Last week the Business & Media Institute released its annual Top 10 list of the worst economic myths the media spread in 2008. The list was broad, ranging from “killer tomatoes,” to the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to the death of capitalism.But it was myth number 2 “Welcome to 1929: Great Depression II” that touched a nerve with Cliff Mason, senior writer for Mad Money, because of its criticism of CNBC’s Jim Cramer. By the way, Mason is also Cramer’s nephew according to the disclosure at the end of his bio.
On Dec. 12, Mason wrote:
Superhero economist and top-notch investor John Maynard Keynes famously told one of his critics, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"
On Mad Money we happen to share that same philosophy. And unfortunately, it's still something of a radical position.
On Thursday, the Business and Media Institute released its list of "The Media's Top 10 Worst Economic Myths of 2008." Jim is mentioned in three of them, but it's myth number 2, "the news media drew hundreds of parallels to the Depression, despite economic data that is not even close," that reminded me of that Keynes quotation.
Do as I say, not as I do.
That appears to be Jim Cramer's philosophy. The CNBC "Mad Monday" host told NBC "Today" show viewers Dec. 2 that comparisons between the current economy and the Great Depression were inappropriate.
"[T]hat's got to be taken off the table," Cramer told "Today" host Meredith Vieira. "There have been enough things done by this government to absolutely preclude that. I, myself, do not want to use that term ever again on the ‘Today' show even to compare it. Things are very different. We do need help from Europe; we need help from China. But take the Great Depression talk off the table. That is scare tactics."
"I'm reluctant to start talking like that," Cramer said of describing the current recession as "the longest since World War II," as Vieira did. "I've adopted a ‘just the facts, ma'am,' approach, kind of a little bit more of a ‘Dragnet' approach, so to speak. Because when we give those characterizations what happens is we can affect things."
He was right. Comparisons to the Great Depression are way off the mark - Cramer makes them enough, he ought to know.
Drastic times call for drastic measures, and CNBC's Jim Cramer has a drastic measure that probably won't sit well with border enforcement proponents.
On Nov. 5 the host of CNBC's "Mad Money" detailed for his audience how he would save the economy serving under Democratic President-elect Barack Obama - under the facetious assumption he could be SEC chairman, Federal Reserve chairman and Treasury secretary.
Cramer's plan involves the government bailing out the big three U.S. automakers - General Motors (NYSE:GM), Chrysler (NYSE:DAI) and Ford (NYSE:F) - with a plan similar to the bailout of American International Group (NYSE:AIG), which was rescued earlier this year. Cramer would also give tax breaks to private enterprises that aid in the country's transition from petroleum-based fuels to natural gas.
It's sad when just about the only place to get the truth about what happened to precipitate the current mortgage-lending mess is the Colbert Report.
Jim Cramer of CNBC's "Mad Money" appeared on the Comedy Central show on Monday.
The takeaway soundbites:
- Cramer said "I'd love to, but I can't" pin the blame for the debacles at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on President Bush.
- He noted that "the Democrats got a lot of campaign contributions from Fannie and Freddie and vice-versa. It was a big circle," and that this is what enabled the two government-sponsored enterprises to continue "to lend to anybody."
Though Colbert was in attempting-comedy mode, Cramer eventually got to the point where he clearly wasn't kidding (video is at the National Review Media Blog link).
Here's the relevant verbiage, which begins at the 2:20 mark (bolds are mine):
The shock and awe of the financial market meltdown is just beginning according to CNBC star Jim Cramer.
Cramer on CNBC's Sept. 29 "Mad Money" cautioned viewers about the current market. His advice - do nothing because there's more pain to come if no rescue plan makes it out of Congress. As he put it: "sit on your hands."
"Only those stocks that are sure enough to pull the trigger on until we get to Dow 8,200 ... I said if the plan failed - only those you should be looking at - looking at," Cramer said. "Today's 777-point drop was just the beginning. Now is not the time to put your money at risk, it's the time to protect your nest egg."
Cramer recommended only stocks of companies that didn't need to borrow money in an environment with tough credit and sold products that would still be in demand during a bad economy - a very narrow spectrum of stocks. Otherwise, he told viewers to put their money in FDIC-insured banking accounts.
