Is America in need of a little Mary-J? Not Blige … marijuana.
Mad Money's senior writer Cliff Mason (Jim Cramer's nephew) thinks so. Here's what he wrote on Jan. 15, 2009:
"This may be apocryphal, but when FDR was running for President for the first time in 1932, he said something along the lines of "What America needs now is a good, stiff drink.
Then he won and went on to help end prohibition.
Well, now we've got a new Democratic President coming into office, we're in similarly dire economic straits, and maybe what America needs is a nice toke?"
There was no maybe about it, according to Mason who declared that "It's time to legalize, or at least decriminalize, drugs."
Mason used the familiar argument that decriminalization of drugs would be profitable - read: taxable - and would "keep people from shooting each other." He omitted any reference to the morality of legalization or societal harm that could result.
"This is Larry Kudlow - one of the folks invited to a conservative fest with the president-elect last night," Dobbs said. "I'd like to just share, everybody - what a Larry Kudlow-conservative person does after meeting with the president-elect."
Dobbs cited a few lines from Kudlow's appearance on CNBC's Jan. 14 "The Call" - "He is charming, he is terribly smart, bright, well informed. He has a great sense of humor." Then Dobbs skipped moments in Kudlow's exchange with "The Call" co-host Melissa Francis and added - "He's so well informed and he loves to deal with both sides of an issue."
Newspaper companies as an investment are less lucrative than they once were. Alan D. Mutter, a Silicon Valley CEO, pointed out on his blog that newspaper companies took a hit in 2008 in terms of share value to the tune of $64 billion.
"In the worst year in history for publishers, newspaper shares dropped an average of 83.3% in 2008, wiping out $64.5 billion in market value in just 12 months," Mutter wrote on Jan. 1. "Although things were tough for all sorts of businesses in the face of the worst economic slump since the 1930s, the decline among the newspaper shares last year was more than twice as deep as the 38.5% drop suffered by the Standard and Poor's average of 500 stocks."
Get your popcorn ready - that is if you like seeing the rich portrayed as bad guys and getting punished for their indiscretions.
According to CNBC contributor Michael Wolff, a Vanity Fair contributing editor, that's what's in store for movie fans in the upcoming year. On the Dec. 29 "CNBC Reports," Wolff told CNBC Business News managing editor Tyler Mathisen that Hollywood is greenlighting a spate of films featuring Wall Street heavies, and these projects are coming sooner than later.
"I think as fast as possible," Wolff said. "Every script in the business is now recasting itself - rich people are bad people."
Is it possible the financial media played a role in facilitating the alleged $50 billion Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme? An interesting theory by Jon Najarian, CNBC analyst and cofounder of optionMONSTER, contends that they very well may have unwittingly done just that. Madoff, he believes, used media publicity to lure investors to his scheme.
As Najarian explained on CNBC's Dec. 22 "Fast Money," Madoff got his reputation on Wall Street in the payment for order flow business. That's when a brokerage firm receives a payment as compensation for directing the order to the different parties that can execute the order at a lower cost.
"First of all you needed something that was very credible, because what he started off with was very credible," Najarian said. "As we both know, Dylan, he was in the payment for order flow business before anybody else. That meant folks that he was buying on the bid and selling on the offer back when the spread on NASDAQ stocks was 50 cents wide."
Feeling a little bailout fatigue? Tired of the assault on the taxpayer from the federal government to pacify those influenced by the United Auto Workers? CNBC's Larry Kudlow feels your pain.
Call this red meat for the troubled anti-bailout soul. Kudlow, now performing a role as a co-host on CNBC's mid-morning program "The Call," blasted the Union Auto Worker, President George W. Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and anyone else associated with $17.4 billion in loans for auto companies announced earlier today on Dec. 19.
"This is a full-up pooper scooper for the American taxpayer, which now owns General Motors," Kudlow said. "We're going to have a GM cabinet. Barack Obama is going to be the new car czar because Bush basically pushed this pooper scooper his way."
It's special treatment for automakers, according to a former airline executive.
Gordon Bethune, the former CEO of Continental Airlines (NYSE:CAL), now a CNBC contributor, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Dec. 19 the political process is being substituted for what otherwise should be a bankruptcy judge in determining the fate of the big three automakers.
"Wow, what makes them exempt from reality? What are the bankruptcy laws invented for?" Bethune asked. "I mean - if it works in airlines, works in steel - what's the matter with these guys? Why not have a judge decide instead of the political process? And, you know - you get some fairness in the federal court, so there's no excuse for this whole debacle I don't think."
The proposed automaker bailout has a big stamp on it that says "union-built," but the news media hasn't noticed.
Over the past month, accusations have been flying against several Southern senators who oppose a $14 billion bailout for the beleaguered big three automakers and support the the alternative of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. These senators, critics say, are representing the interests of foreign automakers that donate heavily to their campaigns. But what has been largely ignored is the other side of the equation - the influence of the United Auto Workers (UAW) on the members of Congress that voted for the bailout.
