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Benjamin Jeremy "Ben" Stein (born November 25, 1944) is an Americanmarker actor, writer, and commentator on political and economic issues. He attained early success as a speechwriter for American presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Later he entered the entertainment field and became an actor, comedian, and Emmy Award-winning game show host. He is famous for his humorously monotonous voice in film and television roles.

Stein has frequently written commentaries on economic, political, and social issues, along with financial advice to individual investors. He is the son of noted economist and writer Herbert Stein, who worked at the White Housemarker under President Nixon. His sister, Rachel, is also a writer.

Biography

Early years

Stein was born in Washington, D.C.marker, the son of Mildred (née Fishman), a homemaker, and Herbert Stein, a writer, economist, and presidential adviser. He is Jewish and grew up in the Woodside Forest neighborhood of Silver Spring, Marylandmarker. Stein graduated from Montgomery Blair High Schoolmarker in 1961 along with classmate journalist Carl Bernstein; actress Goldie Hawn (class of 1963) was two years behind. Actor Sylvester Stallone was a schoolmate at Montgomery Hills Junior High School. He went on to major in economics at Columbia University's Columbia College, where he was a member of Alpha Delta Phi society and the Philolexian Society. After graduating with honors from Columbia in 1966, Stein went to Yale Law School, graduating in June 1970. He had stated that he did not have the highest grades in his class at Yale, but was voted valedictorian by the students because he was most popular.

Legal and academic career

He was first a poverty lawyer in New Haven, Connecticutmarker, and Washington, D.C.marker before becoming a trial lawyer for the Federal Trade Commission.

Stein's first teaching stint was as an adjunct professor, teaching about the political and social content of mass culture at American Universitymarker in Washington, D.C., and then at University of California, Santa Cruzmarker. He also held classes on political and civil rights from the United States Constitution at UC Santa Cruzmarker. At Pepperdine Universitymarker in Southern California, Stein taught libel law and United States securities law and its ethical aspects. He was a professor of law at Pepperdine University Law Schoolmarker, from about 1990 to 1997.

In addition, Stein is very interested in American Civil War history, and is a strong supporter of the Civil War Preservation Trust.

Stein was the commencement speaker for the Liberty Universitymarker 2009 graduation on Saturday, May 9, at Williams Stadium. At this ceremony, the University awarded him an honorary degree. According to the school, Stein "delivered a message of creationism, patriotism and value for humanity to graduates and their families."

Writing career

Stein writes frequently on a variety of topics, including politics, investing and economics. He writes a regular column in the conservative magazine The American Spectator. He has also written for numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, New York Magazine, Penthouse, Los Angeles Magazine and Barron's Magazine, where his discussion of the Michael Milken Drexel Burnham Lambert junk bond situation, as well as the ethical dimensions of management buyouts, attracted heavy US national attention in the 1980s and 1990s. He wrote a regular biweekly column for Yahoo! Finance online, with his last article dated August 7th, 2009. His bestselling books (with investment advisor Phil DeMuth) include Yes, You Can Retire Comfortably, Can America Survive?, and Yes, You Can Time the Market. In 2009, he published a collection of essays, The Real Stars.

Stein was fired from his position as a Sunday Business columnist at the The New York Times in August 2009 due to a policy forbidding writers from performing product endorsements or advertising. Stein had recently become an advertising spokesperson for credit information company FreeScore.com, and according to a Times statement, had assumed there would be no conflict provided that he did not discuss credit scoring in general or FreeScore.com itself in his column. However, the publication felt that it would be inappropriate for him to write for them while he was involved in advertising, and terminated his contract. Writing in The Spectator, Stein states his belief that the real reasons for his firing were budget cuts at the Times, his criticism of President Obama, and pressure from those critical of Expelled, who "bamboozled some of the high pooh-bahs at the Times into thinking there was a conflict of interest".

Political career

Stein began his political career as a speechwriter and lawyer for President Richard Nixon, and later for President Gerald Ford. On May 3, 1976, Time magazine speculated on the possibility of Stein having actually been Deep Throat. Stein responded over the years by not only denying he was Deep Throat, but by going further and accusing journalist Bob Woodward of falsifying the famous secret source. In the May 14–21, 1998, edition of the Philadelphia City Paper Stein is quoted saying, "Oh, I don't think there was a Deep Throat. That was a fake. I think there were several different sources and some they just made up." After Mark Felt's identity as Deep Throat was revealed, Stein stated that Richard Nixon would have prevented the rise to power of the Khmer Rouge if he had not been forced to resign. For his actions leading to that resignation, Stein said:

In 2005, Stein said in the American Spectator:

On June 24, 2008, Stein received the Freedom of Expression Award at the Entertainment Merchants Association’s Home Entertainment Awards for "his outspoken economic and political beliefs."

