Stewart vs. Cramer: Another Battle Between Socialism and Capitalism

As much as the 2008 presidential election was a battle between socialism and capitalism in America, so too is the highly-publicized feud between Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and CNBC's Jim Cramer.

Even their last names begin with the same letters as the economic philosophies they're defending.

Of course, the press coverage of the main event -- Cramer appearing on "The Daily Show" Thursday to face his accuser -- is also emblematic of this war with the liberal media cheering for Stewart, and those on the right clearly in the "Mad Money" host's corner.

Despite CNBC's low ratings, a Google news search of the contestants' names produced 1391 results. Even the Associated Press weighed in:

The feud between Jon Stewart and CNBC's Jim Cramer has been good for laughs - and ratings - but has also raised the serious question of whether the experts at TV's No. 1 financial news network should have seen the meltdown coming and warned the public.

Over the past two weeks, Stewart's "Daily Show" on Comedy Central has ridiculed CNBC personalities, including Cramer, the manic host of "Mad Money," by airing video clips of them making exuberantly bullish statements about the market and various investment banks shortly before they collapsed.

Stewart has charged that people at CNBC knew what was going on behind the scenes on Wall Street but didn't tell the public. He has accused CNBC anchors and pundits of abandoning their journalistic duties and acting like cheerleaders for the market.

In the end, the ignorance displayed by Stewart and those supporting him has been nothing less than staggering.

To begin with, if viewers and commentators are to take Stewart seriously and not hide behind this being a comedy program and him being a comedian -- a defense often employed by the left to shelter "The Daily Show" from any criticism -- his positions concerning the economy, the financial crisis, and the coverage of both by CNBC are -- forgive the pun -- laughable.

For example, Stewart finds it inappropriate that CNBC personalities interview and/or quote CEOs and CFOs concerning what's going on at their respective companies because they're clearly presenting facts and figures that are almost exclusively painting a positive picture regardless of accuracy. 

Well, should company representatives therefore not be interviewed by anyone? Should the presumption be that every representative of every corporation is biased and therefore can't be trusted?

If such is the case, shouldn't the same be true of everyone in America including politicians? After all, doesn't anyone that goes in front of a camera or behind a microphone have an agenda, even including comedians such as Stewart who are stepping into the political and economic arenas?

Let's be clear: CNBC is indeed a financial news network. As such, it reports information about companies when it is made available the bulk of which comes from the companies in question. 

Is there any other way of doing it?

Maybe more important, this decade's Sarbanes-Oxley legislation imposed strict reporting requirements on companies and their executives making it criminal for them to falsify information. 

With this in mind, what else should a financial outlet such as CNBC do to ensure the information it is presenting is accurate? And, why should it be the only one under such pressure?

If folks are looking to point fingers, why go after a cable network that averages about 300,000 viewers -- or one-tenth of one percent of the population -- in any given hour?

The overwhelming majority of Americans buying and selling stocks and real estate isn't watching CNBC or getting its investment ideas from them. 

If Stewart is really angry about the lack of coverage concerning an imminent collapse at banks and brokerage firms, where's his outrage for the bigger players in the industry such as ABC, CBS, and NBC? As their combined reach is in the many millions -- their nightly news programs themselves garner almost 20 million viewers every evening -- shouldn't they be criticized for laying down on the job?

And what of the print media such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and USA Today? These publications have business sections. Why didn't they warn readers about the looming financial crisis and recommend everyone sell out of stocks and real estate as well as pull their money out of banks before the bottom fell out?

Want to know why? Well, the first reason is that no news outlet wants to be responsible for creating a financial panic. This is an inconvenient truth that has been sadly missing in this debate.

Yet, more importantly, even the best traders, analysts, and economists are lucky to be correct 60 percent of the time.

For instance, there has been a lot of examination concerning Cramer's recommendations on "Mad Money" since its inception, and throughout the show's history he's been wrong almost as often as he's been right.

As people who have been investing most of their adult lives know, this is an occupational hazard.

Even one of the most respected stock pickers in the world -- Warren Buffett -- never saw this financial collapse coming as his Berkshire Hathaway lost more than 50 percent of its value from December 2007 to December 2008.

Taking this a step further, one of the champion's of the left, financier George Soros, got killed in last year's stock collapse. His hedge fund even purchased a sizable stake in Lehman Brothers just a few weeks before it declared bankruptcy.

As such, two of the world's most successful investors -- both Obama supporters, by the way!!! -- lost huge amounts of money in this financial crisis. 

If these two market gurus didn't correctly position themselves and their funds to at least not suffer financially or even benefit from the crisis by either being short stocks or long bearish vehicles such as puts, why should folks reporting events be held to a higher standard?

Shouldn't we use the old axiom "Those who can do, and those who can't teach?" 

Regardless of hindsight being 20/20, virtually no one saw the collapse of the financial services industry coming, and, for the most part, those now claiming they did have been bearish for many years missing most of the bull market as they prognosticated gloom and doom.

Such folk -- referred to as "permabears" because they're always short and always betting on the economy's decline -- now pat themselves on the back for being prescient despite betting against America's success -- and LOSING! -- for years nay decades.

Of course, now that the collapse has occurred, these people are held up as heroes by those secretly hoping for capitalism's demise despite not having financial skin in the game.

How convenient.

On the flipside, as it pertains to real estate, CNBC has been offering bearish opinions concerning the housing bubble for years, and well before it burst. Its real estate correspondent Diana Olick was warning viewers about inflating housing prices since the middle part of this decade, and even has a blog at discussing such matters called "Realty Check." I doubt any network on television did more to caution America about what was going on in residential real estate than CNBC.

That said, given CNBC's small viewership, the reality is the scorn being heaped upon it by folks like Stewart really has nothing to do with its coverage last year or in the run-up to September's maelstrom. If it did, such criticism would have begun last year.

No, this is about personalities Rick Santelli and Jim Cramer making negative comments about Obama's economic policies, and the left can't have that. 

As a result, a cable network with an almost embarrassingly low number of viewers has suddenly become a target of an astounding amount of disingenuous criticism.

Just imagine the kind of scorn that might confront one of the country's larger news organizations if it has the nerve to question our new president in the future.

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Economy Stock Market Business Coverage Banking/Finance Bailouts CNBC Mad Money Comedy Central Daily Show Jim Cramer Rick Santelli
Noel Sheppard's picture