The theory that bailout legislation recently defeated in the House of Representatives would make money for the federal government has been propagated by the financial media. But according to a recent report released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a profit is unlikely.
The September 2008 report from the IMF stated the chances of the government recouping anything more than just a fraction of the bailout costs is unlikely. Alex Patelis, head of international economics at Merrill Lynch, explained the report and cited history as an indicator on CNBC's Sept. 29 "Squawk on the Street."
"What you find in the IMF report is of course that banking crises happen all the time," Patelis said. "If you look at the history of banking crises - that on average they cost about 13 percent of GDP to the government, both in terms of direct recapitalization costs, but also lost revenue."
On CNN's American Morning today, White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux reported on Barack Obama's campaigning in Virginia. Afterwards, anchor Kiran Chetry had a question:
CHETRY: All right. And Suzanne, what's on tap for the campaign today? And please tell me it's not lipstick again.
MALVEAUX: Let's hope not. He's going to be in Norfolk, Virginia. That is in southeast Virginia, and it's home to the world's largest Naval base. It's one of the most competitive areas that the Democrats and Republicans are fighting over. It's a critical piece of property, piece of land there with folks in Virginia, and they want those voters.
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" September 8, Jim Cramer took a shot at owner of The Wall Street Journal, Rupert Murdoch, in the midst of talking about the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac takeover:
I read The Wall Street Journal, sorry, The Fox Street Journal. When is Murdoch going to put his positive right wing implant on left wing journalists? ... When is Murdoch going to broom the Spartacus workers union?
As for Fannie and Freddie, Cramer told the hosts of the September 8 broadcast that "We had a laissez-faire attitude. Now we are going to have the greatest bureaucracy in history created by Republicans. I'm an agent of change," Cramer said sarcastically.
Later in the segment, Cramer joked that the Democratic Party were "Bolsheviks" quipping, "There. How's that for biased media?"
CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer had been on a streak of demonstrating positive free-market behavior. He had criticized the government's handling of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. He even gave the media grief for overanalyzing the oil market fluctuations.
But on the August 27 "Mad Money," Cramer bucked his that trend and called for higher taxes for top income earners. On his "Mad Mail" segment, a n e-mailer asked Cramer if Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama's plan to raise taxes on incomes higher than $250,000 and redistribute the money to lower income earners would be good for the economy.
"If Obama puts more money in the hands of the majority of the consumers in this country (who make less than $250,000), won't that be a big push for the economy, and in turn for stocks?" the viewer, "Laurence in Iowa," asked.
As an attempt to find a new and innovative way to spread the doom-and-gloom news associated with the economic downturn, BusinessWeek magazine launched a recession blog on its Web site back in May to give a personalized glimpse into "recession" hardships.
"This blog is one of the places we'll tell these stories," BusinessWeek.com reporter Tim Catts wrote on the blog's first post on May 2. "Here, we'll jump into the conversation about where the economy is and where it's going. Yes, sometimes we'll look at the latest data. Sometimes we'll share observations from the road. The goal is to give readers real stories about how the downturn is affecting individuals, businesses, and communities."
However, activity on the blog has been scarce of late. Nearly three months later, there are just 22 posts. Meanwhile, the nation's Gross Domestic Product grew at a 1.9 percent pace for the second quarter of 2008, according to government estimates announced July 31.
Disclaimer: Yes, Joe and Chris. We know Jim was joking.
Money maven Jim Cramer is a self-described Democrat, one who idolized Lenin back in his Harvard days [Cramer's, not Lenin's] and was on the verge of tears over the downfall of his old college buddy Eliot Spitzer. But one Dem not high on Cramer's list is Jimmy Carter, so much so that Cramer feigned dismay to be informed that—contrary to his [tongue-in-cheek] belief—the former president is still among the living.
The host of CNBC's "Mad Money," a guest on today's Morning Joe, was buoyant about the economy, saying the surge in oil prices is over and that happier, if not downright happy, days are ahead. It was when he cautioned people about being sure not to exceed FDIC insurance limits on their bank deposits that Carter came up . . .
View video here.