Career in the media

Stein became a Hollywood consultant before he moved into acting. His film career was launched by his performance as the monotonic economics teacher in the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off. In one scene, he gives an unscripted economics lecture, relying on his own experience in economics. The topics covered in his lecture are the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930 and the then-current debate over supply-side economics. Stein decided to just run with it when the director told him to speak about something he knows well. The only scripted lines are those in which he calls attendance, indelibly phrasing the oft-repeated monotone line: "Bueller?...Bueller?"

Stein played similarly bland and unemotional characters. He had a recurring role in the TV series The Wonder Years and played himself in Dave.

He also appeared in several television commercials, most notably for Clear Eyes throughout the 1990s and 2000s ("The difference is clear… Dry Eyes? Clear Eyes.")—many ads spoof movies of the day, such as one where Stein is a painter (a play on The Da Vinci Code). Stein's deadpan, monotone deliveries stand in stark contrast to the more typical enthusiasm of commercial personalities. Before this, he appeared for a Godfather's Pizza ad in 1987 and as a bland science teacher in a 1990 ad for Keebler Sprinkle Cookies.

In 1997 Stein was given his own game show by Comedy Central titled Win Ben Stein's Money along with co-host Jimmy Kimmel (replaced by Nancy Pimental and later by Sal Iacono). True to its name, the money that contestants won on the show was subtracted from the $5,000 Stein earned per episode (in addition to his salary). The show won five Daytime Emmy awards before ending its run in 2003.

In 1999, during the height of Win Ben Stein's Money's popularity, Comedy Central gave Stein another show, a talk show with celebrity guests entitled Turn Ben Stein On. One of the mainstays of the show was Stein's dog, Puppy Wuppy, who had free run of the set.

Other movies and television shows in which Ben Stein has appeared include: Charles in Charge, Seinfeld, Full House, Casper Meets Wendy, The Mask and its sequel, Son of the Mask as well as the TV show, The Mask: The Animated Series, Earthworm Jim , Star Search, MacGyver, Richie Rich, Game Show Moments Gone Bananas, Cavuto on Business, The O'Reilly Factor, CBS News Sunday Morning, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Family Guy, Fairly Odd Parents, Duckman, Married...With Children, and the intelligent design vs. evolution documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

In addition, Stein's voice roles include The Pixies, magical creatures on the animated series The Fairly OddParents, Mr. Purutu on the animated Series The Emperor's New School, Professor Wisenstein in Bruno the Kid, the birthday party clown on "The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" and Pip on Animaniacs. Stein also voiced a psychiatrist, again named after himself, in the USA TV series Duckman; he once appeared in the sitcom Married with Children as a receptionist in the animal afterlife. He also made a cameo appearance in the comic book Young Justice; as Ali Ben Styn. Another cameo appearance was in the Family Guy episode When You Wish Upon a Weinstein. Stein also voiced the character Sam Schmaltz in the 1996 computer adventure game Toonstruck.

In addition, Stein has written for the television industry. He is noted for his outlines for the TV movie Murder in Mississippi and for the lengthy ABC miniseries Amerika. He has also contributed to the creation of the well-liked TV comedy Fernwood 2-Night.

Ben Stein hosted a show on VH1 called America's Most Smartest Model. The show aimed to find the smartest among fourteen models through a series of challenges.

On May 14, 2006, during an appearance on the Fox News program Your World with Neil Cavuto, Stein called for a tax increase of 3.5% for wealthy Americans, to be earmarked for soldiers and military initiatives. Indeed, Stein wrote an editorial for The New York Times critical of those who would rather make money in the world of finance than fight terrorism.

Ben Stein has also been a regular guest on Glenn Beck's daily show on CNN-HN to comment on various economic and social aspects of life in the United States. Recently Beck accused Ben Stein of being a closet liberal because of an article he wrote in the New York Times that advocated taxing the wealthy. Beck further accused him of having "inherited his wealth" a contention that Stein denied.

He is an occasional political and economics commentator on CNBCmarker's Kudlow & Company.

Financial advice prior to 2008 stock market crash

On March 18, 2007, in a column for CBS News' online version of CBS News Sunday Morning, Stein famously proclaimed in the beginning of the subprime mortgage crisis that the foreclosure problem would "blow over and the people who buy now, in due time, will be glad they did," the economy was "still very strong," and the "smart money" was "now trying to buy — not sell — as much distressed merchandise" in mortgages as possible.

