You’ve probably seen this elsewhere by now, but today’s Ben Stein piece in the Times is a doozy:
The woman, whom I’ve known since she was a teenager, has no job or other remunerative employment. She has a former husband, an entrepreneur whose business has suffered recently. He pays her $20,000 a month, of which roughly half is alimony and half child support. The alimony is scheduled to stop this summer.
She has a wealthy beau who pays her credit card bills and other incidentals, but she is thinking of telling him she is through with him. She has no savings and has refinanced her home repeatedly, always adding to indebtedness and then putting the money into a shop she owns that has never come close to earning a dime. Now she is up all night worrying about money. “Terrified,” as she put it. She wanted me to tell her what to do.
What could I say? I did the best I could, but I had to tell her that she was on very thin ice.
Ever since, I’ve been thinking of the troubles of this sweet woman, consumed with worry about money.
I don’t have an ounce of malice towards people like her, but good God.
That poor sweet woman.. is there a website I can go to donate?
The jokes on Stein. His audience (which reads the Business section of the Times fer chrissakes) should be able to figure out that an economist who can’t tell that woman to sell the house, give up the business and try to survive on 20 grand a month somehow (renting! Oh God!) AND who can’t tell his own son to grow the fuck up and eat at Burger King once in a while (or even better – learn to eat ramen like everyone did when they were 20 and in school) should be ignored.
This piece is also being discussed over at Obsidian Wings, where at least one commenter is of the opinion that it is intended to be satire.
What do you-all think? I have noticed that I’ve had a lot of trouble detecting right-wing satire for the last few years … is this yet another case of "we really need that Sarcasm Font"?
Not that Middlemarch doesn’t do it better, of course.
She just needs a tax cut.
Hey, she’s spending, which helps the economy. She’s not taking a job from a real person who needs it. And she’s willing to finance this all through genteel prostitution. More power to her, I say! I’m sure if she were a little bit more intelligent, she’d find a way to live on $10,000 per month, but then, she’s asking Ben Stein for financial advice; we should be grateful that she’s able to function in society at all.
Oh, the humanity!
She’s the bookend of the woman quoted in the NYTs Sunday Styles article on executives cut loose from Wall St.
No wonder smart, hard working women despair, they’re continually undercut by their sisters.
The key phrase is, "The woman, whom I’ve known since she was a teenager…"
The poor dear grew up with the Ben Stein theories of economics, and believed, and that explains her life.
Read the whole piece. He’s serious.
Don’t miss this classic sentence:
In other words, we are all divorcees with interest-only mortgages on $2 million homes, scraping by on $20K/month in child support and alimony.
Left Coast Tom
I’m thinking that maybe in the worst recession since the Great Depression (started December 2007, beyond doubt will last longer than the previous 16-month record holders) the _NYT_ could insist that it’s business writers either find real victims of the economy to write about, or find other jobs.
Do you know how rap works?
i think the only thing more poetically just than this poor hooker’s impending collision with reality is going to be when ben stein comes to rely on his useless son to support him in his dotage.
as ye sow, …
I don’t think it’s satire. I’ve been reading the Irvine Housing Blog for some time, and it’s filled with such stories. Debt compounded with debt, wishful thinking compounded with pipedreams, and clueless buyers with bad taste all attempt to either deny or wish away their stupidity in the comments or just pretend things will be fine.
What’s most surprising about Stein’s example is that the woman is planning ahead to the time all her bills are going to be unpayable. I have a feeling she hasn’t been entirely honest with him about her financial situation, as bad as what she did admit to him was, and her home is already deeply underwater.
I’m no financially holier-than-thouster since my own history has a bankruptcy, a home that I sold for as much as I paid for it, and can pay my bills only because I live in a home my great-aunt once wanted to retire to. But I still manage to marvel at the financial stupidity of others.
I think the most likely thing is Ben made the whole thing up. He’s been full of crap and himself for 30 years. Who cares.
Oh and for what it’s worth, "Hey you kids! Get of my Lawn!"
