Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What if you had the voice of Jim Cramer inside your head screaming at you while you were trying to make sense of your personal investment portfolio?


Speaking of maddening echo chambers, has anybody noticed that that's what the US television industry has become in recent years, with the proliferation of cable channels, the 24-hour news channels, the steady stream of talking--AND SCREAMING--heads?

Thank you Jon Stewart for tearing a new one in the hide of one of the most obnoxious--and dangerous--of those SCREAMING HEADS: Jim Cramer of CNBC. That Cramer is one dude that I've been avoiding from the start--partly due to simply how he looks, but more to the point how he talks and acts on the tube. In every way, this guy has always struck me as pure huckster, hypester, trickster. That, plus the fact that I find CNBC and all other business and news channels almost unwatchable--due in part to the overcluttered screens with TOO MUCH INFORMATION, including, especially, those obnoxious crawlers--which Bloomberg, in particular, stacks so deep that I get deeply claustrophobic just switching past that channel.

Anyway, re Cramer on the "Daily Show" recently, I just found a transcript of that exchange between him and Stewart, and also watched the video for the first time. I'll give most of the rest of this post over to the best of Stewart's rants. They're simply too perfect and summarize my feelings exactly:


"JS: But why, when you talk about the regulators, why not the financial news network? That's the whole point of this. CNBC could be an incredibly powerful tool of illumination for people that believe that there are two markets. One, that has been sold to us as long term. Put your money in 401k's, put your money in pensions and just leave it there, don't worry about it. It's all doing fine. Then there's this other market, this real market that's occurring in the back room. Where giant piles of money are going in and out, and people are trading them and it's transactional and it's fast, but it's dangerous. It's ethically dubious and it hurts that long term market. So what it feels like to us, and I'm speaking purely as a layman, it feels like we are capitalizing your adventure by our pension and our hard earned.. and that it is a game that you know, that you know is going on. But that you go on television as a financial network and pretend isn't happening."

"JS: But the gentleman in that uh, uh, video is a sober rational individual. And the gentleman on Mad Money is throwing plastic cows through his legs and shouting "sell, sell, sell". Then coming on two days later and going "I was wrong, you should have bought". Like, I can't reconcile the brilliance and knowledge that you have of the intricacies of the market, with the crazy b****** I see you do every night."

"JS: I gotta tell you. I understand that you want to make finance entertaining, but it’s not a f---ing game. When I watch that I get, I can’t tell you how angry it makes me because it says to me, “You all know.” You all know what’s going on. You can draw a straight line from those shenanigans to the stuff that was being pulled at Bear and at AIG and all this derivative market stuff that is this weird Wall Street side bet."

"JS: No, no, no, no, no. I want desperately for that, but I feel like that’s not what we’re getting. What we’re getting is… Listen, you knew what the banks were doing and yet were touting it for months and months. The entire network was and so now to pretend that this was some sort of crazy, once-in-a-lifetime tsunami that nobody could have seen coming is disingenuous at best and criminal at worst."

" JS: It’s very easy to get on this after the fact. The measure of the network, and the measure of mess. CNBC could act as—No one is asking them to be a regulatory agency, but can’t—but whose side are they on? It feels like they have to reconcile as their audience the Wall Street traders that are doing this for constant profit on a day-to-day for short term. These guys companies were on a Sherman’s March through their companies financed by our 401ks and all the incentives of their companies were for short term profit. And they burned the f---ing house down with our money and walked away rich as hell and you guys knew that that was going on."

"JS: But isn’t that part of the problem? Selling this idea that you don’t have to do anything. Anytime you sell people the idea that sit back and you’ll get 10 to 20 percent on your money, don’t you always know that that’s going to be a lie? When are we going to realize in this country that our wealth is work. That we’re workers and by selling this idea that of “Hey man, I’ll teach you how to be rich.” How is that any different than an infomercial? "


Me back again: "How is that any different than an infomercial?" Ah...hee hee...picture the sprayed-on-beard-face of pitchman infomercial screamer Billy Mays. Now, and I know this is painful, replay Mays' voice in your head. Now replay Jim Cramer's voice.

Same guy, right? How would you like those guys to take up permanent residence in your psyche...especially when you're trying to manage your finances in a rational manner?

Hard, right? Annoying, right? Of course, Mays just tries to sell isolated consumers harmless bullshit. Cramer pretends that he's advising the country on how to manage our collective investment portfolio.