Do you still own this piece of garbage? I do!

And stick with me -- I'll tell you why I still own it. Plus, I'll ask a question, make a confession, and explain why I've been buying stocks. But before I do, you must read this from a stock jock I like and respect.

Why I like Jim Cramer
"It is hard to imagine anything but more downside for these stocks and therefore more downside for the rest of the market." -- Jim Cramer, July 15, 2008

When I say I like Jim Cramer, it's no backhanded compliment. I've been reading him for 10 years. I count him -- along with my pals Bill Mann and Tom Gardner -- among the best and most passionate stock guys around.

I even wrote a regular column for Cramer's website some years back. One day, he shot me an email saying simply, "nice analysis," and it made my day. (Though he won't remember any of that.) Point being, when Cramer talks (and he does), I listen.

Where are all the contrarians?
That's the question I promised at the outset. So, where are all the contrarians? How can it be that before yesterday (when I sat down to write this column, I swear!) it seemed that not one person in the financial media saw value in Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) or Citigroup (NYSE:C) -- both of which were yielding mid-double digits and priced nearly for bankruptcy?

And even if both do go belly-up, why was nobody sniffing around the Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF), which also gets you a piece of JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC)? Is every one of these institutions going out of business, too?

And I'm not talking about buying these stocks "for a technical rally" because they are "short-term oversold" -- whatever that means. I'm talking about being contrarian -- buying when there's blood in the streets -- the only truly proven investment strategy I know.

Now, my confession
Monday morning, I bought stocks. The market was down more than 2% by 10 a.m., and you could cut the doom and gloom with a knife.

I wanted to buy more Bank of America -- which, as you may have guessed, is my own personal "garbage" (even though I still believe in the beleaguered bank) -- or at least the financial services ETF, but I didn't.

Know why? Because I was freaked by what folks were saying on CNBC and in The Wall Street Journal. I couldn't find one person who shared my view that the mere fact that nobody could see a reason for the financials to recover was the buy signal I was looking for.

That's when I read Jim Cramer -- and chickened out and bought the S&P 500-tracking SPDRs (SPY). But that was a mistake: You don't bottom-fish when some idiot on TV says "it's hard to imagine anything but downside for the market." You buy when a smart guy like Jim Cramer says it.

You don't have to be a cowboy
I'm not suggesting you run off like a colleague of mine (let's call him "Randal Tycoon"), who on Monday went ultra-long the financials and ultra-short ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and the energy stocks (though I admire his moxie and wish I had his money). This is not about short-term trading.

But if, like me, you like the idea of loading up on proven cash generators like American Express (NYSE:AXP) and Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), or any of two dozen other market leaders trading at bargain-basement prices, you want to do it when some clown on CNBC is shouting "There's a 10% chance we'll have a Depression!"

Depression? Holy smokes! Kooks aside, this is the ugliest mood I've seen on Wall Street in 20 years of following the markets -- and that includes 2001, when at least a handful of Pollyannas were hopeful. Does this mean we've hit bottom, and it's smooth sailing from here? No. But it tells me that now is the time to buy stocks.

What to do now …
Last time things got anywhere near this ugly was the spring of 2002. That also happened to be the year I started working with David and Tom Gardner on their Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter. The first few months were a bit rocky.

But six years later, 23 of their first 24 stock recommendations have made their subscribers money. Seven have tripled in value, and two are up more than 800%. Did David and Tom call the precise bottom? No, but at this point, do you think anyone cares?

That, my friend, is how the market works. Over the long term, the stocks of America's best companies go up. And the very best time to buy them is when the smartest investors on Wall Street can't find a reason why stocks can go up. Thanks, Jim.

If what I say makes sense, and you need help finding great stocks, I recommend you give Stock Advisor a try. You get the top picks for new money right now from Motley Fool co-founders David and Tom Gardner, and you can try the whole service for a whole month free.

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Paul Elliott owns shares of Bank of America. You can see the entire Stock Advisor portfolio with your free trial. Bank of America and JPMorgan are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. Starbucks is an Inside Value and Stock Advisor recommendation. American Express is an Inside Value pick. The Motley Fool owns shares of American Express, SPDRs, and Starbucks and has a disclosure policy

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.