On August 18, 2007, on Fox News Channel's Cavuto on Business, Stein appeared with other financial experts dismissing worries of a coming credit crunch. The lone dissenter was Peter Schiff, who predicted that the mortgage sector would create a crisis leading to massive recession, a view that produced laughter from the other experts. Stein strongly recommended investing in then-troubled financial institutions.

Ben Stein: The credit crunch is way overblown. The [financial institutions] are being given away; they're so unbelievably cheap...The subprime problem is a problem, but it's a tiny problem in the context of this economy...It's a buying opportunity, especially for the financials, maybe like I've never seen before in my entire life.

[...]


Peter Schiff: This is just getting started.
It's not just subprimes.
This is a problem for the entire mortgage industry.
It's not just people with bad credit that committed to mortgages they couldn't afford.
It's not just people with bad credit who are going to see their home equity vanish...
This is going to be an enormous credit crunch...


Neil Cavuto: You must be a laugh-riot at parties.


(LAUGHTER)


[...]


Ben Stein: ...subprime is tiny.
Subprime is a tiny, tiny blip.


Peter Schiff: It's not tiny.
And again, it's not just subprime.
It's the entire mortgage market.


Ben Stein: You're simply wrong about that...
Defaults for the whole mortgage market are tiny.


[...]


Ben Stein: I think stocks will be a heck of a lot higher a year from now than they are now.


A year and a month later, in the Global Financial Crisis of September 2008, global stock markets crashed, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taken over by the US government, AIG was bailed out by the Federal Reserve, Merrill Lynch was sold to Bank of America Corporation, and Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs confirmed that they would become traditional bank holding companies.

In a Yahoo! Finance article written on October 17, 2008, Stein explained that his understanding of the debt obligations based on real estate loans was less than the "staggeringly large" amount of obligations that were created through trade in derviatives of those, and so why it wasn't as similar to collapse of junk bond empire in early 1990s as he'd thought it would be: "Where I missed the boat was not realizing how large were the CDS based on the junk mortgage bonds."

Political views

Stein is a pro-life activist and was given a Pro-Life Award in 2003 by the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund. In 2007, Stein chastised the police and the GOP leadership for their response to the Larry Craig scandal. Stein said that Craig's sexuality should not be an issue: "A party that believes in individual rights should be rallying to his defense, not making him walk the plank."

Though often labeled as a political and economic conservative, Stein has criticized the U.S. tax code for being too lenient on the wealthy. He has repeated the observation made by Warren Buffett, one of the richest individuals in the world (who pays mostly capital gains tax), that Buffett pays a lower overall tax rate than his secretaries (who pay income taxes). Stein has advocated increasing taxation on the wealthy.

Stein drew fire for a 2008 interview with Glenn Beck in which Stein compared U.S. President Barack Obama's campaign rally at Invesco Fieldmarker to Adolf Hitler's Nazi rallies at Nurembergmarker. The Economist called Stein's invocation of Nazism an intentional use of logical fallacy to distract from the campaign. Quite notably Ben Stein endorsed Democrat Al Franken in the 2008 Minnesota Senate race, calling him an "impressive guy".

Views on evolution and science

Stein has publicly denounced the theory of evolution, which he and other intelligent design advocates term "Darwinism," declaring it to be "a painful, bloody chapter in the history of ideologies," "the most compelling argument yet for Imperialism," and the inspiration for the Holocaust. Stein does not say belief in the theory of evolution alone leads to genocide, but that scientific materialism is a necessary component. He co-wrote and stars in Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a film that aims to persuade viewers that the theory of evolution was instrumental to the rise of the eugenics movement, Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust, and portrays advocates of intelligent design as victims of intellectual discrimination by the scientific community, which has rejected intelligent design as creationist pseudoscience.

The general media response to the film has been largely unfavorable. It received a 10% meta-score from Rotten Tomatoes. Multiple reviews, including those of USA Today and Scientific American, have described the film as propaganda. The Chicago Tribune's rating was "1 star (poor)," while the New York Times described it as "a conspiracy-theory rant masquerading as investigative inquiry" and "an unprincipled propaganda piece that insults believers and nonbelievers alike." Noted evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who appeared in the film, has strongly criticised Stein's film in an open letter on his website.

