John Stossel: Cowards and Leaders

The invasion of Russia revealed big differences in how politicians deal with threats.

The President of Ukraine, when offered the evacuation, said: “I need ammunition, not a round.” He’s a boss.

By contrast, in Canada a few weeks earlier, when truckers staged a protest against covid-19 rules, cowardly Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked Canada’s Emergencies Act.

This enabled the authorities to forcibly disperse the protest. In one instance, police entered a crowd on horseback. People were trampled.

As wicked as it was, the part of the act that turned out more effective in stopping the protests was to freeze protesters’ bank accounts. It is similar to what the West is currently doing to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But Trudeau did it to his own people!

“You really have to have a bank account to be able to live,” says Todd Zywicki, a law professor at George Mason University.

“Imagine if, in the Civil Rights era, Martin Luther King could have lost his bank account because he broke into the counter of a Woolworth.”

Trudeau justified his use of the Emergencies Act by saying truckers had received “disturbing amounts of foreign funding to destabilize Canadian democracy.” Really? The truckers were going to “destabilize Canadian democracy”?

“I don’t know why you would say it’s ‘destabilizing democracy,'” Zywicki says. “This East democracy. Canadians trying to stand up for their rights.

Fortunately, such abuse of power does not occur in the United States. Except it is.

In 2013, Zywicki reminds us, “companies engaged in completely legal services found themselves losing access to bank accounts…forced to close.”

It happened because the Obama administration launched Operation Choke Pointwho encouraged banks to stifle the accounts of pornographers, gambling businesses, arms dealers and other businesses they disliked.

Arms dealer Kat O’Connor did everything the government demanded: fill out the paperwork, get federal and state licenses, pay high fees. But suddenly online payment processors didn’t want to deal with her anymore. She then tried companies like Stripe, PayPal, and Square. “It always ended with an email saying they were closing my accounts,” she told me. She speculates that the blacklist was “a backhanded attempt at gun control.”

It probably was.

Choke Point continued until Donald Trump was elected. But O’Connor is still blacklisted. Once the government labels you a problem, bureaucrats can choke your finances forever. It’s infuriating.

But part of my job is to take the other side. So, I told Zywicki, banks are private companies that lend their own money. Why should they lend to people they don’t like? Private companies can make whatever choices they want.

Zywicki had a good answer: banks aren’t really private companies. “There are barriers to entry. You need to get permission to start a new bank. … The financial services industry is so intertwined with government.

This government connection means that bureaucrats who regulate banks can silence government critics by cutting off access to their money. In Canada, protesting truckers have resisted pressure from police and politicians for weeks. But once Trudeau froze their money, that was the beginning of the end for their protest.

“We have to tolerate people saying things we don’t like and separate that from their ability to make a living,” Zywicki says. “We merged those two things. This is a very big threat to free society.

John Stossel is the author of “Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media”.

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