Join the Fool as we assess blame for this financial meltdown -- March Madness bracket style! Below is one of four second-round matchups you can vote on … enjoy!
The case for the media, by Tim Beyers
Bernie Madoff versus The Media. Or, if you want to put a face to it: Jim Cramer. Call it the Battle of the Scapegoats.
Let's talk about Madoff first. Arguably the greatest rip-off artist in history, the one-time superstar fund manager paid existing investors with new money. He ran a Ponzi scheme that's now estimated to have destroyed some $65 billion in assets.
And almost everyone was wiped out. Everyone except Bernie's wife, Ruth, who allegedly withdrew millions in ill-gotten wealth weeks before the scandal broke. It really doesn't get more unseemly than this.
Yet here's the problem: Madoff didn't read the paper one day, spot the subprime craze, and decide to become a crook. No, he got an early start. Madoff said in a statement to the court that he began using new money to pay out gains in the early 1990s.
Thus, blaming Madoff for this mess is like blaming the guy who invented lead-based paint for the 2007 toy recalls that tortured RC2
Blaming The Media is easier, and more accurate. Quoting from Cramer's Oct. 6 interview on NBC's Today:
Whatever you may need for the next five years, please take it out of the stock market. Right now. This week. I do not believe that you should risk those assets in the stock market.
You know what happened immediately after? Panic. Mass selling of top businesses such as Apple
... Tim Geithner comes to the rescue. Need I say more?
The case for Bernard Madoff, by Alyce Lomax
Ignorance is bliss, until it's not.
It looks like I don't have much time to bask in the glory of the victory of my anything-but-dream-team, Bernie Madoff, having beaten rom-com actress Kate Hudson in our Meltdown edition of March Madness. Drat. Now it's time for Bernie to take on Team Media.
Once again, I contend that Bernie Madoff is as good a symbol as anyone or anything of the myriad flaws that fed into our giant bubble-turned-meltdown. Madoff's promises of regular, outsized investment returns through good times and bad made little logical sense, but who wants logic when the money's rolling in? It looks like many people thought getting rich could be and should be easy, logic be damned.
Who wants to pay a lick of attention, either, apparently? A recent Forbes article brought up an interesting question: Why was Harry Markopolos the only one who seemed to have any clue? Madoff's bank, JPMorgan Chase
The Bernie Madoff saga sums up a time when being bearish, or having questions about the logic of a situation, was seen as being kind of a party pooper, a pain in the posterior, maybe even an evil short seller. Ignorance is bliss! Until it's not, of course.
True, the media's fairly fraught with losers, and it has its own share of ignorance -- look no further than the stock quotes of New York Times
However, I can't blame the media; unfortunately, if the media fed into the era of unbridled excess, I'm afraid that's mostly because it was giving us what we want: more of that happy talk, and little common-sense skepticism. We won't get better until we expect better. That's child's play, though, in comparison to the issues that allowed a $65 billion fraud to take place. Vote for Bernie.
Check out the Fool’s entire 2009 March Madness bracket here.
Microsoft is an Inside Value pick. Apple is a Stock Advisor selection. RC2 is a Hidden Gems recommendation. JPMorgan Chase is a former Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Try any of these Foolish services free for 30 days. There's no obligation to subscribe.
Fool contributor Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy would panic if TV Land canceled I Love Lucy reruns.