In our misspent youth, it was Liddy. These days -- much as we like John "Worse Than Watergate" Dean -- it's Ben Stein. Why? Well, he used to be the host of a terrific, and funny, game show. That wins him points. But the main attraction is his Times business-section column, which we don't think gets nearly enough attention. Week after week, Stein applies his legal and economic smarts and his traditional (meaning pre-Reagan) values to the present world. Often, he does it with the mordant wit you remember from his show. But sometimes -- such as today's column -- he lets loose with a howl of moral outrage.
O tempora! O mores! Could Ben Stein be our nation's Cicero? You decide:
"Now, you remember how we were having those tax cuts for the very rich so they could invest more and make America grow? Remember that?
"Well, surprise! Some of that money is going to lavish Sweet 16 parties and $10 million bat mitzvahs, with Tom Petty and Kenny G and private jets flying the guests around. Five-hundred-thousand-dollar parties in New York and Malibu are no longer at all unusual. Even million-dollar parties for the rich are not out of the ordinary, according to the party planners on the [Donny Deutsch] show.
"...Is this what America is all about? We’re in a war and we cut taxes to stimulate the economy — and it probably did — and we are having million-dollar parties at home while our soldiers are paid starvation wages to offer up their lives in Iraq? We’re in a war and the government cannot afford to pay for adequate training for our soldiers, but the society at home is routinely having million-dollar weddings and bar mitzvahs?
"Can anyone say 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'?"