Watch Ben Stein Reject Trickle-Down Theory And The Raving Trump Surrogate Defending It

The 2016 presidential race has been most notable for the Republican candidate’s utter refusal to bring anything of substance to the debate. Donald Trump pointedly avoids nearly all policy details in favor of childish insults, empty sloganeering, and lately, deranged outbursts. In the past week alone he called President Obama “the founder of ISIS,” and suggested that “the Second Amendment people” were the only ones who could stop Hillary Clinton.

Ben Stein

That’s what makes it so surprising when a prominent spokesman for the right-wing agenda says something that actually makes sense. This happened Friday on the Fox Business Network during a discussion on the “Dueling Economic Visions” of Trump and Hillary Clinton. Host Charles Payne introduced the segment and turned to economist Ben Stein to give his opinion of the Trump economic plan. What happened next was completely unexpected:

Stein: Well I don’t think Mr. Trump’s plan is going to work very well. I don’t think we need that tax cut when we’re running deficits the size we are running. I think the evidence that tax cuts stimulate business in any kind of meaningful way, at least not sufficient to overcome the tax revenue loss, is extremely poor to put it mildly. I think the idea of cutting taxes on the rich in a time when there is so much concern about inequality is not a good idea. I do think his idea of greatly lessening environmental regulation is absolutely necessary and even brilliant and very brave of him.

Exempting that anti-environment nonsense at the end, Stein delivered a coherent explanation for why giving the wealthy a tax cut makes no sense. In fact he argued that such favoritism for the rich was never a stimulant to the economy and would only exacerbate deficits. Add to that his expression of concern for income inequality and you have a truly astonishing display of wisdom from a right-wing economist.

Fox of course would not be satisfied with that blasphemy. Therefore, Payne turned to Betsy McCaughey, the woman who coined the term “death panels,” for rebuttal. McCaughey was just named to Trump’s team of wingnut economic advisers. She ranted:

McCaughey: First of all, Donald Trump’s tax plan will produce an enormous amount of economic growth. The key factor is slashing the corporate tax rate, currently the highest in the world, down to fifteen percent. Companies in the United States are being taxed to death. And that’s why so many of them are leaving or retrenching their business investments.

There is so much wrong with that it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with the fact that there is no evidence that Trump’s plan would produce any economic growth. In fact. Moody’s scored his plan and concluded that it would result in a “lengthy recession,” 3.5 million job losses, and “very large deficits and a much higher debt load.” Plus, every independent analysis of Trump’s plan has affirmed that it benefits the rich far more than the lower and middle classes.

Then there is McCaughey’s assertion that U.S. corporate tax rates are “the highest in the world.” That is patently and provably false. It’s a recurring right-wing trope that has been debunked innumerable times by non-partisan analysts. McCaughey and other conservatives deceptively cite the statutory corporate tax rate rather than the effective tax rate (what is actually paid after deductions). When reviewed with real numbers the U.S. corporate rate is actually slightly lower than the average of our international competitors. Often it is zero, or close to it.

[Note: These facts make it even more important for Trump to release his tax returns so that we can see just where in the range his tax rate lies.]

The truth is that American companies are not leaving the the U.S. for lower taxes. They are leaving for lower wages, cheaper distribution in foreign markets, evasion of fair labor and environmental regulations, and other reasons unrelated to taxes. McCaughey also claimed that the U.S. is on the brink of a “business recession” despite this being one of the longest periods of growth in decades. But then she trotted out a real whopper:

McCaughey: And let me just point out in response to Ben’s comments about the poor and tax reductions for the rich – slashing the corporate tax rate and producing growth will benefit the poor the most.

