Ben Stein Tells Rick Perry to 'Get Some Moderation in His Speech' and Economics Lessons

August 21st, 2011 4:09 PM

Economist Ben Stein had some harsh words for Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry on "CBS Sunday Morning."

Responding to comments the Texas governor made earlier in the week concerning Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Stein said, "I hope he'll get some moderation in his speech, and some lessons in economics, and soon" (video follows with transcript and commentary):

BEN STEIN: I was going to leave you alone for this month and just spend it on my boat up at Lake Pendoreille in North Idaho, a mountain lake where ospreys soar and where I feel at peace. But Governor Rick Perry of Texas - possibly the nation's next President - has shocked me out of my mountain reverie.

A few days ago, Governor Perry said in campaigning in Iowa that it would be something akin to "treason" for the head of the Federal Reserve Board, Professor Ben Bernanke, to "print" more money between now and Election Day. That, said Gov. Perry, would only reduce the purchasing power of Americans.

Now, I like Gov. Perry. I agree with him on almost every social issue. But may I respectfully offer him a lesson in economics? This economy is stuck in a cruelly slow recovery from a recession that started on Bush 43's watch. Mr. Obama, a likeable man, is trying to get the economy moving again. Mr. Bernanke, who has made many mistakes at the Fed, is also trying desperate measures to get the economy moving again.

One of the measures the Fed is using is to increase the money supply or what Gov. Perry would call "printing money." Typically this is a helpful move, although it hasn’t been lately. It's not a radical move. It's not anywhere near a "treasonous" move. It is not at all clear that in an economy as weak as ours that creating more money would cause inflation.

The idea is to make money cheaper so businesses will borrow and then invest. Frankly, once again, it has not worked so far. But it is an orthodox, classic move. It is a move by a man, Chairman Ben Bernanke, who wants to help his country recover.

To call Chairman Bernanke - a patriot doing his best for his country - "treasonous" is a serious mistake. Gov. Perry is new to national politics. But he's in a way a star, and I can see him someday in the Oval Office. I hope he'll get some moderation in his speech, and some lessons in economics, and soon.

I've been a fan of Stein's for years, but I think he's offbase here.

When he said, "It is not at all clear that in an economy as weak as ours that creating more money would cause inflation," that's certainly not what dollar and commodity traders have been saying.

With gold at all-time highs, and the dollar trading at multi-year lows against most other currencies, professional investors are indeed betting on a serious inflationary spiral.

Does that mean they're right? Certainly not. But there are many on Wall Street who believe the monetary policies of the Fed are without question causing a decline in the value of the dollar and a rise in most commodities prices that will indeed lead to inflation.

Perry is by no means alone in this view; if he needs some lessons in economics, so do all the people around the world buying gold and shorting the dollar.

As for "moderation in his speech," we now live in a nation where leading Democrats and members of the media refer to huge portions of the population as terrorists, thugs, and hostage-takers.

If that is acceptable, a presidential candidate accusing the Fed chairman of treasonous acts should be as well.

When folks in the media take a stand against the constant invective aimed at conservatives and especially members of the Tea Party, then they can tell politicians to tone done their rhetoric.

Until that happens, all's fair in love, war, and politics.