Friday, March 13, 2009

Jon Stewart needs to move on

As much as I've enjoyed Jon Stewart's prosecution of Jim Cramer, I'm not sure what he managed to prove except that a lot of his advice turned out to be bad. He did that pretty effectively. I hadn't realized that in addition to the bogus clip that Stewart played first (showing Cramer assuring a caller that his money was safe as a client of Bear Stearns, which it was), there were also clips from about the same time of Cramer recommending Bear stock.

Still, I have no idea what Stewart means when he chides "I understand you want to make finance entertaining. But it's not a fucking game." Besides being maybe the most cringingly unfunny thing he's ever said, what's his fucking point? That if Cramer didn't scream and have sound effects that his mother's 401k would be in better shape? Give me a fucking break.

I think CNBC appeared on Stewart's radar because of the Rick Santelli thing, when he realized, apparently all of a sudden, that the dominant financial news channel was largely staffed by super right-wing cheerleaders of corporate America. And I'm glad that he's gone after CNBC.

But the political bias of the "news" side of CNBC has nothing to do with Cramer. Yes, he has called Obama a "wealth destroyer" and talked about certain stocks being "Obama-proof," but it's somewhat tongue-in-cheek and always in the context of pitching an investment theme. He "liked" the Bush administration because it was "of, by and for the corporation," friendly to mergers, etc. But if he really shared Larry Kudlow's politics I wouldn't be able to watch the show.

Unless you're going to outlaw giving financial advice on television, I'm not sure what Cramer is supposed to do differently except stop making bad calls, which obviously no one can do. If you don't like Cramer, don't watch him! Or take the other side of the trade! I have zero sympathy for people who lost money following his advice. Or at least, no more than I have for anyone who lost money.

Stewart seems to honestly believe that Cramer bears some personal responsibility not just for the advice he's given/his failure to predict the financial collapse but for the financial collapse itself, which is intensely stupid even though it sounds plausible that such a figure would have "contributed to a frenzied environment" or whatever.

Anyway, whether or not Cramer is actually good at giving financial advice I don't think he deserves the accusation that he was recklessly endangering people's money. Stocks really had outperformed every other asset class by a wide margin for a long time, and if you've watched his show for any length of time his advice actually tends to be fairly conservative.

Cramer didn't look good when he got all indignant that a "comedian" would deign to criticize him when he didn't even know what Tier 1 capital was, but Stewart was much more the self-important, uninformed asshole in this little skirmish.

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