In a Trinity Broadcasting Network interview with Paul Crouch Jr. regarding Stein's movie, Stein made the following statement about science and religion:

Stein: When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers, talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.
Crouch: That’s right.
Stein: …Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.
Crouch: Good word, good word.


Due in part to the notoriety he received for a talk he gave on economics at the University of Vermontmarker, Stein was invited to be the commencement speaker at the graduation ceremony for the class of 2009. After the announcement, university president, Dan Fogel, notified Stein that a number of people had complained about Stein speaking at the commencement and receiving an honorary degree from the school, so that when he came he "would not be blindsided". The complaints were because his views of science were "affronts to the basic tenets of the academy." Due to the furor, Stein declined his commencement invitation.

Personal life

Stein is twice married to entertainment lawyer Alexandra Denman, with whom he has an adopted son. He lives with Denman in Beverly Hillsmarker and Malibumarker, Californiamarker. Stein also has a summer home in Sandpoint, Idahomarker.

Bibliography

Stein's book titles to date (7 fiction, 21 nonfiction) include:

Year Title Publisher ISBN
1978
On the Brink: A Novel(Herbert Stein - Coauthor) Ballantine Books ISBN 0-345-27650-7
1978 Dreemz(Hardcover: California Dreemz) Ballantine Books ISBN 0-345-28156-X
1979 The View from Sunset Boulevard: America as brought to you by the people who make television
1982 Ludes
1985 Financial Passages
1986 Her Only Sin ISBN 0-312-90636-6
1988 Hollywood Days, Hollywood Nights: the Diary of a Mad Screenwriter
1992 A License to Steal: the Untold Story of Michael Milken and the Conspiracy to Bilk the Nation ISBN 0671742728
2002 How to Ruin Your Life ISBN 1-56170-974-3
2003 How to Ruin Your Love Life ISBN 1-4019-0240-5
2004 How to Ruin Your Financial Life ISBN 1-4019-0241-3
Can America Survive? The Rage of the Left, the Truth, and What to Do About It ISBN 1-4019-0333-9
2005 Yes, You Can Be a Successful Income Investor: Reaching for Yield in Today's Market ISBN 1-4019-0319-3
Yes, You Can Still Retire Comfortably: The Baby-Boom Retirement Crisis and how to Beat It ISBN 1-4019-0318-5
2006 How Successful People Win: Using "Bunkhouse Logic" to Get What You Want in Life ISBN 1-56170-975-1
2007 The Real Stars: In Today's America, Who Are the True Heroes? New Beginnings Press ISBN 1-40191-144-7
2008 How to Ruin the United States of America ISBN 1-40191-869-7


References

  1. IMDB: Ben Stein bio
  2. Ben Stein Also Sings - Time magazine
  3. CNN.com - Transcripts
  4. JD Journal: " Winning Thoughts from Ben Stein"
  5. Ben Stein's official biography
  6. [1]
  7. https://www.liberty.edu/index.cfm?PID=18495&MID=8025
  8. [2]
  9. [3]
  10. [4]
  11. Interview by Brian Howard: " 20 Questions: Ben Stein" Philadelphia City Paper May, 1998
  12. http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0104807/quotes
  13. Expelled Press Release
  14. "America's Most Smartest Model" (2007)
  15. reality blurred + VH1 plans America's Most Smartest Model, The Salt-N-Pepa Show, Danny Bonaduce's Child Star, and Click!
  16. Stein, Ben: " Looking for the Will Beyond the Battlefield", "New York Times", August 20, 2006
  17. Stein, Ben:" Ben Stein Says Economy Is Fine, Says Don't Worry About Foreclosure Blues, The Mortgage Market Is Robust","CBS News", March 18, 2007
  18. "Fox News recap Aug. 18, 2007", http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,293819,00.html
  19. http://finance.yahoo.com/expert/article/yourlife/115733
  20. Richard Kimble, " Tenth Annual Proudly Pro-Life Awards Dinner Provides a Powerful Testimony for Life"
  21. Ben Stein Says Craig Was Lynched Twice CBS News
  22. Stein, Ben. In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning. New York Times. November 26, 2006.
  23. Media Matters, " Stein on Obama's convention speech"
  24. [5]
  25. "Better Than We Deserve," American Spectator 2007 Dec.
  26. "Ben Stein's Diary #60: From Boston To Berlin," American Spectator 2007 Sep., [6]
  27. "This is propaganda, a political rant disguised as a serious commentary on stifled freedom of inquiry."
  28. Science Equals Murder (article at National Review Online)
  29. Stein, Ben: [7] American Spectator, June 1, 2004, "Happy Bush Country"


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