According to campaign finance data from the Center for Responsive Politics Web site OpenSecrets.org, when broken down by how members of Congress voted, for the 2008 election cycle the UAW gave more than eight times as much in campaign cash to members that voted for the bailout than those that voted against it -- $1.14 million to proponents versus just $136,500 that voted against it.
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.
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.
How about Sean Hannity as editor of the New York Times op-ed page? Maybe O'Reilly and Cavuto in place of Dowd and Krugman as Times columnists? It might not be as far-fetched as it sounds. At least, not if Michael Wolff is right. The Vanity Fair media maven, appearing on CNBC this afternoon, not only said that Rupert Murdoch wants the Gray Lady, but predicted he would get her. [H/t Gat.]
MICHAEL WOLFF: I think that everybody is looking at [the NYT] and waiting for it to kind of go over a brink, to run out of cash, which they're in the process of doing. Or to find itself in a situation where actually, and this is really the key thing, they go looking for a buyer.
A bit later, Wolff, author of a book on Murdoch, mentioned his name as a likely buyer . . .
"You can see that even in Europe, some of the climate concerns, given this, this once in a lifetime recession, John - to put someone that, an advocate of such strong measures," Kernen said on "Squawk Box" Dec. 11. "Really I've seen her called Brownies or Brownistas. Um. That's a little scary with what's happening right now."
Earlier Kernen was discussing cabinet appoints with CNBC Washington correspondent John Harwood and pointed to new regulations Browner could institute:
When Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks, Wall Street listens - and investors should beware. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) has lost over 2,500 points on days he has spoken, including three of the worst point losses ever.
Today's drop in the Dow of 215 points is the 14th time out of the last 20 times the Dow has lost ground on a Bernanke has spoken over the past six months. Bernanke gave a speech at the Federal Reserve System Conference on Housing and Mortgage Markets in Washington today, where he continued to hammer the message the economy is in bad shape.
"The U.S. financial system has been in turmoil during the past 16 months," Bernanke said. "Credit conditions have tightened and asset values have declined, contributing substantially, in turn, to the weakening of economic activity."
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.
Some wag dubbed the Prius the "Pious," for the smug self-righteousness of its greener-than-thou owners. CNBC ran a segment this morning highlighting an even pricier form of conspicuous green consumption: the installation of geothermal wells in Manhattan as an alternative form of HVAC.
Narrating a segment that would have had Veblen nodding in approval, CNBC's Bertha Coombs observed "for many, it represents bragging rights in the pursuit of green luxury." That segued to a clip of New York magazine's Jesse Oxfeld explicitly making the conspicuous consumption point.
Update 11-25 8:20 AM: Morning Joe Makes SNL References -- see discussion at foot.
Call it "The Wild 'n Crazy Guy–Billionaire Style." Maria Bartiromo's interview of Saudi Prince Alwaleed, the largest shareholder of Citigroup, is literally a Saturday Night Live skit waiting—begging—to happen.
CNBC's Bartiromo conducted the interview by remote this afternoon. When the camera went to the prince in Riyadh, you might have expected to find him in a TV studio, or perhaps in his business office, maybe even in one of his palace rooms. But no, there he was sitting outdoors, apparently by his stables, with seated camels and sleek horses very visible in the background. And rather than being attired in business or traditional Saudi dress, the Prince was duded up with an open collar, tinted glasses and a scarf warding off the desert's cool night air. He could be seen occasionally fingering what appeared to be golden worry beads.
Is MSNBC being rewarded for having backed Obama? That's what Jim Pinkerton suggests. On this evening's Fox News Watch, the columnist and New America Foundation fellow cited the news that GE Capital, a subsidiary of MSNBC's parent company GE, has received a $139 billion government loan guarantee.
Host Jon Scott opened this evening's show opened with a clip of Chris Matthews [in a story that NB was first to report], saying that he saw as his "job" making the Obama presidency a success. Pinkerton unloaded.
With General Motors in serious trouble, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nev., are making a push for the government to intervene and rescue the auto giant as they did with AIG. However, Francesco Guerrera, U.S. editor for the Financial Times, isn't so sure a GM failure would be as bad as some are letting on.
Guerrera appeared on CNBC's Nov. 10 "Power Lunch" to weigh the pros and cons of the newly revised AIG (NYSE:AIG) rescue package. He was asked if this type of government intervention should be offered for General Motors (NYSE:GM).
"That's what they say," Guerrera said. "I'm not sure I buy that. I think there'll be a lot of job losses if GM fails, but there's nothing systemic in the sense that if AIG goes or if, you know, one of the other banks goes - there'll be a ripple effect throughout not just the U.S. economy, but global financial markets. I don't see how you can make the systemic risk argument for a car company."
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.
Who's going to be the leader of the financial world in the role of Treasury Secretary under President Obama? It may be Democratic New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, who has pushed for an additional economic stimulus package to the tune of $300 billion to support infrastructure projects.
