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Jim Cramer: The Anti-Steve Rattner

Wednesday, 25 Jun 2008 | 12:34 PM ET

Growing up I remember being aware of all the death threats my uncle would get from a fairly young age. They'd come in letters, then e-mails, but until now I had never seen anyone call for Jim Cramer's death in a Condé Nast publication. I guess I thought they were classier than that.

If I tried to correct, refute or debunk every illegitimate criticism of Jim Cramer and Mad Money that popped up on the Internet, I wouldn't have any time left over to sleep, let alone do my job. Don't get me wrong, I think anyone who's got the spotlight and uses it to criticize as many people as Jim does is fair game. And so does Jim, which is why he's the first person to admit it--on air-whenever he gets something wrong. There are plenty of perfectly legitimate reasons for somebody to go after Jim Cramer. It's just that none of his detractors use them.

So I'm going to go after a few of them, starting with Steven Rattner, the man who called for, well, in his words, "Jim Cramer should be shot—not literally, of course." Come on Rattner, grow a pair. Thousands of people have called for Jim's literal shooting. You're saying you want him shot metaphorically?

I've got a kind of genealogy of different Cramer criticisms that I'll show you in another post, but Rattner falls into the category of "guy who's never watched the show and is really attacking the idea of regular people owning stocks because he thinks they're too stupid and lazy to manage their own money." As you can see from my description, I find this view a tad elitist.

But here's what the guy actually said: "Everywhere you turn, there are endless reams of personal-investing advice. It all does people a disservice. It’s kidding an investor into believing he or she can beat the odds. Even if you do hear a useful idea, you go off and buy something and then you don’t know what to do next. Nobody ever tells you when it’s time to sell or that the world has changed and your investment no longer works."

I think that quote lines up pretty well with my interpretation. Obviously the guy has never watched Mad Money, because we have a Sell Block segment once a week, not to mention Jim's constant exhortations to sell certain sectors all throughout the show, especially in the Lightning Round.

Plus, Mad Money isn't just an endless succession of stock picks--we'd be featuring something like 600 stocks a year if we were, and that's definitely not the case. A lot of the show, and I should add of Jim's books, is devoted to explaining "what to do next" with a stock. Anyone who'd actually watched Mad Money would've heard Jim use the word homework, for example.

Jim has the "ring the register" button on his soundboard because he so frequently urges people to take profits in stocks he's recommended. He has a hog/guillotine combination sound effect to remind people that bulls make money, bears make money, and hogs (pigs--people who are greedy) get slaughtered. I would have to believe that if the Rattners of the world had seen the show even once, they would've heard both sound effects because Jim uses them every night.

Of course, this is the attitude you'd expect from a private dealmaker like Rattner. Our goal on Mad Money is to empower individual investors to manage their own money, and that has to cut into his business. I think that, along with jealousy, frankly, is what fuels a lot of the attacks on Jim from people who don't actually have a clue what he's doing. He doesn't want anyone in on the game, and he's a consummate insider. The insiders must keep you out for the same reason they don't want you in their country clubs or their private schools, they think they're better than you.

Jim Cramer has become a straw man for these guys. He's the only really famous person who picks stocks in public. So he's the only one they can attack, whether they're familiar with what he does or not.

I'll have more on Jim and the show's critics later, but for now I want to end with a post-script about how clueless Rattner is, taken from his interview with Portfolio. When asked about where a person should invest $100,000 right now, he said, "Almost anywhere, except in buying a house you don’t need. I know everyone says home prices always go up. But even in the best of times, a home is typically not the best-performing investment."

The bold italics are mine. Who the heck has been saying that home prices always go up at any time in the last year? No wonder Rattner's never seen Mad Money. His head must be shoved so far up a certain bodily orifice that he can't see a thing about what's going on outside himself.

By the way, Jim tells me he knows Rattner. When he was looking for a job on Wall Street in the early '80s, Jim told me he got one at Lehman Brothers. The guy who offered it to him? Steve Rattner. There was only one problem: Before Jim could accept the offer, Rattner left for a better job. Talk about someone who should be shot, but only metaphorically, of course!




Cliff Mason is the Senior Writer of CNBC's Mad Money w/Jim Cramer, and has been that program's primary writer, in cooperation with and under the supervision of Jim Cramer, since he began at CNBC as an intern during the summer of 2005. Mason was the author of a column at TheStreet.com during 2007, which he describes as "hilarious, if short-lived." He graduated from Harvard College in 2007. It was at Harvard that Mason learned to multi-task, mastering the art of seeming to pay attention to professors while writing scripts for Mad Money. Mason has co-written two books with Jim Cramer: Jim Cramer's Mad Money: Watch TV, Get Rich and Stay Mad For Life: Get Rich, Stay Rich (Make Your Kids Even Richer). He is 100% responsible for any parts of either book that you did not like.

Mason has also had a fruitful relationship with Jim Cramer as his nephew for the last 23 years and will hopefully continue to hold that position for many more as long as he doesn't do anything to get himself kicked out of the family.




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