Monday, October 4, 2010

Dear God, Why Is Ben Stein Still Around?

Like, I assume, most normal people, I was blissfully unaware of the existence of Ben Stein until I saw "Ferris Beuler's Day Off" back in 1980-something. And like most everyone, I found it amusing to hear him say "Anyone? Anyone? Beuuuuuhler?" in a flat, expressionless monotone. Then some ad exec saw that and said to himself "Hey, if it's funny once, it's bound to be funny ten thousand fucking times," and soon Stein was doing ads for Chips Ahoy, and Clear Eyes, and Comcast, and then some credit-score scam, and everyone just wanted to throw a shoe through the TV screen whenever they heard that dull, dreary sound of pure tedium. Then I didn't see him for a while, and I had hope again. Hope that finally, finally, Ben Stein had retired from "acting" or died or whatever, just so long as he was out of public life. Then today, I saw this:

Here in Atlanta, some ridiculous little jagoff organization called "Seize The Day" is throwing a circle-jerk rally at Philips Arena, home of the Hawks, Thrashers, and the smell of failure. And who's that, second from the right? Ben Fucking Stein!

He's everybody's favorite deadpan teacher in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." But in real life, Ben Stein is a brilliant writer, lawyer, actor, social and political commentator and financial expert. With his distinctive voice and offbeat style, Ben dissects today's economy and helps audiences balance life's priorities, even as he offers an eye-opening tour of its greatest absurdities.

Absurdities? What know you of absurdities, Mr. Stein? Ben Stein having an acting career, now that's an absurdity! Ben Stein being referred to a "brilliant writer?" well, let's see:

Ben Stein: Raising My Taxes Is a Punishment

Asks: If Raising Taxes Won't Help Economy, Why Am I Being Punished?

Oh, so many reasons. So many reasons to punish you, Ben.
Let's begin with the dishonest sub-headline.
If raising taxes won't help the economy, then why. . .? You could apply that logic to anything.
If eating breakfast won't help the economy, then why should I bother to pour milk on my Lucky Charms?
Here's a thought - maybe it's not about helping the economy. Maybe it's about paying down some of the debt you conservatives are supposedly so concerned about.

I am a fairly upper income taxpayer. Not anything even remotely close to sports stars or movie stars or financial big boys. But I am above the level Mr. Obama says makes me rich. [also the level that EVERYONE ELSE says makes you rich] So, in the midst of a severe recession, I am to have my taxes raised dramatically.

Dramatically? Really? Are you really serious?

I am not quite sure what my sin is.
Um, here's a hint:

I worked for almost every dollar I have, except for a small percentage my parents left me by virtue of hard work and Spartan living, and most of that was taken by the federal estate tax.

Okay, that's a lie. According to Wikipedia, your father died in 1999. In 1999, the estate tax didn't kick in until after the first $650,000.00, and after that, the very tippy-top rate it could reach was 55%. A significant percentage, but hardly "most."
And your father was an economist, which is a perfectly legitimate profession, but let's not pretend that he was out digging ditches for a living. According to Wikipedia he was: a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and was on the board of contributors of The Wall Street Journal, so not exactly back-breaking work, collecting wingnut welfare.

I have a hell of a lot less than I did before the stock market and real estate market crashes.

Oh, no! Your un-earned income is going down! Someone get this man a tax break, stat!
Thank God you still get paid by the syndicator to complain about how little income you have!

I didn't get a bailout or any part of a stimulus program, except for traffic jams as the roads in Beverly Hills got worked on for the 10th time in the last 10 years (or so it seems).

How did you not get a bailout? Clearly, you and your Beverly Hills neighbors are struggling as badly as GM! And it must be rough having your streets worked on all the time. I'll think a kind thought for you next time the West Atlanta potholes destroy my alignment.

I pay my income taxes, and after them and the commissions I pay my agent, I am left with about 35 cents for every dollar I earn.

If your agent is able to get YOU acting gigs, count yourself lucky that he=is commission isn't your immortal soul!

I own some real estate in California and Idaho and the District of Columbia. Naturally, I pay property tax, supposedly mostly to educate local children. Not far from me, the city of Los Angeles just spent about $600 million to build the most lavish school in America for about 4,000 children. That's my money. Naturally, I had no say in it.

Oh, yeah that's tough. I remember feeling the same way when I had no say in whether my tax dollars were going to fund an illegal, ill-advised, immoral pointless war that you neocons insisted on. But yeah, kids having nice schools to go to, that's a real bitch. that's way worse than seeing kids coming home in body bags and thinking that's my tax dollars at work.

I am not asking for any tears.

Then shut the fuck up! Not asking for any tears? Then what the hell is this whinefest all about? ooh, I'm being punished! Ooh, my inheritance got taken! Ooh, I have to pay for schools! You don't want any tears? Bitch, please!

I am not asking for any tears. I live a great life, have a fabulous wife, a great son and daughter-in-law, four wonderful, furry dogs and six cats, all adopted. I have more than enough to eat.

But what I don't get is this: There is no known economic theory under which raising my taxes in the midst of a severe recession will help the economy recover.

Goddammit, we already went over this!

It isn't part of any well known monetarist or Keynesian theory. So if it does no good to raise our taxes, I assume we are being punished.

You know, I'm pretty sure you're smarter than this. I think you're purposely using this specious argument because you know that your readers are easily fooled. It won't help the economy recover, therefore it does no good? You know what else doesn't help the economy recover? You writing your stupid dishonest column. Therefore your column does no good, so I can only assume that your readers are being punished.

But for what? I don't own slaves. I employ a lot of people full- and part-time and they are all happy with their pay. When charity calls, I almost always write out a check. I don't have a yacht or ponies or a plane. My wife doesn't wear a tiara. I don't gamble.

Hey, I don't own slaves either! Neither does anyone else I know. Maybe no one should have to pay taxes! It's not fair that even though I own zero slaves, my money is still taken to build roads, and have a police department, and have mail delivered to my doorstep. What did I do wrong that I should have to pay for hospitals and national parks and the Marine Corps?

What did I do wrong? I know I have often lost my temper with my wife and the cats, but that's not a crime, yet. I tried to be successful, which is what I thought I was supposed to do. When did it turn out that was a crime to be punished? Maybe when the economy recovers, raising my taxes makes sense, but for now, it's just punishment, and I can't figure out what for.

Really? You can't figure it out? Here's a hint: