Ben Stein's Lack of Self-Awareness.

Ben Stein, the former Nixon official and television personality who now spends his time pretending to be an economist (he's not) writes about unemployment at the American Spectator:

I have lived through many recessions. ... Until now, I never had a friend who was truly in financial extremis from a recession. When recessions happened, they happened to people in Ohio or Illinois or Michigan. Now, they have hit hard in California and in the law field where so many of my friends work and in Washington, D.C. (yes, even in D.C.) where I am from. ... The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities.

Hey, Ben? Not only has your lack of self-awareness led you to write a column moaning about your wealthy friends' retirement troubles even as you offer shopworn stereotypes about people you've never met, but you're happily complicit in the kind of predatory financial behavior that hurt consumers.

Yup, Stein was a spokesperson for a shady company called Freescore that tricked consumers seeking their free credit reports into signing up for a monthly program that charged a fee, then making it extremely difficult for them to leave. Financial journalist Felix Salmon spent plenty of time criticizing Stein's lack of ethics when Stein was both a financial columnist at The New York Times and endorsing this scheme -- Stein was eventually fired from the Times. Now fake economist Stein argues that unproductive people ought to be laid off, even as one of his recent "productive" accomplishments is tantamount to a con job. 

Let's look at some actual facts about unemployment. Scott Winship was previously skeptical of unemployment benefits -- until he looked at the data and found that there are about five unemployed people for every job opening, suggesting that this is a problem of labor demand, not supply. Many, many people who have perfectly fine work habits and personalities are unemployed today because we're simply not creating enough jobs -- not even enough to keep up with population growth!

Incidentally, the Stein, who today lauds "old-fashioned habits of buying modestly and living within one’s means," is the same guy who in 2007, as the subprime bubble began to pop, told CBS viewers that Wall Street banks are "are now trying to buy -- not sell -- as much distressed merchandise in the mortgage area as they can. This is a good clue about where the smart money is going. ... This will all blow over and the people who buy now, in due time, will be glad they did."

-- Tim Fernholz

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