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Wall Street shouldn’t celebrate

Marketplace Staff May 23, 2007
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Wall Street shouldn’t celebrate

Marketplace Staff May 23, 2007
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TEXT OF COMMENTARY

KAI RYSSDAL: You know, it’s not just the S & P and the Dow. The records are being broken all over the place this week. Everything from the Russell 1000 to the Wilshire 5000 are in uncharted territory.

To look around on Wall Street, you’d think we were back in the days before anybody knew what a dot-com bust was. Commentator Ben Stein says all that investor enthusiam’s misplaced.


BEN STEIN: There’s a wonderfully sad movie from Italy called “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.” It’s about a rich Jewish family in Italy as the Nazis take over. The family lives lavishly in the garden inside their walls, as if nothing bad were going on outside — until one day, the Nazis storm in, and the wealthy Jewish family is sent to the gas chambers.

In a way, the stock market in America recently reminds me of the Garden of the Finzi-Continis. We’re inside the walls of our beloved America, watching money grow and lining up for Bentleys. But outside, out in that terrifying place called the outside world, disasters not only lurk, but are sometimes happening right now.

We’re not winning the war on terrorism. Al Qaeda is resurgent in Afghanistan, along with their pals the Taliban. The collapse of order in Iraq is beyond words. Now, it’s reported that Al Qaeda has control over some of Iraq’s oil, and therefore virtually unlimited revenues for their wickedness.

Scary. Pakistan is ruled shakily by a man who befriends the U.S., and at the same time cozies up to the Taliban. Saudi Arabia, world’s largest owner of oil reserves, is beset by Iran and by internal subversion. Venezuela is ruled by an actual psychopath, who would love to use his oil to bring us to our knees.

Yet almost every day, the stock market soars, as if all of these terrible facts were happening in another universe far, far away. Nine-eleven should have told us we’re all in the same very dangerous world, and it’s getting a lot more dangerous every day.

If there’s a bad terrorist incident blocking the flow of oil, oil prices surge and the economy is in peril. If there’s a big terrorist incident anywhere, interest rates shoot up and the economy slows drastically.

This is what the terrorists are planning, and their plans often work. Why is the stock market celebrating? Our walls are mighty thin, and what’s outside them does not wish us well.

RYSSDAL: Ben Stein is an actor and a writer. He’s a lawyer and an economist, too.

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