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Ben Stein: "Are We Brave Enough To Sacrifice Our Careers To Save Our Country?"

BEN STEIN, ECONOMIST: I mean the situation is just hopeless. I mean poor Mr. Lew, who was just nominated to be secretary of the Treasury. It's a very prestigious post. I've been in that room in the Treasury Department many times. It's a magnificent office. It has its own fireplace. But he might as well burn himself up in it. I mean there's nothing to be done about this budgetary situation. The budgetary deficit is just going to grow and grow and grow until it eats us all alive. There's nothing to be done but accept things that are very, very uncomfortable. And as I say, you have to laugh to keep from crying.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN: But Congress won't do anything uncomfortable. This Congress for 20 years has only passed laws and made policies with an eye to getting re-elected again. You know, if you looked at Congress as a stock, an 18 percent approval rating. The least productive Congress in history last year. And they're just running up a bill for taxpayers. I mean it's ridiculous.

STEIN: Well, Thomas Jefferson predicted that the democracy would not last in this country because politicians would just endlessly vote to spend money on things that the country couldn't afford in order to get themselves re-elected. And that's exactly what has happened. But it's happening now at a geometrically higher rate than has happened in the past.

ROMANS: Yes.

STEIN: As the population ages. It's just a hopeless situation. We're going to have to have -- we're going to finally have to have dramatically higher taxes on everyone, the middle class up to the rich, and there's going to have to be a dramatic cut in entitlements for the upper middle class and the upper classes. Just, it has to happen. That's arithmetic. It's arithmetic. That's it, it's arithmetic. We hate it arithmetic, but it's real.

ROMANS: I love arithmetic, actually, but there's not any honest arithmetic really in Washington. But let me -- I want to show you this arithmetic. A new public policy polling survey. Congress is now less popular than head lice, cockroaches and Donald Trump. That's funny.

STEIN: Well, I don't get why anyone would vote for head lice or why would anyone like head lice or cockroaches unless he's a bug scientist. I don't get that at all. And I like Donald Trump. But I -- I mean, I just don't get at all what anyone expects them to be able to do until they pull their heads out of the sand and say, look, we're going to have to do brave, kamikaze type action here --

ROMANS: Yes.

STEIN: Where we risk very much not being re-elected in order to save this country. Are we brave enough to sacrifice our careers to save our country? We'll see. We'll separate who's brave and who's not.

ROMANS: You don't get re-elected by saying, you're going to have to lower your living standards to pay for your living standards up to this point. You don't get re-elected saying that when that might very well be the honest truth.

STEIN: Exactly. But you might get re-elected if you say, we're going to give you a chance to cast the vote which will preserve this country for your children and grandchildren. That's the chance Congress is going to have to take.

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