Ben Stein is off his rocker in dissing unemployed

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Ben Stein is losing it. At 65, the economist, actor, writer and funny guy is either having a senior moment and forgot to think before writing in The American Spectator about the unemployed, or as a millionaire with homes in Beverly Hills and Malibu is so far removed from reality that he hasn't met a long-term unemployed person and has no idea what it's like to be out of a job for two years.

Here's what Stein wrote: "The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities."

Let's think about this: The 6.8 million people who are classified by the federal government as long-term unemployed, meaning they've been jobless for 27 weeks and longer, can't find work because they have poor work habits and bad attitudes, according to Stein. They make up almost half -- 45.5% -- of the unemployed people in the country, so half of the people out of work in America are lazy and have bad attitudes? What are the odds of that happening?

He says "generally" because there are exception to his rule. But in general, Stein writes, as he surveys the ranks of those who are unemployed (and how does he does that, I wonder?) he sees people who he describes as having "overbearing and unpleasant personalities and/or who do not know how to do a day's work. They are people who create either little utility or negative utility on the job."

Thanks, Ben. Generalizations might help explain economics better, but generalizing about an entire group of people -- almost half of the unemployed -- looks like a weak attempt at trying to find a scapegoat so that unemployment benefits aren't extended for the long-term unemployed. In Ben's world, are the Irish always drunk, and is every Italian in the Mafia? Those are generalizations too, Ben.

Employers lay off the least productive or the most negative, Stein says. I don't know if I'm an exception to his general rule, but as an unemployed and now underemployed worker since being laid off two years ago, I can tell you that employers also lay off workers in jobs that are duplicated when one company takes over another, no matter how productive they are or how good their reviews are or how well they get along with others at work.

Poor work habits can't begin to explain the recession and why so many people remain out of work for so long. With five or more applicants for every job, even having excellent work habits and real skills won't necessarily land someone a job.

The 9.5% national unemployment rate has even hit in the tony neighborhoods where Stein hangs out, he says, forcing some of his friends to lose their jobs and their homes. I wonder if any of them had bad attitudes at work that caused them to lose their jobs.

I'm all for having a good attitude and doing an honest day's work, but being told in a national magazine that I and others who have been laid off during the worst recession since the Great Depression can't find jobs because we have poor work habits and poor personalities is a poor attempt at finding a scapegoat for high unemployment.

Ben Stein replies on AOL News.


Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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