Monday, January 23, 2012

Jim Cramer The Everyman

As a market commentator I have always taken CNBC's Jim Cramer for what he is: An effective entertainer.  The host of "Mad Money" has been around a long time and is a fixture among financial talking heads. 

Cramer was interviewed the other day by MSNBC's Alex Witt about tax policy.   Here's the link:

I was struck, as I often am in such interviews, as much by what is said as what is not said, or not asked. 


I realize wading into the whole "media bias" cesspool is a dangerous thing, and it's really not my point. 

I could devote an entire post, let alone an entire blog, to the bias (real and imagined) in our media from both sides. 

To wit:  The network that declares itself "fair and balanced" often isn't, while the other one often leaves me wanting to "lean forward" in order to hurl a blunt object. 

My blowhard is smarter, and better, than your blowhard.  Frankly the subject bores me. 

Back to the interview.  At one point Cramer claims he pays a 56% percent tax rate on his salary, which I presume to be a combination of the top 35% federal rate and 21% in his state and local hit.   For the remainder of the talk the scroll at the bottom of the screen reminds us of the high taxes paid by the mad money man.  And yes, Cramer feels that people like him should pay more, particularly in capital gains taxes. 

Here's the problem.  Alex (in this case Dim) Witt takes Cramer at his word and doesn't follow-up.  She doesn't bother with a simple question such as, "Jim, are you saying that you don't have any deductions or capital gains that would make your adjusted gross income and effective tax rate much lower?" 

No property tax or business deductions?  I'm highly skeptical.  Jim Cramer is a smart, successful, wealthy guy. I doubt he pays his 56% and returns to his room at the YMCA, hotplate included.

It's important to note that Cramer is barred by CNBC from buying or selling individual stocks other than for his charitable trust, which he must disclose.

I knew that beforehand, not because Cramer shared (or was even asked) the reason he's not part of the capital gains party.

Maybe I am nitpicking, but this is an instance where I wish the interviewer had bothered to probe just a bit.  Then again, maybe the only point was cross promotion of another NBC show, a tax "chalk talk" filler before the breathtaking tour of Cramers buttons and hats.

Tax policy is a big deal.  And this was a missed opportunity.

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