With multiples lower across the board, stocks might seem cheaper, Cramer said Monday, but they're actually just worth less for fear that future earnings will be "crimped" by the government.
The fear is widespread, Cramer said, as "it's impossible to find a company that isn't threatened by the dominant agenda in Washington."
Financial regulatory reform gave banks an earnings "haircut," Cramer said. The debate over health-care reform gave those stocks a similar cut a few months earlier. He thinks the ban on offshore drilling will crush oil-service companies along with the oil companies that need to find oil to keep their reserves up. Elsewhere in the energy space, natural-gas names are expected to get slammed by the Environmental Protection Agency investigations into hydraulic fracturing – a reason multiples are shrinking for Exxon Mobil , Chevron , Chesapeake Energy and Schlumberger .
Cramer said more damage will be done with forthcoming items on the Congressional agenda, including cap-and-trade on carbon emissions and “card check” unionization. Making it easier for workers to unionize would hurt Walmart , as well as big banks like Bank of America , Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase if their tellers were to join the union. Cap-and-trade will come down on "any industry that pollutes," as well as the utility companies, he said.
President George W. Bush's administration created a "laissez-fair paradise for big business and their shareholders," Cramer said. "Now, though, Washington feels the need to meddle in everything ... and therefore that's bad for earnings, to say nothing of job creation."
The Mad Money host said relatively no industry has benefitted from the government, barring the housing tax credit and the scaling down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The stimulus, he said, largely helped state and local governments and that doesn't move the needle for public companies.
"Washington used to seem as though it had a tacit understanding of the importance of stocks in everyday life, how they're used to save for retirement and college tuition through 401ks, IRAs and 529 plans, all set up by the government to encourage stock investing," Cramer said. "That pro-growth, pro-stock bias is now gone and without it, it's pretty ridiculous to expect the multiple of the S&P 500 to do anything but shrink."
Some companies aren't in the crosshairs of the government, Cramer said, like his C.A.N.D.I.E.S.: Chipotle , Apple , Netflix , Deckers , Intuitive Surgical , Express Scripts and Salesforce.com . These are "ultra-fast" growing companies that don't seem to fall as hard as the rest of the market.
"In this environment, unless a company has super growth with worldwide possibilities,” Cramer said, “you cannot bank on higher multiples. When Washington is against stocks, they go down, but they don't get cheaper."
So, "Find another reason to like a stock than the fact that it's too inexpensive," he said.
When this story published, Cramer's charitable trust owned Apple, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase.
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