Ben Stein Offers National Expo A Mixed Dose Of Humor And Observations On American Society And Economy

July 22, 2014
The National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) annual membership meeting got a dose of common sense and badly needed humor from a fan: Ben Stein.

The National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) annual membership meeting got a dose of common sense and badly needed humor from a fan: Ben Stein, author, actor, social critic and economist.

Stein, approaching the speaker’s platform wearing sneakers that didn’t match his suit, endeared himself to the crowd by noting he is a great fan of vending machines.

Lacing his presentation with his characteristic humor, Stein didn’t take long to get serious, noting that the current recession is the worst he’s seen in his 64 years.

Stein pulled no punches, blaming the recession on the greed and carelessness of the people running the nation’s financial sector. He said “ridiculous credit” in the form of complex financial products was pushed on the public which resulted in huge debt.

“The people who caused the damage are the same who are being bailed out,” Stein said. “I don’t know how to cure it.”Stein laid blame on the recent and current secretaries of the federal treasury, Henry Paulson, and Tim Geithner.

He also criticized former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan for stating in a 2005 speech that there was no national or international credit problem, and current Fed Chairman Bernard Bernanke for saying in 2005 that a housing “bubble” was impossible when he was chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors.

As for the federal stimulus packages approved by both the Bush and Obama administrations, Stein was not optimistic. He said the huge amount of money pumped into the economy is bound to have some positive impact, but he believes the long-term effect will be either higher taxes or inflation.

Stein was not completely negative, noting that consumers and business owners who have  been careful have weathered the storm.

He noted that while the gross national product has not grown, the national debt has risen by a factor of 12.

“Let’s actually believe that  politicians actually have your best interest at heart,” he said with sarcasm.

“We have allowed ourselves to be totally dependent on Wall Street and Washington.”

Social changes are also cause for concern, Stein observed.

He noted a bad development for the nation’s well being is that standardized test scores peaked in the early 1970s and have never recovered.

Continuing in his sarcastic vein, Stein offered the following rules for ruining your life:

  • Don’t learn any useful skills; just play video games.
  • Never accept responsibility for anything that goes wrong.
  • Criticize others early and often.
  • Never be grateful for what you have; just think of what you don’t have.
  • Be a perfectionist; if something’s not perfect, stay home and get high.
  • Think big; think how you’re going to get rich.
  • Have an intense personal relationship with someone with a lot of  problems that you think you can change.
  • Treat people who are bad for you well.
  • Hang around with the wrong crowd.
  • Make the people around you feel small.
  • Keep score of all of life’s injustices and how they have harmed you.
  • Use drugs and alcohol freely.
  • Don’t save money.
  • When you borrow money from friends and family, don’t repay them.
  • Ignore your family; they are really balls and chains around your neck.
  • Know that you don’t owe anyone anything.
  • Gamble with your money.
  • Don’t learn anything about history.
  • Think that what happens to movie stars means a “damn thing” to your life and spend a lot of time thinking about them.

Stein took his satire even further by offering the following suggestions:

  • Create a health care system that destroys doctor/patient relationships and destroys old peoples’ confidence in Medicare’s future.
  • Create college courses that create contempt for the United States.
  • Reduce the military’s capabilities.
  • Be a nation without borders.
  • Worship diversity at the expense of unity.
  • Identify with haters of the U.S. such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.
  • Teach U.S. history as one of  imperialism abroad and racism at home.
  • Make sure media elites encourage hatred of the system.
  • Have the courts make the laws.
  • Create a super rich class where wealth comes from defrauding shareholders.

Turning serious, Stein said: “There’s one thing you need to know about God; you’re not him.”

The real stars, he said, are not movie stars, but the service men and women who have sacrificed for their country. He said these are the people who give him confidence about the nation’s future.

Stein said he goes to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and visits the orthopedic ward. He said he was moved by a soldier who was missing most of his leg but was able to show a sense of humor. “I leave feeling so uplifted and hopeful about the future of this country,” he said.