CNBC's Carl Quintanilla asked Corzine outright on "Squawk Box" if he would accept a job in the Obama administration as Treasury Secretary. "If it's offered, governor, will you say no?" Quintanilla asked.
"Squawk Box" co-host Joe Kernan encouraged Corzine to consider accepting the job if offered, even as the former U.S. senator expressed his contentment as governor. "You could save the world" as Treasury Secretary, Kernan said.
This just in: Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama makes us feel better. That's the way marketing guru and host of CNBC's "The Big Idea" Donny Deutsch sees it.
Deutsch appeared on CNBC's Election Night coverage to explain how the country needs a hug and Obama was just the right guy to do - in his psychoanalysis of the nation's temperament.
"I'm going to go back to his dad," Deutsch said. "I'm going to go back to his dad - I think people are looking for a kinder gentler nation. I think whoever gets in there - for two reasons - number one, we've got two countries, so nobody is getting in with 58 percent, 42 percent - whatever the Electoral College goes. We all know it's going to be a few points. Secondly, you have a frightened populace right now. We all know that - we've been calling that for the last eight weeks. And you need a commander in chief that's going to give the country a hug."
An Obama victory could boost conservative talk show hosts according to CNBC's "Squawk Box" this election day. The show was more skeptical over the future of left-wing talk. Always with the rhetorical questions, Joe Kernen got things started:
Who is going to win in terms of the cable wars? ... Are we going to become totally nonpartisan now? Do you think that we will be able to bury all of our divisions and there won't be any incendiary cable shows anymore? Who wins if Obama wins? What happens to Olbermann? What's Olbermann going to do, or Maddow?
Co-host Carl Quintanilla suggested "television feeds on conflict" and co-host Rebecca Quick followed up by adding that syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh "has done better" when there are Democrats in power.
Kernen said that Limbaugh and Fox News Channel and syndicated radio host Sean Hannity both signed new deals and an Obama win would be "great for them."
CNBC's Maria Bartiromo on Thursday excitedly told viewers that an intra-day rally which had brought the Dow Jones Industrial Average from down about 275 to up over 170 was caused by rumors that the presidential race had tightened.
I wonder if these rumors will get reported by Obama-loving press members.
With about fifteen minutes to go in the trading session, the camera found a suddenly happy Bartiromo on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange gleefully saying the following (file photo):
When at the beginning of the current financial mess John McCain declared that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong," he was roundly lambasted by the MSM, while the Obama campaign called his statement "an enormous mistake."
So, should we expect the liberal media and the Obama campaign to go after Barney Frank . . . now that he has said something remarkably similar? Discussing the markets with Maria Bartiromo on CNBC this afternoon, Frank declared: "I think it's clear that the fundamentals are better than the psychology."
It may not have been "huge" when CNBC's Joe Kernen said it but the dude has been on practically every news station by now.
Kernen told chief Washington correspondent John Harwood that the "Joe the plumber" story "would be huge" and even a "bombshell," in any other election year. Kernen said voters "don't care" because they are buying into Sen. Obama's assertion that the Bush tax policies have led to the financial crisis.
"Obviously not everyone out there knows how to connect the dots between the [financial crisis] and tax policy. For some reason the Bush tax policies are being cited by Obama as the reason that we're in this position right now, again and again and again," said "Squawk Box" co-host Kernen Oct. 16.
Gee, and I thought I might be pushing the envelope on September 28 when I expressed concern that the "bailout" with the made-up $700 billion price tag that turned into the pork-loaded "bailout" with the made-up $850 billion price tag "blackmail" (though "extortion" may be the more appropriate word).
It is clear that this is indeed the case, at least twice over. First, there were the threats made by the Treasury Secretary, the President, and the Fed Chairman warning of a banking Armageddon if Congress didn't pass the bill.
Now there's clear evidence, reported with stunning casualness by CNBC, that Paulson & Co. threatened the big banks in some way to force them to "accept" Uncle Sam's preferred equity investments:
The stock market is casting a vote of "no confidence" in Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and his Republican opponent is missing an opportunity to slam the freshman senator for an economic agenda that is a rehash of the worst of Presidents Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter.
So argued on-air editor Charles Gasparino in an October 13 op-ed in the New York Post, where the CNBC talent mentioned that even Obama's Wall Street backers are nervously telling him to change course on his economic plans (emphases mine):
Overall, his [Obama's] plan includes some of the most lethal tax increases imaginable, including a jump in the capital-gains rate. He'd expand government spending massively, with everything from new public-works projects to increases in foreign aid to a surge in Afghanistan - plus hand out a token $500 welfare check that he calls a tax cut to everyone else.
This is clearly the wrong way to go in the wake of an economic meltdown- yet Obama, for all his talk of how willing he is to compromise, of how he'd bring people together, is sticking to his tax guns.
I know at least one top Wall Street executive, an Obama supporter from the start of his campaign, who has recently urged Obama to rethink his tax plan - and that was before last week's record losses on the Dow.
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):