Ben Stein had a nice little article on Sunday in which he recounts hearing a Jefferson Starship song on the radio, feels compelled to “put on [his] swim trucks” (a visual we could’ve dealt without but appreciated nonetheless), goes for a dip in his “superheated pool” and “looks up at the stars.” While splashing around in the water he starts to think about his life—his “wonderful” wife, his son who’s the “handsomest son on the planet,” his “glorious” homes, his “great, super” parents, his kick-ass game show, his starring roles in the Visine Clear Eyes commercials, those recurring spots on Charles in Charge, etc, etc. All of the gleaming (egomaniacal, probably exaggerated) superlatives, he credits to capitalism. It was because of capitalism that his parents, Eastern European Jews (represent!), could make money “as individuals according to contract,” not “according to the statues of [their] birth.” The senior Steins’ accumulation of wealth then set the ball in motion for junior Stein to go to law school, get rich, marry what sounds like a pretty hot wife, and afford the cost of an equally attractive sperm donor from which the “handsomest son on the planet” sprang forth, buy the huge house with the “superheated pool” and so on and so forth.
But the more laps he swims, the more Stein starts to get angry-- really angry (and not just because the water temperature has dipped to an uncivilized 72°). So angry that he starts to talk about “yeoman farmers” and “hammers” and “granite foundations” (though we’re pretty sure that can be chalked up to the drugs). Capitalism, Stein posits to the handful of people who recognize him outside of “Bueller, Bueller,” can only thrive in the presence of trust. When there’s no trust, there’s no capitalism, and when there’s no capitalism, there’s no “superheated pools” or hot wives or handsome sons or recurring spots on Charles in Charge. All there is are lukewarm pools and mildly attractive but nothing to write home about wives and so-so looking sons and blink-and-you-miss-it bits on, we don’t know, Moesha. And you know who’s to blame for this lack of trust? Stein does:
When I see what the top dogs at all too many corporations are now doing to that trust, I feel queasy. Outrageous—yes, obscene—pay.
You know who should also be held accountable? Washington. They’re all “crooks” there, too. No, if we don’t crack down on thieves like Jobs and, you know, liberals, and fast, you know what’s going to happen? Stein’s going to lose money, he’s going to have to downsize to an aboveground pool; and in order to keep his wife in the lifestyle she’s become accustomed to, he’s going to actually have to take those walk-ons on Moesha.
Greedy backdating of stock options, which in my opinion is straight-up theft. Mangers buying assets from their trustors, the stockholders, at pennies on the dollar, then forestalling competing bids with lockups and insane break up fees.
You see? Already preparing for the worst.
(We’re not saying we agree or disagree with Stein’s anger over corporate greed, thievery, etc, etc—taking actual stances on issues always comes back to bite us in the ass. But maybe next time he should orate from a place other than his “superheated pool”—his gold plated double-wide shower, perhaps?—if he wants people to “feel [his] pain.” Otherwise, it just sounds like BS, BS. Not that there's anything wrong with that).
The Hard Rain That’s Falling on Capitalism [NYT]