As soon as Ben Stien says "The woman, whom I’ve known since she was a teenager…"
I expect a "Family Guy"-esque flashback to a "Ferris Bulier" parody.
Pssssst. Wanna buy a QP? I got pounds of malice, hostility, and resentment for people like her.
Ben Stein’s last sentence was most telling.
Ben lives in Neverland where all parents aspired to have their children live in 2 million dollar house that they can’t afford.
So, why couldn’t Mr. Stein contact one of the people sending him downer holiday letters? Focusing it all around a quasi-hooker (just how did he meet her?) and his son (hint to dad: he turned out this way because of you in large part) seem like the poorest possible foci.
And I agree with MrMix that he’s serious. He just hasn’t come up with any way to prepare his married son for a world in which junior pays his own restaurant bills except to lecture him on prudence.
The woman is fictional, so it is hard to care one way or another.
Ben Stein’s entire universe is a figment of his deranged imagination, he’s a pathological liar.
If telling the truth would be to Ben Stein’s advantage, he would lie anyway. Nothing he says is true, even if he tells you he’s lying, it is meant as an allegory, so he is till lying.
If the woman actually existed, she would be advised to immediately kill herself to death. Not because she has money problems, but because she actually speaks to Ben Stein.
Even if she doesn’t know Ben Stein, but Ben Stein spoke her name, she should still kill herself to death.
Just to be on the safe side
And Stein isn’t completely horrible.
I hate to throw cold water on folks, but that’s not uncommon out here. I know a few people that would fit that description.
There’s a guy a block over or so in an $800K house that his parents bought for him so that he wouldn’t have to live in grad housing during med school. They’ve hired a caterer to come in and feed him so he doesn’t need to cook, a cleaner, etc. I don’t think the guy (mid 20s) has ever earned a penny in his life, and I sure as hell know that he has no concept of living within his means.
$800K house and a caterer before he’s even a doctor. You can only imagine what he expects his standard of living should be once a paycheck arrives.
Though poorly written I wonder if a lot of people are taking this wrong. It seems to me that what Ben might be trying to get at is that this woman’s family should have taught her how to survive and take care of herself, and he’s seeing the same behavior in his relationship with his son.
I wonder if there isn’t a Jewish aspect to this too that he isn’t talking about directly. Jewish people have survived and thrived generation after generation in the face of severe bigotry by developing a self sustaining and industrious culture passed down over generations. I wonder if what Stein is really lamenting is the death of that culture due to the prosperity of the Jewish community here in the US.
She wanted me to tell her what to do.
Learn subsistence farming? Probably wouldn’t hurt to learn how to shoot a firearm, either.
@kwAwk: The problem with Ben’s concern is that most folks don’t live that way. Ben has lost his way.
You know what I just realized? Ben Stein is about as close as the right-wing gets to having an intellectual heavy hitter.
Think about that.
We (i.e., the "reality based community," et. al.) have Nobel Prize winners, the National Academy of Science, the experts, the philosophers, the competent, the quick, the bright, the brilliant. All of the people whose ideas, philosophies, and policies have been proven to be empirically sound over the last ten (fifty?) years. Barack Obama. Paul Krugman. Martin Lederman (off to the White House, ha ha ha!). Hilzoy. Warren Buffet, even.
They have Ben Stein. And Grover Norquist, I guess.
This is exactly the kind of thing that used to make me filled with righteous outrage. Now, it’s just kind of pathetic.
Wow. By the end of February her annual income was past my annual income in my good years. And I earn around the median, which means half of the country earns less. Our hearts are bleeding. I realize the world’s oldest profession has high overhead, but couldn’t she save anything? I hate to be bitchy, but I’m out in the temp market watching decent, hardworking single mothers with minimum wage jobs spend an hour and a half at bus stops in subzero weather to get to minimum wage jobs try to keep food on the table and roofs over their heads, and this chick has been blowing 20,000 a month?
It was tough to hear that without thinking of the classic Joe Pesci/Sharon Stone scene from Casino. Ben’s creepy enough to imagine that.
You know, I really can do the math.
