Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ben Stein Is An Asshole

Every once in awhile I like to put a spotlight on some right winger I feel is out of touch with the average American. This time I'm gonna shine it on financial whiz >snicker<,Ben Stein best known as the teacher in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off". He played the boring economics teacher who kept saying "Buuuuelller."



Comedy gold for sure. Like it or not that is going to be his legacy. He probably would like to be known for being a right wing (I mean, Conservative) pundit. However if he keep coming up with claptrap like this column, he won't even have a beloved legacy to fall back on.

Here's Ben Stein, an elitist who thinks everyone else should serve him as he sees fit because he's Ben Stein damn it.

This column linked features an outing he had, when he went to Barnes and Noble and got some unsatisfying service. Since he's Ben Stein damn it, he has a forum to write about his grievances that I will deconstruct in the following paragraphs.

Now for a few words that may give you some guidance on life as it is.

Here Ben Stein talks to his reader as though they have no clue on what real life is, he will help you out. So, in the very first sentence he condescends to us.

Last week, my pal Mike Long and I had dinner at a Thai place in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. Then we walked one long, steep block to Barnes & Noble so I could buy a few photo books of D.C. to send to my friends in California.

He sets the scene, he's in the elite section of Washington DC having a Thai meal, don't want anyone to think he'd settle for Chinese takeout.

He's Ben Stein Dammit!

He then mentions he walked, like a regular guy up a LONG, STEEP block to Barnes & Noble.

Woo! No pantywaist that Ben! No taxi for him.

He also mentions the store being empty because of hard rain. Yeah! Tough guy Ben Stein walks uphill in torrid rainfall to buy picture books for a friend in California.

I found several lovely books and brought them to the sales counter, where two young salesclerks, a man and a woman, were lounging.

He bought "lovely" books. How effete Ben. Lovely, you say?

He mentions that the two salesclerks were lounging. This displeases King Ben.

"Stand at attention you lazy louts! I wish to purchase lovely books, Dammit!"

But Ben doesn't just want to purchase the books he wants low paying employees at Barnes & Noble BookSELLERS to mail them. He wants them to >poof!<>

He wants them to go the extra mile Dammit!

The problem with going the extra mile is you end up in the wrong town.

The young clerks looked worried. "We don't know how to do that," one of them said.

"You don't ever send books?" I asked.

"Hey, we're students at George Washington University," the young woman said. "We don't know how to do much."

"But surely other customers have wanted to send books," I said.

They shrugged.

This exchange doesn't ring true to me. I don't doubt that they said they couldn't mail it, and if Ben Stein had used any of his brain he would have known that there is no infrastructure to do that in individual Barnes & Noble BookSELLERS stores. I would question his unawareness of something called the Internet but that would be a third act spoiler.

What doesn't ring true is the idea that students of George Washington University would say that they don't know how to do much. I think that's Ben Stein projecting. It's a typical right wingdig at anyone who goes to college these days are lazy liberals raised by hippies being taught by radicals to hate America.

Yawn! time to get a new playbook, Mr. Stein.

"Can you call over a manager?" I asked.

"Yes," the young woman said eagerly. Soon, a pretty young woman with short hair appeared.

Mr. Stein is pleased with the appearance of the comely appearance of the manager, maybe she will save the Ben from the incompetence of these peasants.

She was indeed the manager, but she didn't know how to send the books, either. In fact, even after I'd carefully spelled out all of the addresses, they couldn't figure out how to send anything.

Ooops! She can't.

Okay, Ben, here's the story. They don't have a delivery system to individuals available in corporate bookstores. That's not their function. Did you see the scale behind the counter to weigh the "lovely" picture books to determine how much extra they need to charge you for delivery?

What? You thought that there would not be any extra charge?

Oh Ben, Ben, Ben. Do you think that the free market means free handouts to minor celebrities?

Worse yet, just the effort "froze" the checkout computer such that it couldn't even let me buy the books to mail myself.

Uh Oh, technology fails Mr. Stein. My God, how will he get through this horrible day?

Now, bear in mind, this is in a time when people are supposedly suffering financially and need jobs.

