ben.jpgFor some reason, Ben Stein has had a long-time platform to pontificate on one of my favorites TV shows — CBS Sunday Morning.

Yesterday, his commentary on job creation was particularly disturbing.

If we leave business alone, he said, jobs will be created. Don’t tax businesses, don’t make them pollute less, don’t give all Americans access to health care.

Stein thinks businesses aren’t hiring because “they’re afraid of what this administration has in store for them.”

Maybe Mr. Stein hasn’t been reading the news in the past few years, but letting businesses do what they want whenever they want created this recession. Right? Am I missing something. A financial sector run amok put us in this predicament following eight years of an administration that liked to be hands off when it came to Corporate America.

That experiment failed miserably.

Even now, in a recession, executive compensation is exploding, and Wall Street is seeing huge bonuses. Workers, on the other hand, saw the smallest wages gains ever in 2009.

This from the Associated Press:

Wages and benefits paid to U.S. workers posted a modest gain in the fourth quarter, ending a year in which recession-battered workers saw their compensation rise by the smallest amount on records going back more than a quarter-century.

Stein claims he — he calls himself “your humble servant” — travels around the country often to talk to business owners and he asks them “if fear of government-required costs associated with new hires inhibits any of them from hiring?”

He claims all their hands go up.

Well, American workers tell me they’ve lost their jobs after years of being loyal to corporations. They tell me they are worked to the bone, many even working overtime for no pay. Some because their employers labeled them supervisors even though they weren’t so they could get out of paying workers for their work. (Staples Inc. just agreed to pay $42 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that alleged the firm wrongly classified certain managers so they could avoid paying overtime.)

And workers tell me their share of health care costs is going up, if they’re lucky enough to get health care at all. And we know many have lost their retirement savings thanks to reckless behavior on the part of executives at the companies they worked for.

Some have even told me they work for employers for free, in so-called internships, hoping to get experience so some company will hire them. But the full-time job is elusive. (I’ll be writing more about that for next week.)

Stein thinks we should give the business world carte blanche and the business world will repay us all with an endless stream of good-paying jobs with benefits.

That seems to be his view of reality. He grew up in a well-to-do Maryland neighborhood and his father was a well-connected economist who was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Nixon and Ford. Ben Stein went on to write speeches for both Nixon and Ford, and was an attorney for the FTC. He also understands Hollywood. He made appearances on a host of TV shows and movies, including Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and he was the game show host of Ben Stein’s Money.

And most notably, he’s made notoriously bad economic predictions.

This is what he said on this same CBS show in 2007 before the grave extent of the mortgage crisis was clear:

This whole subprime mortgage mess is just an excuse for the gunslingers and river boat gamblers on Wall Street to use their tricks to move markets and make money. The economy is still very strong. The most cagey players on Wall Street like Goldman Sachs 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.

You can panic if you enjoy being panicky. But this will all blow over and the people who buy now, in due time, will be glad they did.

It should also be noted that Stein was recently fired from the New York Times for ethics violations.

This from

Ben Stein’s TV ads for a scuzzy “free” credit product have finally caught up to him: The New York Times has fired Stein as a Sunday business columnist for violating ethics guidelines.

Stein was pilloried online for his endorsement of the bait-and-switch operation, which offers a free credit score but charges an outrageous $30 per month to see the credit report behind the score. As Reuters blogger Felix Salmon pointed out, consumers can get a free online report under federal law.

The worst part of Stein’s commentary on CBS yesterday was his use of the Beatles song “Let It Be” as his anthem of what Corporate America needs from government.

“Maybe it’s time to listen to the Beatles and in times of trouble let it be,” he said.

Well, Stein left out some key lyrics:

And when the night is cloudy,
There is still a light that shines on me,
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.

The story goes that “Mary” was actually Paul McCartney’s mother Mary. She died when he was a teenager and his mom supposedly came to him in a dream, inspiring him to write the song.

So, the “let it be” line wasn’t about leaving someone or something alone. It was about not letting a painful moment in your life define you. It was about rising above something that was bringing you down.

Stein, and many others, think it will all work out in the end if we just leave it all alone. Maybe they just don’t know, or have forgotten, what it feels like to be broken, or broke.

And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree,
There will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is
Still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be. Yeah
There will be an answer, let it be.

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