So a lady who is given $240,000 a year, nearly a quarter million dollars, who has never had a real job, who has a boyfriend that pays her credit card bills is a poor poor little angel, but a woman with a real job, who actually works, actually budgets, and raises her kids without alimony but only manages the US Median income of ~$40K a year is a low life piece of scum who deserves whatever fate may come…
That is Republicanism for you.
This lady makes more money than 99% of the entire world without ever having to lift a finger and we should feel sorry for her?
Define "uncommon," son. Ben’s friend–imaginary or otherwise–is among less than 5%, more likely 2%, of the population. Your doctor wannabe’s family is likewise. By definition, 5% of a population is not common. Stein is nearly unique–top 1% aggressively ignorant in economics, religion, science, history and punditry. Anything he says is wrong, a lie or both.
Edited: because it said I could. Woot!
The Moar You Know
"sweet woman" my ass.
I’m usually up all night worrying about getting involved with someone like her.
JL – The whole subprime crisis revolves around people living beyond their means. That is what Stein is getting at, and he cops to being guilty of extravagance himself.
I don’t see anywhere in his article him asking us to feel sorry for this woman, he is only telling us the story as an illustration of a person who lived beyond her means and didn’t plan ahead. Just like his son.
I do think the allegations of the woman being a hooker are quite a bit over the top. It isn’t appropriate in a rational discussion of this subject.
Why is it though that every Times piece on the financial crisis has to focus on someone with a decent amount of scratch?
This is the world that Reagan and C+ Augustus created, with help from the Clenis. No one could have predicted…..
I don’t know. My guess is that the Times being in New York City reflects a New York City bent. Wall St. is a large part of New Yorks financial infrastruture. You’re simply more likely to meet an out of work fund manager in New York than any place else.
Stein being wealthy himself probably isn’t hanging around at the local pub with a bunch of assembly line workers. He writes what he knows.
Actually, the subprime crisis doesn’t revolve around non-working upper class bimbos who can’t be bothered to discipline themselves to live on a quarter mill a year. There really aren’t a boatload of $2MM subprime interest only house loans out there, no matter what Stein may think. To top it off, most folks in the subprime (or other housing) mess don’t have someone waiting in the wings to cover the problem, only to be turned down for aesthetic reasons. How the hell does anyone not as idiotic as Ben Stein find this column instructive? Oh, wait…
Betcha she’s a hooker, or used to be one. I once skimmed an interview of Stein where he said he used to know a lot of prostitutes, and did their taxes for free. (?) (!)
edit: Not that I have anything whatsoever against hookers, of course.
les – All you know about this woman is that she was married once, now divorced and now she has a boyfriend. How that translates into ‘bimbo’ I’m not quite sure. Being not very good with financial problems and money management does not make someone a bad person nor does it make them a hooker or a bimbo.
As long as we’re on the topic of weasels, my ferret could debate Neal Cavuto on the economy and sound like a genius by comaprison, and all she does is make funny grunting honking noises.
She could also kick Ben Stein’s ass in a debate because he lie, and she will just make funny noises, so she will be closer to the truth, no matter what the topic.
I touched on him yesterday on the air, reading the Buff Beast’s entry on him.
I agree with your last paragraph.
Mind you I’m 22, unmarried, and I have no kids… but even I can figure that I should only refinance my mortage or whatever a certain number of times before I give up on the store. It’s financial stupidity, as you said.
My boyfriend and I manage to survive on less than 1.5k a month. We rent, have some bills, don’t drive and buy groceries. We don’t have a lot of money, but we live within our means. I’m sure she can figure out how to live on 20k a month.
I feel sorry for her, yes, but my sympathy only goes so far. Others make it work on less, and it looks like she’ll have to too.
The Moar You Know
@kwAwk: Bullshit. She has sex for cash. Envelopes aren’t left directly on the dresser but the renumeration is always forthcoming.
You may have a nicer name for it. I call it prostitution, albeit legally sanctioned. So would any other rational person.
