Ben Stein Takes A BeatingOr Charlie Gasparino & Howard Lindzon: Ben Stein’s Lonely Defenders

Publish date:

We’re not the only ones who have called out Ben Stein for yesterday’s column. It’s getting roundly trounced by most commentators. Here’s a quick round-up of some of the comments we’ve come across today.
•Roger Ehrenberg thinks the main sin of Goldman economist Jan Hatzius did was dissenting from Stein’s rosy view of our economic prospects. “Just because his paper doesn't comport with Mr. Stein's view of the world doesn't make it wrong or its methodology flawed - it's just that Mr. Stein doesn't like it,” Ehrenberg writes.
•Athenian Abroad says that Stein doesn’t seem to understand the difference between capital requirements and reserve requirements. “Hatzius's paper describes the impact of the sub-prime crisis on bank lending via the hit to banks' capital. Stein dismisses this, because the Fed can create reserves, and because Stein doesn't know that these are completely different things,” the Athenian writes.
•Naked Capitalism goes back an re-reads that Alan Sloan piece Stein refers to and discovers that the New York Times columnist totally misread it and seems to have confused events of 2006 with those of 2007.
•Stein’s even getting it from his fellow denizens of the New York Times. “Maybe I don’t have what it takes to be a serious columnist. I mean, it would never have occurred to me to suggest that the only way to explain an economic forecast I don’t agree with is to say that it must be part of an evil plot to drive down the market, so that Goldman Sachs can make money off its short position — and to suggest that Goldman should be the subject of a federal investigation,” Paul Krugman says.
•Leftist economist Dean Baker won’t even support the Goldman bashing. “Stein gives no reason whatsoever to doubt that Hatzius wrote a serious analysis of the current state of the U.S. economy,” he writes.
•Dan Altman turns Stein’s conspiracy theory around. “You could also ask whether Stein, a friend of the Bush family and sometime cohort of the president, is just trying to prop up the economy to help his old pal,” he writes.
•Surveying the scene—the Stein piece, the reaction to it (we cribbed a couple of these links from his earlier post)—Portfolio’s Market Mover Felix Salmon finds himself depressed. “It's not illegal – in this country – for Stein to make such allegations. But it is quite shocking, and depressing, that the Gray Lady would willingly allow herself to be used as a vehicle for this kind of yellow journalism – and would place it on the front page of its business section, no less,” he writes.
•Even Fake Ben Bernanke takes a shot: “Stein goes on to say in reference to Goldman ‘It is far worse when the sellers were, in effect, simultaneously shorting the stuff they were selling, or making similar bets.’ Of course, Stein innocently points out that he’s simultaneously a shareholder in the company he’s criticizing. Why not have it both ways?”
•Oh, and because of the wonders of the internet, we have already heard from Henry Blodget, whose crooked stock analysis was cited by Stein in the column. “The real lesson here is that Wall Street analysts can't win: No matter what they say, it is easy to suggest that their conclusions might be motivated by something other than the facts. This is fair (who knows what truths lurk in the hearts of men?), but let's at least note that Wall Street shares this conflicted condition with many other industries,” Blodget writes.
So far, Stein’s only defenders seems to be our pals Charlie Gasparino, who has been appearing on CNBC to balance what has been a brutally critical reaction by most of the networks anchors and guests, and Wall Strip founder Howard Lindzon. Over on his blog, Lindzon writes that “Goldman is the world’s largest bookie that fixes games and legally sells you shit while they are dumping it out the back door.”