Sunday, October 20, 2013

Winner and losers...

I just can't do CNBC's Mad Money program; Jim Cramer's shtick doesn't work for me. That said, while my office telly was tuned (yet muted) to CNBC last Wednesday afternoon, I happened to look up and notice a couple of captions highlighting the mad man's monologue: The first one read, words to the effect, that Tesla's Elon Musk is a fantastic CEO. The second read "this is what happens when government gets out of the way and lets the economy run free". The latter was for sure a reference to the then pending deal in Washington that appeared to have sparked Wednesday's 200 point rally in the Dow. My, what a conflicting pair of statements.

I'm sorry, but, as impressive as Musk may be, I'm just not a fan of a CEO who's been quoted as saying subsidies are generally bad, until they work. In other words, deficit spending is a terrible thing until some of it lands on your doorstep, or, subsidies are generally bad, unless they come my way. You see, Mr. Musk was the beneficiary of a few hundred million dollar gift (a below market-rate loan [one not available to the competition]) by the department of energy (that is, the taxpayer) as well as all manner of clean energy subsidies from Uncle Sam and individual states (that is, the taxpayer). In other words---particularly in terms of the department of energy's gift---the government done picked itself a winner, and a loser, or, at a minimum, a payer (that is, the taxpayer).

As for Cramer's second assertion: the striking of a deal that essentially allows the federal government to proceed, business as usual, would not be the definition of government getting out of the way. More aptly, it's the definition of government staying in the way. Okay, now we can for sure label the taxpayer the loser.

The animated Mr. Cramer is famous for his convulsive condemnation---on behalf of his Wall Street brethren---of the Fed for what he viewed as a lack of intervention (or, let's say, a lack of getting in the way) amid the 2008 credit crisis. I wonder how he'd react if the Fed and the politicians were to adopt measures that would truly get government out of the way --- like ending QE and eliminating subsidies to its chosen few?

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