I see way too much of this shit around here (North San Diego County). Way too much. People who have lived their lives off of funny money, people who HELOCed their houses for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and are sticking the banks (and us) with the bills, people who’ve never worked a day in their lives but who had trust funds, or willing parents, fund their existence. And people like the woman Stein is talking about. Enabled by people like you who insist they aren’t whores.
Funny how only men fall for their "poor woman" stories. Not all men, but most. Women know better.
They don’t have to run it. He’s not a columnist.
Not less than 5% here. That’s the problem. Ben doesn’t live in fucking Ohio, nor does he vacation there.
All the ‘flyover’, ‘elitist’ bullshit that Rush accused the Democrats of is what Ben is stuck in the middle of himself. He has no idea how common (or uncommon) that woman is. Among my acquaintances (and she covers my salary in a season, so I’m far from wealthy) she’s pretty well known. Looking out from my neighborhood, you’d think there were millions just like her.
So… this women’s troubles are easily solved… she gets a nice apartment, trades her almost certainly ostentatious car in for a reliable little used one… Suggestions which will ring with a social ladder plummet too horrific for her to contemplate, but she will so this or life gets to slap her upside the head for functioning as someone’s expensive cufflink all her life.
Boy, I *knew* there would be upside to this long recession…
Bullshit. I live where subprime was invented, and ground zero for the bank implosion in the 80s. Subprime was invented for $2M loans. It works best in high appreciation markets – places like SoCal, Florida, etc. It works poorly in Ohio, Nebraska, etc.
Yes, subprime spread far beyond the high-value markets, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t shitloads of $1M+ zero down-payment mortgages out there. Now, the folks in the high-value markets were better equipped to rescue themselves from their stupidity (and some got really goddamn rich along the way) than the folks in the low-income areas, so the bailout help isn’t equally distributed, but in my city with a median home price of about $1M, 85% of loans in 2006 were subprime.
From San Diego to OC to the Bay Area, plus other parts of the country, there are clearly boatloads of interest-only and $0 down subprime loans out there.
Doug J said
True, but the people who did decide to run it are probably in nearly the same income tax bracket as Stein.
And $240k a year isn’t as wealthy in NYC as it is in Kalamazoo.
So you’re basically saying that any woman who gets financial help from a man she isn’t married to is a whore?
Hell, you don’t even really know if she is sleeping with her boyfriend. It is simply an assumption you are making.
I wonder why he didn’t give her the obvious answer. Pay the mortgage with the credit cards and keep the boyfriend who pays the credit cards.
Next problem please…
"Hell, you don’t even really know if she is sleeping with her boyfriend. It is simply an assumption you are making."
You don’t know if the guy isn’t married already to someone else.
Whore is a strong word, but longtime leeching friend doesn’t quite cover it either. But really, the tone of "thinking of breaking it off with him" when doing so will sink her entire world, smacks of an aversion to the guy/their relationship on *her* part.
Just sayin’. That’s the clincher for me, not that anyone who gets financial help from a friend/f*ckbuddy is necessarily automatically a prostitute.
You’re right, but it ain’t chump change either. You can live pretty damn good in NYC on $240K.
@Ramalamadingdong: I wonder how long he’s gonna stick around once he notices he’s kicking out the dough for the credit cards and they increase by the entire amount of her mortgage, PER MONTH. If she can swing that, his name must be Kal-El and she must have that kryptonite.
The Moar You Know
Per Stein’s piece:
Do you pay your girlfriend’s credit card bills? Any woman who would even ask me to do such a thing would be out the door two minutes later.
If you’re enough of a sucker to do so, I’ve got some bad news for you – you are not hung like a stallion, regardless of what she tells you. Sorry.
You just crossed the Rubicon there, my friend. I’ll bet you believe that abstinence education reduces teen sex, and that tax cuts increase revenues. Good luck with life.
It’s a lot nastier than you seem to believe.
Who said she asked? I’ve had men offer to do any number of things for me, so it’s not, like, totally out of the realm of possibility. If a guy has the money, it’s his business how he chooses to spend it.
And you can live decently well for a lot less.
(checks recent banking statements)
A lot less.
