Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ben Stein

The intelligent and humorous Ben Stein, actor and commentator presents this interesting take on affairs:
A City on a Hill, or a Looting Opportunity

Just for my own bad self, I love living in the United States of America.
. . .
Life in America in 2006 for an upper middle-class person like me — who, although overweight, still has decent health — is just paradise. There is no place like this place, a shining city on a hill, a gift from God every moment of every day.

But still, with all of that, something is seriously wrong. I could put it into statistics, and in a small way, I will, but I'll mostly put it in layman's terms.

When I was a lad, the chief executive of a major public company was paid about 30 or 40 times what a line worker was paid. Now the multiple is about 180. What did they do in the executive suite to become so great? Upon what meat do they feed? Why, as we are being killed by foreign competition, do we need to pay our executives so much?
. . .
We have immense corporations that cry the blues all day long about how their pension costs are ruining them and how they have to freeze pensions or lay off workers or end pensions altogether (can you say "Friendly Skies?") and turn over the pension liabilities to the taxpayers. And the same corporations set aside many millions for the superpensions of the top executives.
. . .
As I endlessly point out, taxes for the rich are lower than they have ever been in my lifetime. (To be fair, taxes for the nonrich taxes are very low as well.) And this is occurring as we accumulate government liabilities that will kill us in the long run. (And cutting spending will not work. Most federal and state spending is for items that are untouchable, like Medicare, education, the military — and, most cruelly of all, interest on the national debt. Every president promises to cut spending and not one of them does it unless a war comes to an end.)

We are mortgaging ourselves to foreigners on a scale that would make George Washington cry. Every day — every single day — we borrow a billion dollars from foreigners to buy petroleum from abroad, often from countries that hate us. We are the beggars of the world, financing our lavish lifestyle by selling our family heirlooms and by enslaving our progeny with the need to service the debt.

I don't see this — except for the taxes — as a Republican thing or a Democratic thing. It's just the way we live today. Drunken sailors from the Capitol to the freeways. Heirs living on their inheritance and spending it fast. The titans of corporate America getting as much as they can get away with and hiring lawyers and public-relations people if there is a problem. It is later than anyone dares to think.

Is this America, where far too many of the rich endlessly loot their stockholders and kick the employees in the teeth, the America that our soldiers in Ramadi and Kirkuk and Anbar Province and Afghanistan are fighting for? Is this America, where we will end up so far behind the financial eight ball we won't be able to see because of mismanagement by both parties, the America that our men and women are losing limbs for, coming home in boxes for?

The entire article is here.