Ben Stein: Politicians are in ‘Dreamland’

Ben Stein
Ben Stein visited the College to speak about the failing job climate

“Bueller, Bueller, Bueller,” Ben Stein monotonously recited to an audience of economic spectators and pop culture enthusiasts.

Aside from this brief deviation because of an audience member’s request for “the line” from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Ben Stein stuck to the script at his lecture on Thursday, Jan. 26 in Kendall Hall, sponsored by the College Republicans.

The economist, actor and political pundit spoke about the current financial state and its effects on college students and graduates.

“We just cannot go on having budget deficits of this size,” he said in an interview. “It’s going to be a disaster.”

According to Stein, current college students will witness a default on the national debt at some point.

A former speechwriter for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, Stein is a Republican and stressed the importance of balancing the budget — something that has not been done since the Nixon administration, he said. Despite his political leanings, Stein did not pinpoint one particular party for the disaster.

“We (the Republicans) and the Democrats have just been living in cloud-cookoo-dreamland for several decades now — just in dreamland,” he said. “The result has been that we had maybe one trillion (dollars) of deficit at the end of the seventies and now we have 15 trillion of deficit.”

Stein focused on the severity of the crisis and its effects on the job market.

“The days when people wanted to be entrepreneurs and go into business seem to have vanished and I think that is because of the crisis in employment,” he said. “I have to say I’ve never seen a situation like the present situation for college students ever in my lifetime where it’s a serious crisis to try to get a job.”

In his speech, Stein forecast the likelihood of getting a job in a difficult field to break into. As an example, he said that a dream of becoming an art historian is significantly less likely to be accomplished nowadays.

Due to the crisis, Stein noted the change in college students and their aspirations.

According to Stein, careers in education, health and government work are now popularly sought after.

Stein marked work ethic and connections as the most important factors necessary to attain any job.

“Those of you who are the best students, and have the best work habits and have the best connected parents will be the ones who get the jobs,” Stein said.

Connections and hard work are exactly what helped Stein go from a trial lawyer practicing at the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. to a presidential speechwriter.

Stein frequently submitted freelance op-ed pieces to the Wall Street Journal, defending Nixon during Watergate. Stein’s father happened to be the Chairman of the Council of Economic Affairs in the White House, which helped when Stein was invited to speak with the administration after receiving recognition for his articles.

Another connection helped Stein become a pop culture sensation, which began the start of a very random assortment of credentials and experiences. He credits “blind luck.”

“It never even occurred to me ever — at any time in my life — that I was going to be an actor,” he said.

One day, a producer-friend told the economist, “You’re just sort of innately funny”

After his first film “Wildlife” — a sequel to “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” — Stein was given a small role in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

“The day I worked on ‘Ferris Bueller’ was the best day of my life,” he said.

The success he would find, he said, “was the approximate equivalent of winning a good sized lottery ticket.” In fact, Stein said it was better than that.