Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Large Dose of Dumb

this might get long. There's too much stupid in the output of the last few days to shorterize all of it.

What's the matter with Jim Cramer?:

First, let's recall what Megan said about Cramer while trying to pretend to be balanced in her weak hatchet job on Stewart;

I think Jim Cramer should be illegal.
And now...
I've seen a number of people making some variant of the claim that Jon Stewart is the only one brave enough to stand up to the financial journalists who helped get us into this mess.
This is purest poppycock. Jim Cramer had no influence over the twin manias that afflicted America in the last ten years: the madness of homebuyers for ever more expensive houses, and the madness of bankers for buying bonds based on those homes. Jim Cramer did not persuade the Asian savers to pour moronic amounts of capital into oversaturated American markets. He did not talk up MBS or CDOs to any level that could be vaguely said to have meaningfully increased the amount of leverage in the system. If you want a television host, or network, to blame all of our troubles on, you'd do better to cast your ire on Home and Garden Television, and Flip This House. They're the ones who told Americans, over and over and over and over, that it was possible to get rich by installing granite countertops.
Not the bankers, just remember that. They are blameless for actively seeking to extend all that credit, and for failing to do the due diligence that was once part of their job. They had too much money to spend, there was just no time for checking on reported income. Blame the people who dare to sell granite countertops for not telling their customers not to purchase their goods, just don't blame the bankers.
In any case, remember, this is all about Jim Cramer, not Santelli or the failures of CNBC and the business media, of which Megan is a tiny lil part, in general. It's not as if Jon Stewart explicitly telling Jim Cramer that those were the things his show's critiques were really about means that's what his show's critiques were really about. How, for example, would it help Megan if that were the case? It wouldn't, so it cant be so. As she was saying;
No, neither Jim Cramer nor CNBC created this mess. They focus mostly on stocks, and though people tend to think of the stock markets as synonomous [sic] with the financial system, they just haven't had much to do with the current problems. ...
The problem with Jim Cramer is the problem with the Jonas Brothers: what he does simply isn't much good, for all that people seemingly have a large appetite to consume it. And he encourages people to pursue a destructive activity, trading their own portfolios, when most economic research shows they'd be better off in an index fund.
But this is a minor sideshow.
That's correct. As Jon Stewart was saying to Jim Cramer, the point was the failure of the financial news media, specifically but not limited to CNBC. Santelli was the guy they wanted to have in to eff with, but he canceled on The Daily Show earlier that week. Megan is focusing on the sideshow because Jon Stewart's actual point speaks quite poorly of her and the portion of the industry she's sort of a member of.

Collective action:
Commenters and emailers are mad because I won't take a side and join them in their witch hunt for someone to blame for all of this.
This is unfair. Megan has quite clearly blamed the holders of subprime mortgages and poor people who lacked detailed understanding of financial matters but accepted credit being thrown at them for "all of this". What she refuses to do is in any way accept that the banking industry deserves any portion, especially the overwhelming majority, of the blame for the particular subprime crisis among our economic crises. Their possession of the actual credit being extended did not put them in a position where they had to verify the worthiness of the recipients of those lines of credit, or that the recipients actually understood the terms of the credit they were receiving. See, Bill Clinton told allllll the banks they had give poor black people any money they asked for, and George Bush never heard about it until too late and kablamo!!!, our economy is in tatters.
This is how I feel about homeowners. They were caught up in a mania to buy a home, and most of the ones in trouble were at least a little greedy. They were desperate to buy rather than renting because they thought that buying a house was a way to make money without working, and they bought more house than they could afford because they thought rising prices would help them get away with it. But they were also getting bad information from the system. Home prices had been rising for two decades. How long are you supposed to ignore your lying eyes and put your faith in economic theory? Especially if you have two years of junior college and never really learned the theory?
Greed is only good if you're rich and go to the right school, I guess.
But by the same token, I don't harbor any particular animus towards most of the bankers. The mortgage brokers and the smaller number of bankers who actively conveyed fraudulent information to the borrowers about the terms of their loans, or to the lenders about the income of the borrowers, yes. (And for all the frothing from left and right, I haven't seen anything beyond very sketchy anecdotal evidence that one type of fraud was more prevalent than the other. But most of the bankers were getting bad information from the same crazy system that was giving bad information to the borrowers about the risk of mortgages. If one banker, or a few bankers, make a bad bet, I think we can focus on stupidity and greed. But when almost all of them do, then I think it's not much more helpful to ask "What did they do to deserve this?" then it is to ask that question about the unemployed.
If she keeps talking about fraud, maybe we'll all forget the problem was negligence, often if not always intentional, based on a systemic desire to create debt to be traded. I won't, but maybe someone will.
It's not that I don't think bankers are greedy. I'm sure they are. I also think homeowners are greedy. I think community organizers are greedy. I think greed is a trait fairly evenly distributed throughout the human race, though the focus of that greed varies quite a bit. That makes it unsatisfying as an explanation for . . . well, almost anything. It's like blaming the financial crisis on oxygen.
I swear to Jebus and all the Superfriends that I hadn't read this passage when I wrote my last post. She really does think everyone is as dim and greedy as she is.
She goes on for a couple hundred more words to explain how she thinks doing everything but directly addressing the problems in the system, especially including the people in it and their mindset, will magically fix the problem and make horses shit gold, but this is long enough already.


Anonymous said...

OT but I love this site.

I don't know who ever told Megan that she was one of the country's top economist and that she had some sort of rivalry with Paul Krugman.

I just remembered some of her post from yesteryear and I found a couple of good ones:

Speaking of Paul Krugman
I wonder what happens to his career on January 21st, 2008? I presume we will have a Democratic candidate inaugurated; and so much of his current fame lies in his vocal opposition to a much disliked Republican president. I don't think it's crazy to speculate that, had Al Gore taken office in 2000, Paul Krugman would still be fairly obscure--better read by people like me, who loved his Slate columns, but not much noticed by the ordinary run of New York Times readers. What on earth will he write about when "Bush is evil" no longer suffices to fill column inches?


Oh, and there was also

As I've blogged before, I'm interested in what this election will do to Paul Krugman's career.

She had many posts along the same lines.

We can answer the question now can't we. Nobel price, worldwide influence in economic matters, even more followers, one of the most respected blogs, another book and son. Paul Krugman's career has actually peaked since Megan predicted his end.

clever pseudonym said...

The people who were mislead into believing they could afford a mortgage on a home were greedy, but the guys who just handed them money without even bothering with so much as a credit check are saints that deserve their bonuses. What a fucked up world view this woman has.

Anon - the best part about that first link was the "January 21st, 2008" comment. Um...a day like any other, Megan. Methinks you mean 2009.