Ben Stein Describes Donald Trump’s Economic Ideas in Two Words


Ben Stein

We report, you decide.

“Breathtakingly horrible”, says Ben Stein in describing Donald Trump’s economic ideas. He also said they were “sheer idiocy”, “nonsensical” and “wacky, wacky as wacky can be” on the CNN newsroom. Stein said he thinks Trump’s ideas on defense and foreign policy are excellent, “but his ideas about the economy are just absolutely bewilderingly foolish.”

Of course we don’t know what Stein would do that would be better.

Economist Ben Stein is a former speechwriter for Nixon and Ford. He’s also an actor and a writer.

“In all of my years as an economist, which is roughly 50 years, I’ve never seen such nonsense as we just heard from Mr. Trump. And it breaks my heart, it makes me want to cry because I’m Republican, I’ve never voted for a Democrat, and to think the guy who’s our likely standard bearer has such nonsensical ideas on every single aspect of the economy is just breathtakingly horrible.”

Trump’s success in business does not translate to understanding economics, Stein said, adding that he is concerned that Trump doesn’t seem to have any real economic advisers.

“You know, I don’t know what goes on in his head. He’s a force of nature. I don’t know what goes on in his head. But it’s frightening that he has no economist advisers. Carl Icahn, a very smart guy on Wall Street who’s made a great deal of money. Steve Wynn who runs best hotels in Las Vegas. But as far as economic advisers, as far as I can tell, he doesn’t have any and he desperately needs some. The things he’s saying are wacky as wacky can be. Just off the charts.”

Stein’s comments stem partly from Donald Trump’s recent interview with The Washington Post and his prior comments about a tariff war.

In an interview with The Washington Post reporters last Thursday, Trump said the country is facing a “massive recession”, he doesn’t need Wall Street, and he will get rid of the $20 trillion debt in 8 years which would mean cutting the budget roughly in half each year though he says he will do it by making great deals.

Trump said we are facing massive bubbles.

“There’s just nothing factual about what he’s saying,” Stein said. “We are not in a bubble. By the way, most of these metrics are measured. The unemployment rate is not 20 percent, something he’s been saying, … [he] might as well say it’s 2 million percent. Might as well count the dead as being unemployed.”

Trump can’t possibly know if there is a recession coming and his ideas won’t fix it, Stein believes.

“There’s no sign we’re heading for a recession, and if we are, he doesn’t know and there’s no way that he’s going to be able to fix it. Cutting taxes is not going to fix it. Renegotiating trade deals with Mexico and China is just a way to start a gigantic recession.”

Donald Trump’s ideas on economics differ distinctly from the Republican platform.

His ideas include massive tariffs on China and Mexico. Trump said a number of times that he would heavily tax imports.

“Let me give you the bad news: Every car, every truck and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35 percent tax — okay? — and that tax is going to be paid simultaneously with the transaction,” Trump said in June, playacting a phone call with Ford’s chief executive.

In an off-the-record interview with the New York Times, he talked about a 45% tariff.

A tariff like that would violate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is the law of the land, and the Constitution.

He also supports putting Wall Street pros like Carl Icahn in charge of the economy.

Trump often says that Larry Kudlow loves his plans but Kudlow has said that he supports his tax-cutting plan, not his views on tariffs, and has not endorsed any candidate.


  1. In what is written above, Stein gives almost no substantive criticisms of Trump’s economic ideas. The tariff issue is something that would need to be done carefully. Stein does not mention that China is very aggressive, it subsidizes all exports and taxes all imports. Mexico is benefiting in a huge way by exploiting the USA, many billions are sent home each year by Mexicans working illegally in the USA. Those illegals also receive many billions in US benefits. Stein favors massive immigration both illegal and illegal as a means for economic recovery. Stein’s claim that the unemployment rate is not much higher than the government number is silly. The government has taken many millions of people out of the job market to reduce the rate. 20 percent is a decent estimate, 1 million percent is impossible, Stein loses the argument by comparing a legitimate number to an impossible number. We have been in a recession for years, demand is down, wages are down, the market is pumped up with currency printing. Stein knows all this, he is just a liar.

  2. you have be blind to not bother looking at U6, which is 10.9%. That’s “formally unemployed” plus part time for economic reasons (that is, they want a full-time job and can’t find one), plus “marginally attached” to the workforce. What is “marginally attached”? It’s people who are sort of trying to get a job.

    The participation rate is 62.8%. The employment:population ratio, that is, the percentage of persons 16+ that are working, is 59.6%. About 15% of the population is over the age of 65 in the United States; if we assume none of them want to work and can’t, adjust for those under 16, and subtract that from the employment:population ratio we wind up with approximately….. 20% of the working-age people are unemployed.

    Oops… Trump is right. Damn.

  3. I like Ben Stein but I don’t always agree with him. I guessed at what he was referring to – tariffs and his interview with the Washington Post. I agree about the unemployment – it’s the U6 number at least. Don’t agree with tariffs or his predictions but I think he’d make a deal and is only using these as starting points.

  4. If we have 95 million out of the workforce, or unemployed, as is frequently published, and 122 million in the workforce, that is a 44% unemployment rate, not 5%, not 10%, not 20%, but 44%.

    The endless lies on how truly bad this economy really is just never ends!

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