Ben Stein offers to eat Bill O’Reilly’s shoe during tax debate

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On Monday's O'Reilly Factor, the very assured Bill O'Reilly took a counterintuitive swipe at a vacationing President Obama, by saying that it's better for all of us that the president is golfing in Martha's Vineyard and not involved in economic matters for a while, because, to paraphrase, he's just screwing everything up. President Obama has single-handedly messed everything up, right? O'Reilly closed out his Talking Points segment with a mild put-down of Warren Buffett, an eminently rational evangelist of raising taxes on the superwealthy, including himself. He said, like his namesake Jimmy, perhaps "old Warren is spending some time in Margaritaville."

O'Reilly then brought on actors Wayne Rogers, a savvy investor, and the independent-minded Ben Stein, fishing for some consensus. Everyone seemed to agree that spending has been excessive, but the conservative Stein defended Obama, saying he didn't cause the recession, and that the debt problem was teed up to him (apropos golf metaphor) by George W. Bush.

Rogers pointed out that more blame should be assigned to the Congress than the president for our economic woes, because they make the laws, after all. O'Reilly then tried to suggest that every time the president opens his mouth about economic matters on TV, the stock market plummets. His guests brushed this off, but since right or wrong O'Reilly's always right, he said, "There's a psychology to this and you both know it," and moved on.

The benefits of taxing the rich are hotly debated, with Buffett as wealthy poster child for fiscal responsibility, and O'Reilly, wealthy himself, claiming that by raising taxes on the rich, you would just be "feeding the flames" of the recession. Read: O'Reilly loves his money and doesn't want to sacrifice any of it for the good of the country. That's his prerogative, but he should at least admit that there's no downside to making the wealthy less wealthy, unless he really believes what he says.

Stein doesn't believe what O'Reilly says. He remarked, "That isn't true. There is no correlation, Mr. O'Reilly, between tax rates on millionaires and people above that level, billionaires, and the growth of the economy… Higher taxes have historically correlated with more growth." 

O'Reilly then tried to argue that raising taxes would lead to more unemployment as business owners did less hiring, but Stein wasn't buying it. He said, "Mr. O'Reilly, there is no correlation of raising taxes and unemployment. If you can show it to me, I'll eat your shoe." Even if O'Reilly is right, he shouldn't admit it, because having his shoe eaten would mean he would have to dip into his wallet to buy a new pair.