(renews rent-stabilized lease* on Manhattan apartment, goes back to updating resume)
It really pisses me off how people keep on thinking of NYC as where only the rich live. Real people live here too, you know! It’s getting harder and harder, but we do still keep on keeping on, somehow.
*It’s low. I won’t tell you how low, but it’s pretty f-ing good. Pro tip for living in NYC: move to the Dominican neighborhoods, ftw.
Um . . . why can’t you be both a sugar daddy and monstrously well-endowed? It’s not necessarily an either/or proposition.
. . .
This woman sounds like Edina Monsoon from the British sitcom "Absolutely Fabulous." In the episode "Poor," her ex-husband tries to cut off her alimony and she’s forced to try and learn to economize. Ben Stein’s piece reads like an episode synopsis.
Moar – Stein also says that he is the sole provider of money for his son and his son’s wife. So by your definition that would make his son’s wife a whore he hired to pleasure his son?
There are many men out there that choose to help their girlfriends out if they need it. If the man is truely wealthy the woman’s credit card bills probably don’t amount to a hill of beans in his overall financial picture. That doesn’t make her a hooker and it doesn’t make him her John.
It continues to boggle my mind how people think that everyone who lives in NYC is a millionaire. The median household income in NYC is something like $48,000. The MHI in Manhattan is only $65k. The vast majority of people in NYC live on far less than $240k.
In Kalamazoo, $240k is fucking rich. In Manhattan, $240k is fucking rich. It’s just that there are really, really fucking rich people in Manhattan to compare to.
I don’t know if it is satire, but I certainly hope it’s satire.
The per capita income in Manhattan is over $100k per year. The per capita income in Kalamazoo is about $16k per year.
I never meant to imply that everybody in New York is a millionare, but in Kalamazoo if you choose on a $50k per year income you can get a 3000sq ft house on 20 acres of land. In Manhattan you are living in a rent subsidized apartment. Its just different.
In Manhattan someone who makes $240k a year isn’t considered to be fabulously wealthy.
(looks around miniscule two room apartment, shared with cat. weeps.)
Oh, you don’t have to tell me. I just looked at a share on 145th.
BTW: I have friends who share a converted from 2 to a 3BR apartment in StuyTown. While their apartment IS nice, I’m not about to spend 2 Grand to share with someone who I’m not, you know, dating or anything. Hell. To. The. Naw. For two grand, I better at least have walk around naked privileges, at the MINIMUM. LOL.
@Adrienne: I put up with roommates for many, many years and now that I have my own precious, precious one bedroom apartment I simply cannot imagine how I lived for so long with other people (who I am not sleeping with, which is, naturally, a different, um, proposition). Hell is other people.
As to walk around naked privileges, I’ve had roommates who assumed that this was kosher when living with me, despite my vociferous indignation. Dirty fucking hippies (yes, even the attractive young ones – put a robe on, I’m eating breakfast here!).
I don’t know who I want to get hit by a truck more, the woman or Stein.
If Ben Stein were my father and the sole providor for my family, I would murder him for the good of all mankind, and the insurance money.
As far as Stein’s fictional character being a whore, that’s a very relative term. Obviously there is some emotional attachment, the woman is in her sixties, and the sugar daddy character can buy all the sex he needs from fictional younger women, so one might conclude there is more to it than the usual toss-up.
But that would be incorrect. What this demonstrates is what a shitty fiction writer Ben Stein is. His meanderings are as focussed as his piss stream when he came back from Thailand with the clap, just as compelling, and as believeable as the toilet seat story he told his wife…
…. and the maid he gave it to
…. and Roberto the pool boy
‘Nobody could have expected’ that having a father who spews Repig economic jingoistic fantasies for a living and produces mendacious anti-science-and-reason creationist propaganda like Expelled, would produce a son who has such a tenuous grasp on economic reality and responsiblity.
Maybe he thinks ‘intelligent design’ will magically deliver to him a livelihood. Or he’s seen up close what a gravy train wingnut welfare is for talentless hacks not burdened with integrity and plans on joining the other Repig nepotism cases in that con game.
If this Twerp has a boyfriend willing to hand her $20,000/month, she doesn’t have a problem.
