's North Dakota bureau chief, to discuss the end of the oil boom and the consequences of lower oil prices.

Sure, lower oil prices might be great news for consumers who have to fill their tanks at the pump, but in states like North Dakota that depend on oil and tax revenue for a significant portion of their tax base, there are serious concerns. And some companies are facing difficult choices as the lower prices force them to find ways to save money.

But as Port explains, that's not all bad news.  The state government in North Dakota has been stashing money away for years and finds itself in an odd position (at least odd when compared to most other states in the country) because it's got more money than it knows how to spend.  Lower prices can be good for business too, as it forces competition and weeds out less efficient business models.

The boom might be over, but the "new normal" is more sustainable in the long run.

Jun 9, 2015

This is “In Our Backyards,” Watchdog.org’s podcast that examines local government — because the government that’s closest to you often can be the most important, even if you don’t hear much about it.

We look at city councils, school boards and even water treatment authorities, because local officials can waste your tax dollars as easily as Congress can waste them. Government is real when it’s close by, in schools and local police forces.

In this week's episode, host Eric Boehm sits down with Watchdog.org's national energy reporter Rob Nikolewski to talk about the potential for upstate New York to secede from the rest of the state. People in the Southern Tier are upset about a ban on hydraulic fracturing - or "fracking" - that prevents them from tapping into the rich natural gas deposits of the Marcellus Shale formation.

Yes, it's unlikely.  But the fact that people are talking about it as a possibility shows just how upset some people are over the fracking ban.  And can you blame them?  Just across the border in Pennsylvania, the natural gas boom is helping similar towns and counties experience their first economic growth in decades.

Jun 8, 2015

This is At the Races, Watchdog.org’s podcast that focuses on elections and political campaigns.

In this episode, hosts Eric Boehm and Ben Yount take a look at two of the worst candidates in the ever-growing presidential field: U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Martin O'Malley, the former Democratic governor of Maryland.

First up: a game called "Real quote from Lindsey Graham or passage from dystopian fiction?"  In this game, Yount has to decide if a Constitution-shredding, anti-free-speech, pro-militarism comment is something that actually was uttered by the senator from South Carolina or whether it comes from the pages of books like 1984 and V for Vendetta.

Then, we take a look at the five most insane tax increases supported by O'Malley.  From the rain tax to the toilet tax, there were plenty to choose from - Maryland increased taxes on 44 separate occasions during the eight years that O'Malley was running the state.

Jun 5, 2015

This is Behind the Headlines, Watchdog.org’s podcast that takes a deeper look at the political news of the day.

In this week’s episode, host Eric Boehm chats with Rob Nikolewski, Watchdog's national energy reporter, about new rules issued by the EPA that mandate higher levels of ethanol in your gasoline.

There's plenty of reasons to dislike ethanol - the massive government subsidies that support it, the lack of any reduction in carbon emissions from its use, and the political pandering that has kept its use mandated by the federal government.  But the new EPA rules have managed to tick off just about everyone, including the people who actually like ethanol (yes, there are some - mostly those who make money off of its creation or use).

But even though ethanol does more harm than good - to both the environment and your car - it's here to stay.  Thank politics for that.

 

Jun 4, 2015

By Eric Boehm and Steve Greenhut | Watchdog Radio

 

Breaking the Bank is Watchdog.org’s weekly look at the national public pension crisis, how it’s affecting state and city budgets and what can be done — if anything — to fix it.

In this week’s episode, hosts Eric Boehm and Steve Greenhut take a look at a new pension plan being pitched in California by a group of reform-minded public official.
 It would put pension benefit increases in voters' hands, by requiring that any increases to current or future public workers (at all levels of government) would have to be approved by a referrendum.

There are some problems with direct democracy, of course, but when it comes to pensions does it make sense to take the politicians out of the equation?  If nothing else, it's a novel attempt to make California stop digging the hole any deeper.

Jun 3, 2015

By Ben Yount and Moriah Costa | Watchdog Radio

This is “Sit Down, Shut Up,” Watchdog.org’s podcast examining education issues at the national, state and local levels.

Hosts Ben Yount and Moriah Costa takes a critical look at the education establishment, the growth of school choice and the ways free markets can be a part of fixing America’s broken school system.

In this week's episode, Yount and Costa take a look at an odd law in Texas that makes it a crime to skip school. And everything is bigger in Texas, including the punishments for truancy.

If you skip school, you could end up in prison. Not juvenile hall - real prison.

Not surprisingly, the cops in Texas love enforcing these rules because they can make money off fines that are also charged against truant students.  They've raked in some $16 million las year, a Watchdog investigation found.

Then, are ESAs the next "big thing" in school choice?  They let parents choose the best schools for their children, explains Leslie Hiner from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

Jun 2, 2015

By Eric Boehm and Ben Yount | Watchdog Radio

This is Behind the Headlines, Watchdog.org’s podcast that takes a deeper look at the political news of the day.

In this week’s episode, host Ben Yount sits down with Jerry Ellis, a senior research fellow from the Mercatus Institute, to talk about the problems with subsidizing broadband internet at the federal level.

For starters, the big problem is that not everyone wants or needs high-speed internet.  Although subsidies are being pushed as a way to increase internet access for rural and poor communities, there are better ways to accomplish the same goals.  And when the FCC continues to move the goal-posts for what providers must include in so-called "high speed" internet, it's bad news for the companies and the people who are paying for those services.

 

Jun 1, 2015

By Ben Yount and Mark Lisheron | Watchdog Radio

Say it Loud, Say it Proud is Watchdog Radio’s weekly look at free speech and First Amendment issues — examining rights among the most important to our society, but also rights most frequently under attack.

In this week’s episode, host Ben Yount sits down with Mark Lisheron, a senior editor for Watchdog.org to chat about the First Amendment protections for journalists. Can local governments (or any government, for that matter) decide who counts as a journalist?

In Illinois, one town is trying to do that. After a local radio host tracked down a city official and knocked on his front door to get some answers about the city budget, the town slapped him with a restraining order for stalking. Yes, really.

The city's official position is that the radio host was "pretending to be a real journalist."

Yount explains the situation in Bloomington, Illinois, and Lisheron discusses the constitutional problems with letting a government decide who is, and who isn't, a "real" journalist.

 

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