CNBC is Dangerous

16 03 2009

My colleague Scott Gaillard penned a very instructive piece about Jim Cramer the other day. I agree with his sentiments entirely on Cramer. But I want to thank Jon Stewart for his willingness to take on this fight: for several years now I have complained about CNBC outward bias to anyone who was interested in listening. I had even said to many that I believe CNBC to be a bigger threat to progressive causes than Fox News. This was often met with laughter or a simple, “you’re crazy” from whomever I was speaking to.

Here is why:

CNBC is a network of the intelligentsia. The average CNBC viewer unlike the average FOX News viewer has the resources and the capability to shape opinion. CNBC is also a network staffed by intelligent, sometimes witty people unlike FOX which is staffed by talking heads and glorified news readers who parrot the same arguments over and over. Perhaps most importantly FOX talks about divisive social issues which have little bearing on our everyday life while CNBC talks about basic economics and the markets which affect everything we do regularly.

CNBC has popular show hosts like Cramer, and Mario Bartiromo whose job it appears is simply to pump up the market and the profits of the Wall Street tycoons that patron the network. Rick Santelli’s outburst at President Obama a few weeks ago was far from an isolated incident, but just the letting out of entitlement CNBC’s personalities have towards protecting lenders, investors and corporations from what they perceive as the heavy hand of Government.

Cramer is actually much more likable and objective than the average CNBC host on after 11 am ET. Bartiromo pushes anything that may help pump the market upwards while Larry Kudlow advocates cutting taxes almost every day. The Afternoon show “Power Lunch” features a round table discussion which inevitably leads to taxes and government spending and interference in the economy.

Jack Welch, the former head of GE which owns NBC Universal, and thus CNBC is a very market driven conservative. Welch is given credit for turning GE around but also likely had his impact on CNBC’s editorial content. Prior to the launch of FOX Business Channel, The Wall Street Journal signed a long term partnership with CNBC and their editorial content seems to make its way into the minds of CNBC’s personalities.

CNBC unlike rival Business network, Bloomberg News is determined to pump up certain stock or commodity prices quickly to ensure profits for certain investors and viewers. Using an entertaining backdrop, and knowledgeable anchors the network’s personalities all make rational arguments for why certain investments are stronger than others.

That’s not to say all of CNBC is bad. The very objective and credible David Faber as well as the worldly Erin Burnett, and cynical Mark Haines anchor the morning program which tends to be more focused on long term trends than short term profits. But the rest of the network with few exceptions have become the chattering bug for the capitalist class. Faber especially seems more concerned about objective journalism than simply protecting Wall Street investors.

While FOX News may speak for red state America, CNBC speaks for those Wall Street and anti Tax crusaders who want President Obama or any liberal to fail. The network unlike FOX uses intelligent arguments made by exceptional people, not parroted arguments made by college dropouts to make its case.

Jon Stewart has learned what I have known for years: CNBC is the TV network which represents the biggest threat to the progressive movement in the America.


In Defense of the Crazy Bald Guy on Mad Money

15 03 2009

By J. Scott Gaillard

I’ve been one of the loudest and most consistent critics on CNBC and their shortcomings.  I’ve been after them for their biased reporting and politically charged commentary.  I’ve criticized them for their Dow-chasing and stock-hyping.  I’ve unloaded on them for their bad calls and slammed them for manipulating economic reality to fit their predetermined right-wing paradigm.

Their on-air personalities cut off former government leaders, who presided over better economic times, and berate them with ring-wing talking points.  These same personalities coddle, coo and praise CEOs who turn out to be dolts and company- killers. The same personalities cut off prescient academics who, years ago, predicted precisely what is now happening.

But, for all the clowns, entertainment monkeys and adrenalin freaks on CNBC, you can occasionally find insightful commentary, accurate reporting and trenchant analysis.  Occasionally, Jim Cramer is one of these guys.

It’s easy to criticize Crammer for his antics on the show, “Mad Money.”  He smashes boxes, tosses icons, hits buzzers and throws pies.  But, Cramer is also a guy that often provides some of the more penetrating and insightful segments.  Crammer is the guy that actually tries to help Joe and Jane every-person understand the vast complexity that is today’s economic environment and financial landscape.  He tires to break through the press release boilerplate, corporate spin and market manipulation to tell you what is actually going on.

Moreover, Crammer is the guy that has continually lampooned the Bush era regulators for being “of, by and for the corporations.”  Crammer is a guy with vast compassion and concern for the average investor.  Cramer is a guy who also displays great humility and admits many of his mistakes (see his column in New York Magazine).  Crammer is the guy with a “Wall of Shame” for the corporate CEO’s and leaders who are wrecking their companies while personally reaping millions.

Cramer is the guy that in 2007 accurately predicted the housing meltdown and the political fallout to follow.  Speaking about Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Cramer said,  “We think of him as Saint Alan now, but in a few years he will be known as the reckless Fed chairman who encouraged the creation and use of exotic mortgages…with low interest payments the first two years that explode into gargantuan fees for the next 28.” Cramer further noted, “Now, pretty much every large financial institution in the country is caught in a web it can’t get out of.  Bogus mortgage paper is infecting the system, and no one has a cure.” He nailed it while most of the country was still asleep.

Should Cramer, and the rest of the CNBC team be blasted for their bad calls on stocks and the market?  Abosloutely. Should he be criticized for being entertaining while trying to be informative to the average investor? No.

I love Jon Stewart and think his show is one of the most important satirical enterprises of our time.  That’s right I said “important.”  But in Cramer he has picked the wrong target.  Or maybe the target picked him?

Scott Gaillard is the host of the Radio Show “Talk Back Jacksonville,” a political consultant, and former Congressional staffer.