(Except perhaps; her choice of confidants);
Nice! And I have THE PERFECT CLIP.
Wish I’d thought of it last night.
Or there was the young black woman with three children who worked briefly at one of my own contract jobs. Came in at 6:30am every day and worked like a machine until 3:30 when it’s time to rush out and pick up the kids. Despite her hard work and polite ways, my wealthy secure petty bosses didn’t want her around. I asked why. Not our type they said. Didn’t spend enough on her wardrobe and hair, ya know. So sorry. Too bad. Out of work. Social services takes the babies and farms them out to god only knows what kind of opportunistic abusive foster families.
Good to know bitches like that are gonna get taught a lesson.
The Silent Fiddle of Nero
$20,000 a month? I’m lucky if I see that in a year.
No, I’m sorry, I don’t have any sympathy for a woman who gets 20k a month and still needs someone else to pay her incidentals.
I live in the wealthier Boston suburbs, and you can live quite well on $240,000 a year here even without a sugar daddy to pay all your credit card bills and "incidentals." (This is way beyond my family’s income.) The fact that it makes you even richer in Kalamazoo or West Virginia or rural North Dakota does not make it "just getting by" in LA or Manhattan or DC or Miami.
The wealthier party picking up the tab for dates and joint vacations and shared lodgings is reasonable and up to the individuals dating, but when it goes to "just send all the bills to Bunnie until we break up" it’s out of the normal dating realm and into the kept mistress or gigolo.
As for what we call Stein Jr and wifey’s situation, I have no idea as I’m missing details. For college students of their ages to be dependent on their parents is not unusual, but if you marry you’d really expect something like a quarterly allowance and not "send all the bills to daddy" which seems to be Steyn’s current set up with his son. Marriage aside, it’s more normal to give a dependent child a budget. (Hell, my 12-year old has a clothing budget and is not under the impression that she can eat in any restaurant.)
AKA: Ben Stein’s Mommy.
as we say in wow-gamer speak:
QQ Moar Nub Lern2Play
Let me get this straight: the only income this woman has is scheduled to stop in a few months, she has no job skills of any kind, BUT her current boyfriend is willing to pay off her debts, AND STILL, she is thinking of DUMPING HIM?
You’d think by now the emotional tradeoffs of money for sex had become ingrained enough that she could handle his snoring. I mean, this is the way she’s been doing it her whole life anyhow, right?
having been one of the folks dropping the word ‘hooker’ in the comment thread, i’d like to thank kwawk for her/his contribution to the dialogue. s/he’s right, the lady in question is not a whore. whores work for a living.
what this woman is is far more useless and, to anyone with a modicum of self-respect and -reliance, repugnant: a parasite.
it may be unfair to judge, given the paucity of information to hand, but given that this woman has, apparently, made a career out of being an ex-wife and mother, whose sole attempt at generating some income is to subsidize a failing business by leveraging the shit out of assets she didn’t generate in the first place, and who now is unable to survive on a quarter-mil a year, it’s difficult to come to any other conclusion. that she has moved on to being another rich man’s ‘companion’ or what-have-you is merely further evidence.
and hey, there’s nothing objectively, irretrievably wrong with that. if homegirl wants to trade on the assets genetics, surgery, cosmetics, et al put at her disposal, then hey, more power to her, but for those of us who choose to make an honest living and rely on the sweat of our own brows to get the things we want and need, that path is repugnant, as are the people who walk it.
and while it may be unseemly to enjoy a little schadenfreude, it surely does feel good to see them come to the end of that path and find out that it never went anywhere in the first place.
and, hey, if she thinks things’re bad now, wait’ll she’s not pretty enough for rich men to want to pay her bills anymore. that shit’s gonna be hilarious. kind of like when ben stein has to rely on his son to support him in his old age.
C’mon, Ben. She was just trolling for a new sugar daddy.
Where are you getting $100,000 from?
Regardless, the solution is obvious. She should move to Kalamazoo. The breakfast stew at Maggie’s is awesome.
Run Ben, she’s a siren!