On last night’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart had an extended interview with Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s Mad Money, an investment advice show. For more than a week, Stewart has been criticizing the financial network for promoting irresponsible investment on Wall Street (and the government policies that encouraged such practices). On last night’s show, he took Cramer to task for the excesses of Wall Street and the complicity of financial reporters in the continuing crisis.
Coverage of the show in the New York Times’ Art Section this morning noted that “Mr. Stewart treated his guest like a C.E.O. subpoenaed to testify before Congress—his point was not to hear Mr. Cramer out, but to act out a cathartic ritual of indignation and castigation.”
That may well be, but Stewart did make some valuable points, particularly in the third segment of the interview. We’ve treated the financial crisis “like a crazy, one-in-a-lifetime tsunami that no one could have seen coming,” Stewart observed, “is disingenuous at best and criminal at worst.”
His criticism included not just the traders and brokers but financial reporters as well. “The [traders] at these companies [AIG, Lehman Brothers, etc.] were on a Sherman’s march through their companies financed by our 401ks and all the incentives were for short-term profits. And they burned the house down with our money and walked away rich as hell. And you guys [CNBC’s financial reports] knew that that was going on.”
A Congressional inquiry is not likely in the works. And we’re still a long way off from understanding all the factors that contributed to the current crisis. But Stewart offers a great start to understanding the crisis—and to laying blame for it. But it’s a sad, sad day when we have to look to the court jester for truth and justice.