There really are two Americas

While writing about the current economic melt down, I’ve mentioned that the douchebags on Wall Street that ran the economy into the ground operated under different rules than what we regular Americans do. The fact that the bankers want the taxpayer to pay for their toxic assets for a value more than the paper they are written on should be a clue. Columnist David Sirota points out even a more obvious example and one that seems to have removed the rose colored glasses from the masses, who have acted like they’ve never noticed this before. His column talks about the foundation of business – the contract.

Last month, the same government that says it “cannot just abrogate” executives’ bonus contracts used its leverage to cancel unions’ wage contracts. As The Wall Street Journal reported, federal loans to GM and Chrysler were made contingent on those manufacturers shredding their existing labor pacts and “extract(ing) financial concessions from workers.” In other words, our government asks us to believe that it possesses total authority to adjust contracts at car companies it lends to, and yet has zero power to modify contracts at financial firms it owns. This, even though the latter set of covenants might be easily abolished.

A government of men, not laws

That’s right. Contracts to pay bonuses to the douchebags who ran the economy into the ground were off limits while there is nothing wrong in throwing out labor contracts as a condition for automakers to get a loan.

Sirota also mentioned this double standard applied to mortgages:

Congressional Republicans have long supported the laws letting bankruptcy courts annul mortgage contracts for vacation homes. Those statutes help the shower-before-work clique at least retain their beachside villas, no matter how many of their speculative Ponzi schemes go bad. But for those who shower after work, it’s Adams-esque bromides against “absolving borrowers of their personal responsibility,” as the GOP announced it will oppose legislation permitting bankruptcy judges to revise mortgage contracts for primary residences.

It was equally unfunny when some talking head on CNBC recently noted that you couldn’t get anyone to run the financial industry for less than $250,000 a year. He forgot that the ones making that cash didn’t do a good job of it either. That’s why they are trying to snooker us into a bad deal on those toxic assets.

Why Cramer vs Stewart matters?

The recent spat between Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, and Jim Cramer, host of Mad Money on CNBC has been entertaining. It started with a scathing 8 minute video clip of the incestuous relationship between the talking heads on CNBC and the CEOs and climaxed with a face to face discussion between Stewart and Cramer on The Daily Show Thursday night. But why should we care about two TV hosts bantering back and forth like enemies on the junior high play ground? It’s because it shows a light on the problems we have in our so called free press.

As I’ve written before, the classic idea of the press is to be advocate of the people who are suppose to be objective and ask our leaders the tough questions, we, the public either would like to ask ourselves or need an answer. When the press fails to do that, as all too often happens in the corporate media of today, their reporting becomes more like propaganda than journalism.

Jon Stewart and his Daily Show staff – which by the way is a comedy show – showed in their 8 minute clip that CNBC missed the recent financial melt down even as the red flags marched down Wall Street and instead they continued to have a parade of CEOs on claiming “don’t panic”. CNBC was so caught up in having the access to all these rich guys they failed to report about the storm clouds and problems that started in the housing market in 2007.

Financial news shows are not the place to be passing off press releases from CEOs as reporting. People who trusted the network got hurt if they didn’t take action before the market melt down. As Stewart told Cramer last night on his show “This is not a game…”

As James Moore wrote on Huffington Post:

Nonetheless, reporters at the big TV networks and the major publications have no excuse. Minute by minute people like Jim Cramer are feeding crap into our culture and public perceptions and it has nothing to do with reality and everything to do with their egos. How is it that a comedian is the first person to hold accountable these cheerleaders who are promoting a team that has no chance to win and, in some cases, isn’t even in the damned game?

Analysts doing the autopsy on newspaper reporting and the corpse of mainstream journalism are constantly lamenting the fact that so many young people and an increasing number of others are getting their news from Jon Stewart and Comedy Central. Where else is there left to look for thoughtful, analytical, and insightful analysis of the issues of our day? The yuks are just a bonus. Cable news shows can proclaim “no bias, no bull” all they want but every story is framed for a purpose, which is drama and conflict. The viewers and the readers aren’t there without the dramatic tension. You might as well be watching Law and Order: Special News Unit.

And a Comic Shall Lead Them

Yes, negative press can hurt a business but journalists have a responsibility to report the truth even if that means negative reports about a business or market. An uninformed public is a powerless public and they get hurt far worse than these CEOs who stole our money. As Stewart pointed out our 401k’s capitalized their adventures.

Here is part 3 of the Stewart vs Cramer interview on the Thursday Daily Show


Saw this bit in a column by Glenn Greenwald on Salon’s website and thought it makes the same point I was making but includes the entire press establishment:

That’s the heart of the (completely justifiable) attack on Cramer and CNBC by Stewart. They would continuously put scheming CEOs on their shows, conduct completely uncritical “interviews” and allow them to spout wholesale falsehoods. And now that they’re being called upon to explain why they did this, their excuse is: Well, we were lied to. What could we have done? And the obvious answer, which Stewart repeatedly expressed, is that people who claim to be “reporters” are obligated not only to provide a forum for powerful people to make claims, but also to then investigate those claims and then to inform the public if the claims are true. That’s about as basic as it gets.

Today, everyone — including media stars everywhere — is going to take Stewart’s side and all join in the easy mockery of Cramer and CNBC, as though what Stewart is saying is so self-evidently true and what Cramer/CNBC did is so self-evidently wrong. But there’s absolutely nothing about Cramer that is unique when it comes to our press corps. The behavior that Jon Stewart so expertly dissected last night is exactly what our press corps in general does — and, when compelled to do so, they say so and are proud of it.

There’s nothing unique about Jim Cramer