Ben Stein on Congress Power Shift, Economy

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This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," November 14, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: It's the first full week of a major power shift in Congress, so we're learning a lot about this newly elected leadership.

For one thing, sure-to-be next House Speaker, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, is causing a stir with her pick for majority leader. She, of course, as we were discussing, backs Congressman Jack Murtha, an anti-war Democrat, whose track record in the ethics department has raised some eyebrows. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the new Senate leadership.

Here now with his take on the 110th Congress, economist, lawyer, actor and author of "Yes, You Too Can Retire Comfortably," Ben Stein.

So Ben, I was talking about it at the top of the show. These Democrats got elected on "Get the bums out," especially on this earmark thing, which has led to a lot of corruption that got the Republicans in trouble. And here's Murtha, he appears to be doing the same thing. What is a voter to think?

BEN STEIN, AUTHOR, "YES, YOU TOO CAN RETIRE COMFORTABLY": Well, do you know the rock group The Who? They have an incredible song that begins, or has as its refrain, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." And politicians are politicians. It's their job to seek money from the taxpayers, to bribe the voters in their district to re-elect them. That's what they do. That's what all congresspeople do.

But I think Harry Reid is a very peculiar case because he was caught doing a very questionable land deal in Nevada and basically just got even — did not even get a slap on the wrist. I don't understand that. I mean, if that had been a Republican, they would have taken him out and drawn and quartered him.

GIBSON: The other thing that the Democrats — one of the things they inherit, they inherit a bunch of problems that...

STEIN: They sure do.

GIBSON: ...that they say they can fix.

STEIN: Yes, they can't.

GIBSON: But they inherit a pretty good economy.

STEIN: They inherit a very good economy, except for an enormous budget deficit, which should not be happening in full employment, and a stupendous, stupendous trade deficit, and a stupendous retirement deficit, and a stupendous Medicare deficit.

And higher taxes are on their way. They're barreling down the track. Maybe Bush will veto them, but if there's a Democrat in the White House and on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in 2009, higher taxes for sure. I think even if there isn't a Democrat, higher taxes for sure.

GIBSON: Take a look at this Gallup poll, Ben. This is what the Dems — do you want the Dems to have more influence than President Bush. Sixty- one percent said yes. So the public prefers to have these Democrats running things here, even for the balance of the president's term.

No. 1, do you think that would happen? And No. 2, how would that happen?

STEIN: Well, they can't have more influence under the Constitution than the president. I mean, they are the — I mean, they propose legislation, they can pass legislation. He can veto it, it won't get through.

But, you know, the bottom line of this is we're fighting a losing war in Iraq. We, the greatest power in the world, 300 million very prosperous, educated people, by and large — not my son — are losing a war to 5,000 or 10,000 thugs in Iraq. It's on the news every minute, it's in the newspapers every minute. Drip, drip, drip, drip, drip of blood and death, of Americans being killed for no discernible purpose in Iraq.

The media hammers it home day after day after day. We have not been in that situation where we had a losing war on our hands since 1973, and when that happened the voters took extreme vengeance on President Nixon. So there is a very — and they took extreme vengeance on President Johnson. There is extreme hell to pay if you're prosecuting a war and you're losing. The voters don't like it.

GIBSON: Well, if that's the deal they've got to face on Iraq, can they handle this economy in such a way as to keep the perception up that it's a good economy?

STEIN: Well, the Democrats can't do anything about Iraq or the economy. I mean, it's not in their hands. The economy is basically in the hands of the Federal Reserve. They're doing an incredibly great job. Ben Bernanke seems to be a genius in the Greenspan mold.

They can't do a thing about the war in Iraq. We can withdraw, but it's going to be chaos and a bloodbath, but it's already chaos and a bloodbath. I mean, there's nothing the Democrats can do.

And you know, Nancy Pelosi said something very smart and very revealing. When she was campaigning against the Republicans, someone said: Don't we have to have our own plan? Can we beat something with nothing? And she said, yep, we can beat something with nothing. And the nothing is pure negativity and criticism. And they won with that.

GIBSON: This is National Retirement Planning Week.

STEIN: Yes, save more money.

GIBSON: Your contribution to that is?

STEIN: I go around and I whip people with a lash, and I say, save more money. Save it in variable annuities, low-cost loans, preferably, save it in stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, index funds but save money. Nobody's going to rescue you but you.

GIBSON: The Web site is on the screen. It was yourretirement.com?

STEIN: No. www.retireonyourterms.org.

It's so bad to be old and poor. I know a lot of people who are. Please, spare yourself that. Save yourself now while you can.

GIBSON: The great Ben Stein, here on our show. Ben, it's always good to see you.

STEIN: Honored to be here. Thank you so much, sir.

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