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Ben Stein: ‘I Don’t Think Trump Knows a G*ddamn Thing About Economics’

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What do you think the economy would look like two years into the presidency of all three remaining presidential candidates?

All the candidates are against free trade – that’s a disastrous mistake. Free trade is one of the main sources of economic growth. Any interference with free trade in the long run produces negative results for the country that imposes the restrictions. One of the great breakthroughs in all of human history has been free trade.

When I hear Mr Trump or Mrs Clinton or Mr Sanders talk about how they are going to stop free trade and in some way block America from being part of the world trading system, it makes my blood run cold. That’s a terrible, terrible prospect.

Second, it is very clear, extremely clear, that additional regulation on the economy at this point would be a burden on growth and whichever candidate imposes the most regulation is going to get the least growth. I give credit to Mr Trump, who says he is going to reduce regulation. If Mr Sanders were president, it would be an absolute, total catastrophe. He would regulate the American economy to death. Mrs Clinton, I think, would do a fine job. I don’t worry about her in terms of regulation at all. Except that her taxes on the fossil fuel industry are unwarranted and unwise.

In terms of tax policy, all of them say they are going to cut taxes on the poor, but that’s a fake because the American poor already pay no taxes. Approximately 50% of American wage earners don’t pay any tax already, so that’s a fake.

In terms of raising tax on the rich, frankly, I think that’s a good idea. The rich in this country are really, really rich. And they can pay more tax. Whether that’s going to be enough to substantially affect the deficit is very, very questionable. I applaud Mr Sanders for wanting to seriously raise rates on the rich. That is something that should happen. If he did it, there would be a lot of yelling and screaming but I don’t think the deficit would be affected very much.

Mrs Clinton, I think, has a more balanced approach. I think probably a good approach. Mr Trump says he can both reduce taxes and reduce the deficit. That’s complete nonsense.

What do you think of Trump as a businessman? 

He is not a great businessman. He inherited a great deal of money. He did some successful real estate deals. Hardly anyone could miss doing successful real estate deals in New York considering the incredible boom that has taken place and the very low base point when he started out. He is not a great businessman at all – in no way.

Let me back up and say, everyone I know says he is an incredibly nice guy. That’s got to count for something. I don’t think he is a great businessman and even if he were a great businessman, that doesn’t mean he would be a great steward of the US economy. The two have nothing to do with each other.

Imagine Trump is elected president and he starts enforcing some of the policies he has mentioned. Would the economy improve, stay the same or get worse? 

It would get much worse. In terms, it would be a disaster. Trade is very important. The US economy is roughly 15% trade dependent – very roughly 15%.

The question of the day: would his gains in fossil fuel deregulation offset the losses in trade? I doubt it.

It’s very, very important that he get educated about the benefits of free trade.

What does his popularity with working-class Americans mean? What do the regular folks feel about the economy?

I don’t think the regular folks – of course, I don’t know that many regular folks – but I don’t think the regular folks know much about the economy or about how trade works. If the regular folks think that China came along in the middle of the night and stole all their jobs, then nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just nonsense. I think Trump is popular because he says: I am going to go to China and get those jobs back. But he is not going to be able to do that. And any attempt to try would be a disaster.

Could we educate people about why certain jobs have been lost? Anything to change their minds about this kind of rhetoric? 

I don’t think so. I hate to say that. The only thing, I think, that would change their minds is if one of these anti-free trade candidates became president and they saw the terrible results. I think that might change their minds.  There are plenty of smart people out there saying: don’t stop free trade. Keep free trade alive and well.

I don’t think Mr Trump is listening. I don’t think Hillary is listening. I don’t think Mr Sanders is listening. I don’t think they are listening.

Are you surprised that Trump is basically the nominee of the Republican party? 

I am absolutely … I am open-mouthed, gasping, unbelievable. But he has his charms. There must be something people like about him. I don’t get him but there must be something people like.

I’ll vote for him, by the way. I’ll vote for him because I think he does personify a kind of national pride which I think has been lacking in the Obama days and would be terribly lacking under Bernie Sanders and terribly lacking under Hillary Clinton. But I think his economics is way, way out of whack and he seriously needs some education about it.

Do you think Congress would let Trump implement the type of policies he has suggested?

Yes, I do. If he had Republican Congress, I think they would let him attack free trade. But then when the trade war starts and businesses start closing, I think they would be singing a different tune.

You said the candidates know so little. Do you think it’s that they know so little or are they just saying what they think people want to hear? 

I don’t think Trump knows a goddamn thing about economics. But I like him anyway, I might add. I think Mrs Clinton knows something about it. She is an intelligent woman, she went to Wellesley. She was a classmate of mine at Yale law school and I hope we learned something while we were there. And, as to Mr Sanders, I think he is purposely, willfully ignorant. I think he is a person who could be educated but he has some kind of personality defect that prevents him from being educated.

(via: The Guardian)

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