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A Darwinian Approach to Dining

Wednesday, 28 Jan 2009 | 2:42 PM ET

On Monday's show we talked about how the process of creative destruction is being allowed to move forward in the casual-dining sector. There are no bailouts for these companies, and that means the losers really lose, but the flip side is that there can actually be winners. Because when a company like Bennigan's drops off the face of the planet, that helps Darden Restaurants, Brinker International, and McDonald's, the three fittest restaurants Jim recommended.

When you're in a Billy Paul, "Only the Strong Survive," sector with no bailouts, capitalism is allowed to play out the way it's supposed to, as a vicious, Darwinian struggle where the weakest companies either shrink or fold, and the strongest ones use the downturn to take share.

The flip side of this is that when you're dealing with a bailed out, zombified sector like the banks, it's hard for there to be winners because we keep propping up the losers. That doesn't mean we're opposed to savings the financial system, couldn't be further from the truth. But by propping up the weaker players, the government has made it harder for true financial winners to emerge.

Speaking of financial winners and losers, a little housekeeping is in order. Obviously we were wrong to list Bank of America as one of our four fortress banks that can make it through the crisis while swallowing up other banks at discount prices. Bank of America bit off more than it could chew for way too much money when it bought Merrill Lynch, and now the question is simply whether or not the common stock will make it.





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 Richand 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.




Questions for Cramer? madmoney@cnbc.com

Questions, comments, suggestions for the Mad Money website? madcap@cnbc.com

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