Friday, March 06, 2009

Masters Of the Universe

Have you seen Jon Stewart's scathing attack of the business "experts" at CNBC? If you haven't, here it is:

Now I sort of like Rick Santelli, the CNBC analyst who went crazy on TV the other week railing about President Obama's mortgage plan and how it was going to help bail out "losers" who don't deserve the help. But the rant smacked of hypocrisy, given the hundreds of billions both administrations have handed out to financial institutions, insurers and auto makers and the taxpayer money the CEO's of those institutions have squandered on bonuses, junkets, etc. Nary a complaint about that kind of stuff is ever made on CNBC, though you hear all kinds of stuff about learning how to "Obama-proof" your portfolio for the long haul.

Leaving aside the "loser" rhetoric for a moment, I think you can make a good case that the administration's mortgage plan creates a moral hazard and won't address the real issue in the mortgage/real estate crisis any way - home prices inflated way too much in many places around the country and those prices need to come back down to levels more in line with the historic ratio between wages and home prices.

But if you're watching CNBC these days, you would be under the impression that it was President Obama who created the current financial catastrophe instead of the real culprits - Uncle Alan Greenspan and his monetary policy (cheap money, cheap money, cheap money...), George Bush and his deregulation policies (How did the SEC miss the Ponzi schemes run by Bernie Madoff and Sir Allen Stanford? Oh, yeah, they didn't investigate them even after they were told funky things were going on...), the Republican-led Congress that happily went along with those policies and the subsequent Democratic-led Congress that refuses to hold the people who stole hundreds of billions of dollars accountable to the law

A good start would be investigating and prosecuting Angelo Mozilo, John Thain, Chuck Prince, Jimmy Cayne, Phil Gramm and the crooks at AIG and the ratings agencies. Then look to see who else in Washington besides Phil Gramm helped grease the skids for all the criminal activity - (Schumer? Rangel? the entire Republican Party?) and hold them accountable too.

While we're at it, maybe take a look at the connections between the financial experts at CNBC and the crooks they were covering. Why was Jim Cramer, for example, pushing Bear before it imploded, Countrywide before it imploded, Lehman before it imploded, Wachovia before it imploded, Bank of America before it fell to below $4 a share? Is he just the dumbest financial analyst on the planet or is he crook looking to make some money for himself and his cronies (the guys he calls "my people") at the taxpayers' and/or his viewers' expense?

There sure is a lot of blame to go around and there are an awful lot of people on Wall Street and in Washington who really ought to be frogmarched into prison for a few years -but there are also a few cheerleaders on CNBC who ought to face the music too.

As Jon Stewart noted the other night on The Daily Show, you could have had a million dollars if you had followed the advice of the smarmy Ayn Randites on CNBC - provided you had started with a hundred million dollars first.

Forget about Obama-proofing your portfolio - try Cramer-proofing it instead.
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