With President Donald Trump imposing tariffs and steel and aluminum imports, the officials at the National Retail Federation launched a campaign to pressure Trump to roll them back. They tapped Ben Stein, the conservative commentator and occasional actor, to be the face of the campaign. They may be second-guessing that decision.
National Retail Federation Brings Back Ben Stein's "Ferris Bueller" CharacterStein reprised his famous role as the monotone history teacher in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" for the NRF ad. In the movie, Stein lectures an apathetic class about the failed Hawley-Smoot tariff, failing to elicit any responses when he says "Anyone? Anyone?. In the ad, Stein stands in front of a blackboard similar to the one in the movie, and asks, "What are tariffs? Anyone? Anyone know?" This time, he gets a response.
In the movie, while taking attendance, a student named Simone gives Stein's character a long-winded explanation why Ferris is absent. In the ad, a student named Simone gives a long-winded answer about tariffs: "Um, I'm not sure, but my best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from an economist who said that tariffs will raise prices on everything from clothes to cars. I guess it's pretty serious."
"Thank you Simone," says Stein, as he did in the movie, but with a bit more satisfaction this time around. He finishes the point: "Tariffs raise taxes on hard working Americans. It's not complicated. Tariffs are B-A-D economics. Bad economics. Bad."
China Trade Taskforce Busts Ben Stein's Flip-FlopHowever, the China Trade Taskforce, an alliance of two aluminum companies and the steelworkers union, isn't letting NRF get the last word.
In a response ad, CTTF dug up a clip of Stein on the Fox Business Network characterizing Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs as too small to significantly impact consumer prices.
"BEN STEIN, SPECIAL INTEREST PUPPET" blares on the screen, as a narrator says, "Ben Stein has a new ad on television trying to undermine President Trump's historic tariffs." A brief segment of the NRF ad is shown.
"But when Ben is not being paid by special interests," as the screen shows a head shot of Stein next to the NRF logo and a "PAID" stamp, "he seems to say what he really feels."
We then see Stein on Fox Business saying "the tariff is trivial. People don't understand, steel and aluminum do not cost very much. If you raise the price of it by 25 percent, it doesn't change the price of an automobile by very much or a refrigerator by very much at all."
Having busted Stein in a contradiction, a deep voice off-camera belts out an "Oh yeah," harkening back to the 80s song featured in "Ferris Bueller."
The narrator concludes by urging President Trump to "tell Ben Stein to take a day off."