That foolishness hardly merits a response. At this point host Charles Payne steers the conversation to “the debate over whether trickle-down economics really work.” He asked Harvard Kennedy School Professor Leah Wright Rigueur “If the same tide lifts all ships, wouldn’t that include the poor?” She responded that “You would think, but history has shown us that that doesn’t include the poor.” When Stein was asked to comment he poignantly noted that a rising tide “does not lift those boats that are under water.” Which led to this epic exchange:

Stein: And if I may say to my friend the Lt. Governor, there simply is no evidence that slashing the corporate tax rate produces growth. There’s a lot of allegations, but…

McCaughey: [interrupting] That’s ridiculous.

Stein: Did you say ‘That’s ridiculous’?

McCaughey: I said ‘That’s ridiculous’!

Stein: With all due respect, I’m the one that’s studied this. You’re the politician. You can say whatever you want as a politician. There simply is no evidence of that. […] You don’t know that. You have no idea of that. You can say it but there’s never been any data connecting those two.

Watching a devoutly conservative economic expert smack down the right’s sacred trickle-down doctrine on Fox’s own business network is both shocking and satisfying. But watching him also humiliate a Trump adviser, and one of the most extreme GOP partisans, at the same time is an event more rare than Halley’s Comet. It will be interesting to see if Stein is invited back to Fox News any time soon.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.


9 thoughts on “Watch Ben Stein Reject Trickle-Down Theory And The Raving Trump Surrogate Defending It

  1. Funny how Ben Stein was espousing all these laisse fair policies for years and all of a sudden the facts finally come home to his head that they don’t work.

  2. Ben Stein makes the woman politician praising tax cuts for the rich look as ignorant as she is. She’s among those Republicans, who have done well with this philosophy, a la Josef Goebbels, that if you tell a lie long enough and loud enough people with believe it. Stein told the woman off in no uncertain terms., She best no show her face again as he has more traction than she will ever have.

  3. Ben Stein has expressed a sane,well reasoned argument based upon observable data .He is an educated and experienced man who is using his intelligence and experience from a lifetime of work in economics to come to a reasonable conclusion devoid of influence from empty slogans and mindless rhetoric.He has absolutely NO future in the Republican Party.

  4. Too bad Ben Stein didn’t use his intelligence and experienced in telling the various Republican administrations at the city, county, state, and federal that tax cuts and breaks don’t work; otherwise, places like Wisconsin, Kansas, and the USA would not be in the economic mess they are in. Guys like him also dismiss the warning signs of the economic meltdown of 2008 despite the fact that the observable data was staring him in the face.

  5. “when we’re running deficits the size we are running.”

    deficits 70% smaller than when the last (R) president left office.
    deficit to GDP smaller than basically the entire reagan presidency.

  6. To bad Mr. Stein was such a “trickle down” guy for all those years when he should have stuck with his comedy acting career . It’s difficult to take him seriously now.

  7. I’m not looking to join the fray here, i’m not educated enough on econ to do so, I just have a question. If tax cuts don’t / conservative policies don’t work as you’re saying above; and high taxes/ liberal policies give us the mess that is the places that have been under Dem control ( California, Detroit, Baltimore et al) for decades; then what’s the use of continuing down either of these pathways exclusively?
    Are there other options, hybrids of the two perhaps.
    Shouldn’t we be looking at places with rising economies and glean methods from them.
    I understand China, India and some of the old Sovietmbloc countries have been doing well for quite a while now. Aren’ there lessons we could learn from them?

    • FYI: California is in great financial shape and has a budget surplus. Michigan and Maryland both have Republican governors.

      • Appreciate the reply but you mention Repub governors when I’m talking about troubled cities and their Dem mayors, city councils etc. That’s a slick debate trickbut I’m not here for that. I’m sick of righties giving me the half truths that bolster their views, and lefties doing the same from their views.
        Does anybody ever speak from an overview? Is anybody espousing flat out objective truth, meaning the whole truth, not one side’s half truths.
        Again I wish I were more educated on econ, that’s why I ask aren’t there hybrids that would work, or aren’t there things we could learn from the more economically robust and relatively new economies?
        Please only respond to those two questions if you have the econ background to do so. Please save the hackneyed old debate tricks and half truths, I’m truly looking for the overview

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