Ahhh, now we're getting somewhere. People who make a pittance should appreciate the fact they even HAVE a job. This is a right wing tactic that ignores the fact it's the Neo-ConArtist agenda that gave us the struggling economy and the working structure of low wage slaves that are only trained to do minor tasks and discouraged from doing anything beyond their job title.

Trust me, I've worked the service industry.

I like the way he can take this experience and dismiss the possibility of anyone in this country suffering and needing jobs. Flyover country is foreign to Mr. Stein.

As Mike and I walked back to my apartment, I said, "That was amazing. Those people didn't know how to do a basic transaction like mailing books."

Again, Ben Stein ignores the function of the Book Seller. It's to sell books not mail them. Maybe the Pizza Delivery guy knows how to mow your lawn, but it's not his job to do so when he's delivering pizza. Especially if he doesn't have a lawn mower. A similar situation you find in a typical B&N bookSELLER store.

The fact that the clerks and manager never had requests to mail books should have tipped you off what an elitist pain in the ass you are.

"No," he corrected me, "they don't want to do it. They didn't even really try very hard. They're college students. That means they don't care at all. They're getting paid whether they send the books or not. They're like civil servants -- only civil servants have a good attitude, and these guys have a poor attitude."

"You're right," I said.

Okay, Mr. Stein probably hasn't made less than 7 dollars an hour since the late 60's. Times have changed. 7 dollars an hour is beyond poverty wages, especially in places like Georgetown.

Here's an old statement "You Get What You Pay For" If you pay someone 7 dollars an hour that's the kind of service you get and should expect. This is the legacy of your hero Ronald Reagan, to cut expenses to the bone so shares of stocks go up.

Students of GWU are most likely going to become lawyers. They are only working at the store during the school year. They are not making a career at the corporate bookstore. They will barely make enough to pay for books at the school even with the possible discount to pay for the textbooks that MAY be available. They realize they are being screwed so they will not go out of the way to please an elitist TV talking head. I love the fact that snobs who are a pain in the ass expect people to adjust their attitude because they have money. I doubt Ben Stein was tipping.

When I got home, I went online and in five minutes had ordered and shipped the books. No fuss, no muss. Not a good omen for Barnes & Noble.

I love it that it took this long for Mr. Stein to figure out the 21st century free market system. Barnes & Noble is a huge corporation that a few years after Amazon.com came out, started their own online delivery system. This has been the case for about a decade. The corporations have set up the online system as the main way of delivering goods. The old way of having individual stores delivering it is slow and inefficient so they all but got ride of it.

I can't speak for Georgetown but pretty much every B&N I've been to has computers at the store itself to deliver the books from distribution centers around the world closest to where a book needs to be delivered. This is the best of both worlds. you can go into a store, see if the book itself is of quality, then walk to the computer and have "Lovely" picture books mailed to California.

After that, I called information to get the telephone number for a luxury hotel in Chicago. The operator couldn't find the number -- I got it online, too. Then I called the hotel. The clerk at the front desk couldn't find my reservation. I retrieved it online.

Now He's moved on to another place where he didn't get a satisfying experience. He's calling information!

Information! Damn, what year does he think he's in.

Ben, the free market that you worship has determined that phones with operators are too expensive, So why in this century that your first instinct is to resort to mid 20th century techniques is beyond me.

Do your own work you lazy elitist!

He's some advice, if you made the reservation online, that's where you'll probably find it.

The next day in Chicago, I spoke to a gathering of physicians at a convention.

How much did DR. Stein get paid for that one speech? More than all the B&N employees combined get in a year, I bet. What a waste of good money that could go to lowering medical insurance costs.

After the speech, they told me that their No. 1 problem (after Medicare reimbursements) was finding workers who were actually willing to learn and work. "It's not a case of workers begging for jobs," said the man next to me at a post-speech lunch. "We're begging for qualified workers."

Here's the problem that the conservative economy has given us. No one wants to train workers to be good workers. They don't want to pay them a living wage to keep them and expect the people to worship them when they get hired.

There's a point to be gleaned from this, and my friend Mike made it well after our debacle at Barnes & Noble: "I wish every worker in America had to be a freelancer at selling or writing or painting or carpentry or computer repair or law or something for two years. I wish Americans could have a period in their lives when they only got paid for what they sold and produced. It would do this country world of good."

