Monday, March 16, 2009

Jim Cramer Is Getting A Raw Deal

As if American journalism needed any more bruises lately, last Thursday saw the spectacle of a Financial News Organization (CNBC) being surgically eviscerated by a comedian with a better research staff (Jon Stewart) than CNBC apparently was using.

Of course, Stewart didn't have CNBC on the show as his guest. He had Jim Cramer, the comically bellicose host of MAD MONEY, a soon-to-be canceled show on CNBC. Cramer has the misfortune to be a perfect symbol of financial reporting on televsion - entertaining, shallow, and misleading. Thus ruining him feels like ruining all the people who kept telling you that Bear Stearns was a safe investment.

The interview was an awful lot like that episode of CROSSFIRE a few years back, when Stewart went similarly non-comic on their asses; berating the show for promoting an artificially binary argument between the left and right rather than just featuring real discussion. And I suspect the fallout will be the same here: Crossfire was canceled, the artificial argument lived on. Symbolic attack, symbolic victory. It only makes sense.

By the way, here's something a little wierd for you style-points people. On THE DAILY SHOW Cramer appeared as he does on his own show, with his sleeves rolled up. Earlier in the day Cramer also did a guest show on MARTHA Stewart's show, and his sleeves were rolled down and buttoned. Even though he was pounding dough. What the hell kind of message does that send? Who gets more dressed up to cook?

Okay, aside from Martha Stewart, who?


Vinny said...

"I thought Bear Stearns was honest." Jim Cramer.

I don’t believe this.

I think that Jim Cramer believed that the guys who ran Bear Stearns would pull the same kind of deceptive shenanigans in order to line their own pockets that Cramer pulled when he ran his own hedge fund. Cramer might have thought that there was some limit to what those guys would pull and that wherever that limit lay, there would still be a piece of the pie left over for the shareholders. That is not at all the same thing as thinking they were honest.

This is where I think Jon Stewart nailed it. I don’t think Jim Cramer knew that Bear Stearns was going to collapse. I do think he knew the kind of things that people on Wall Street do to make money and I think he understood the ways in which the interests of the guys running the firms diverge from the interests of the shareholders. The problem is not that the executives at Bear Stearns were not exposed to declines in the stock. The problem is that the benefits of short-term high-risk strategies were enjoyed to a much greater extent by the executives than by the shareholders while the risks were shared equally. This is what I think Cramer understood without ever trying to make his audience understand.

The bonuses at AIG illustrate the problem perfectly. The compensation of the executives who wrote the credit default swaps was structured in such a way that they are entitled to millions of dollars in bonuses even though there actions brought down the company and cost the taxpayers of the United States billions upon billions of dollars. The scale may be enough to shock Cramer, but the basic methodology shouldn't be.

Publius said...

Cramer is getting slimed by the extreme left for one reason... he dissed the Obamamessiah. Cramer is now the left's sacrifice to their God. Amusingly, he is ONE of THEM! Cramer is a leftist that voted for the messiah.

Danielk said...

I'm with Vinny on this one.

It reminds me of this discussion I had about rather it is racist to dislike Obama. I concluded that if you're a far-right partisan there are PLENTY of reasons to hate Obama without racism coming into it.

By the same token, there is much to hate about a man who screams bad financial advice to you daily, no matter who you voted for.