Ben Stein's Diary

Attention Must Be Paid

The truth about the shutdown.

By 10.17.13

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Wednesday Night
I am in Houston. It's raining clichés and nonsense on the TV news channels. Since I am old and have no plans to run for office ever, I think I will tell you the truth as I humbly see it about the budget/debt default crisis that just was very temporarily averted tonight…

1. It was not a waste of time for the GOP in the House to fight very hard to get the President to change Obamacare in a comprehensive way. The law is already a gigantic miscarriage of the legislative process. For the GOP to fight to straighten out a badly miscreated law was good, not bad.

2. No one, and I mean, NO ONE, can say with any certainty that the government shutdown cost $28 billion or any other sum. It might well not have cost anything. The fact that S&P says the shutdown cost $28 billion is like saying they know there are men on Mars. It is just meaningless. It cannot be calculated.

3. The debate was not valueless in another way. It showed how angry many middle class voters are about what I would call "the entitlement society." They feel they do all of the work, pay the taxes, and others get the benefits. The debate showed that there are real seams in the fabric of the society and they are being pulled dangerously close to the breaking point. Attention must be paid.

4. There is endless talk on the talk shows about how this affects the voters and upcoming elections but the debate was about more than that: this has become a high entitlement, low tax nation. That cannot last. Either taxes must go up a lot or entitlements must go down. That will be true no matter who is President in 2017.

5. The racial polarization in this country is becoming extreme. The black voting block is solidly liberal Democrat. The Republican conservatives are all white except for one or two stragglers. The anger on both sides is profound and getting worse. This is dangerous.

A racially split country with pent up rage is a scary place to be. 

6. As far as I can tell, until the GOP gets a candidate who is a likable, charismatic man or woman with a platform that comes close to addressing reality, and is so loved by white voters that he or she can overcome the power of the black voting block and the one-sided media, there will be no more GOP Presidents. It can happen, but we need someone who is not a freak, is extremely likable, and does not come across as a capitalist pig or a nutty old uncle. There must be someone out there. I love Senator Rubio and he's my guy, but let's make really sure he's not crazy.

Meanwhile, I have just come from being in and among the salt of the earth, Greenwood and Greenville, South Carolina. Polite, happy people. I spoke at a hospital fundraiser and as I was coming around a corner at the hospital (in Greenwood) a black man said, "You have blessings shining off you today."

"So do you," I said, and this is the way it should be.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.