When you get to the point in your life where your BIGGEST problem is paying taxes and dealing with unsatisfactory service. Both Ben Stein and Mike Long have made their initial living working as speech writers for Republicans at taxpayers expense.

Many failed writers go this route because it pays well and gives them free time to pursue other interests. Since they are right wing, a lot of well funded think tanks give them handouts to propagate neocon agendas beyond their specific taxpayer supported duties.

This gives them enough money to jump into freelancing. Unlike the surly individuals who have to pay a lot more money for college ands rent than Mike and Ben had to in their salad days. They were able to make a freelance living because they already had name recognition and as long as they don't strand too far from the right wing agenda.

But I can't help about that talented actor, who decided to follow his muse and went to endless auditions with no success. He sees an opportunity to play a teacher in a John Hughs film.

What an opportunity! To be in a movie directed by the maker of hits like "The Breakfast Club" and "Sixteen Candles" This will be the road to future success!

Not so fast Thespian! That role is going to go to a non actor with no training. His only credentials is that he was a speech writer for a criminal named Nixon.

Be gone!

Anyway, a far more honest scenario would be for Mike and Ben to work the service industry for two years and try to live off the low wages they pay you.

I always think that if they were to be in the service industry and had to deal with unreasonable customers and managers who yell at you for minor mistakes and to hear mind numbing platitudes from corporate.

Trust me, it's very deflating and humiliating, but even if one moves up in the world their is still a need for the service people like Ben Stein demands, so I think it's reasonable to be paid more and with it more responsibilities and more training.

There's another point here. First, it's true that we may well be in a recession. I didn't think it would happen, but a combination of Wall Street idiocy and greed, Federal Reserve tardiness and caution, and a deluge of fear dumped on consumers by the media may have done it.

Ben Stein is being paid as an economics expert. Good money, and yet he never saw the recession happen. In the real world that would get you fired. It got me fired.

As far all Wall Street idiocy and greed. This is standard Ring Wing Capitalism. When Wall Street is allowed to go about doing what they please this isn't a possibility, It's an inevitability. He championed every action that occurred. The ugly reality hit the American people first before the media got wind and Ben Stein (a paid member of the media) turns it around and blames the Media for getting the American people worked up. The media made you lose your house.

But even in a recession, there's always a shortage of talented, hardworking people in every field. Be one and, even if the recession gets really bad, you can whistle past the graveyard.

Lord knows there must be a lack of talented financial experts on TV to hire you Mr. Stein. And Hardworking? How hard was it to speak in monotone for five minutes. How much talent did it take for that movie role Ben? And somehow he was able to parlay that into commercials for Clear Eye and for Comcast twenty years later. Meanwhile talented , hardworking actors are forced to serve elitists like Mr. Stein in Thai restaurants.

You may have to move locations. You may have to learn new skills. But a willingness to work will get you everywhere you want to be.

A willingness to move? I love it when someone who's rich tells people who aren't, to just move for opportunities. Who's going to provide the money? How much money does he think a B&N employee gets that would be adequate to move to a new city? Does he expect us to load a truck like the Joad family?

Usually jobs are only available in expensive cities. Funny thing about expensive cities, they still have low paying crappy jobs. The landlord is not going to rent an apartment to someone moving to that city who doesn't make enough money.

And if you aren't willing to work, I don't see why those of us who are should bail you out.

I haven't been able to Google any pieces by Ben Stein where he condemns Bear Stearns for getting a bailout form the government. Mr. Stein, I hope the next president realizes that people in your salary bracket are not paying their fair share of taxes and that you will actually have to pay your fair share.

Willing to work for your money? Okay, it's time for those of us who WORK for our money to stop subsidizing those rich folks who make their money on capital gains.

Ben Stein, a man who, if you were to take his financial advice would leave you broke.


Anonymous said...

Were you trying to make Bed Stein seem like an asshole or yourself? He was expressing a grievance with a corporate system and you were attacking his character. He was polite in his dealings and were slinging insults. Also, since when is it considered "effete" to write expressively. Writings would be so boring to read without adjectives, you used them in your blog, the only difference is Mr. Stein chose "lovely" and you chose "asshole".

Anonymous said...

Ben Stein is, indeed, an asshole. He's high on his own farts.