Belmont Club

Then and now

Jim Cramer in October, 2008.

And while any president will be an improvement over the current one, there is a growing belief on Wall Street that Barack Obama has the capacity to lead us out of this wilderness while John McCain does not. I’ll go a step further: Obama is a recession. McCain is a depression.

Now listen to Jim Cramer in March,  2009.

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Glenn Reynolds notices that, well, yes, the stocks haven’t been doing too well lately. And the financial system doesn’t seem too healthy yet. Chris Dodd is recommending the FDIC be allowed to borrow $500 billion (yes billion) from the Treasury Department.

But there’s gold in them there hills; bargains waiting to be snapped up at a good profit to earnings ratio.  This moment of crisis and opportunity is a good time to talk about health care. So Barack Obama is convening a focus group on health care.

For the second time in as many weeks, President Obama pulled together dozens of lawmakers, community leaders and business representatives to solve a pressing issue — this time, health care reform.

But the president’s focus-group brand of governing is starting to wear thin for some who say the sessions are more style than substance.

Obama held a similar summit last week to promote fiscal responsibility. Over the course of three hours, the 130 or so in attendance broke into five groups and then reconvened, and the president said all their suggestions would be boiled down into a final report in 30 days. Soon after, the White House went ahead and released a $3.6 trillion budget anyway.

Now that the White House is using the same approach for health care reform, some wonder what Obama expected to learn from the folks he met with Thursday that he didn’t hear during two years of campaigning. …

So what’s the next topic Obama might focus group? “If I had to take a guess, I’d say climate change,” Franc said.

Focus groups are a fancy name for ‘consultation’, which is the favorite managerial mode of NGOs who want to do something but don’t know what to do. Meetings held with an air of urgency, while doing nothing, often give the impression of accomplishing something. Yet they are not wholly without consequence, because the fact they’re being held gives you a rough indicator of how many bits are still missing from the message and how many sandwiches we are short of having enough for a picnic. Whatever we thought before the elections can be confirmed to some extent, by what we have observed after the elections. Unfortunately, a posteriori can also mean ‘when you get kicked in the posterior’.