3. Buffett Draws a Blank
Dedicated Dumbest readers are well aware that every now and then we highlight an article written by one of TheStreet's intrepid beat reporters. Hey, why not leverage off our co-workers efforts? These folks are among the most righteous ink-stained wretches in the business and can only make us look better.
That said, those same long-time fans have probably also noticed that we here at the Lab rarely focus on columns penned by TheStreet's founder Jim Cramer. Not that we don't appreciate what he has to say of course. Not in the least! It's just that -- as you can surely understand -- Jim speaks quite well for himself.
This past Saturday, however, Cramer posted a column titled "Buffett's Lame Excuse" on TheStreet's RealMoney site that grabbed our interest so much that we've decided to break our unwritten rule and feature it in our weekly countdown. Cramer's beef with Buffett is over the billionaire's statement at last weekend's Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting that "Now we have lots of money and no ideas."To which the Mad Money-man replies, much to our approval: "Give me a break." "I find his constant 'we are loaded and looking for ideas' commentary somewhat boilerplate at this moment and, yes, a tad lame. Because he has all the ideas he wants; he just chooses to pass on a lot of good ones," opines Cramer while offering all due respect to Buffett's track record.
"Let me explain," continues Cramer. "Buffett did not see the housing crisis coming. He didn't see the downturn. He bought housing-related stocks before it. He didn't double down at the bottom. He didn't dodge the decline. He just kind of sat there with the 'we have lots of money and no ideas' attitude the whole way." "A simple 'we had lots of money and we didn't see the top or the bottom of the housing crisis' would have suited me," says Cramer. Us too, Jim. For a guy nicknamed the 'Oracle of Omaha', Buffett sure didn't see the credit tsunami coming. And considering he was a major holder of Moody's (MCO) and Wells Fargo (WFC) at the time, he certainly had a better view into the burgeoning bond bubble than the rest of us mere mortals. Instead, he just stood there, clutching his cash like Moliere's Miser and watched the tidal wave wash everybody else away. And then, once he made sure he was the last man with cash standing, he played lender of last resort to a pair of the progenitors of the whole damn thing, Goldman Sachs (GS) and GE (GE). American hero? We don't think so. Who did he save other than Lloyd Blankfein's skin? More like Omaha loan shark, but that's just us. Look. He can do whatever he wants with his money. We're not begrudging Buffett that. We just think all those not-so-poor souls who trekked out to Delphi, sorry, Omaha, to worship at the Oracle's altar deserve an answer as to why the guy with the elephant gun didn't reach for it when the target couldn't have been huger. With all due respect to RealMoney's Doug Kass, who did his darnedest to beat Buffett on his home court, Cramer posits the question we really want answered when he asks why Buffett bought Lubrizol -- a shady transaction if we ever saw one -- as opposed to the rest of USG (USG) at the bottom, or some other decimated housing-related stocks. "He is the best there has ever been, but even the best that has ever been should have to say that he wasn't the best on this amazing downturn and rebound. Sure he got those great distressed deals that gave him amazing income. But in the end, the world was his oyster, and he just didn't seem to care for oysters at the time," concludes Cramer. More than that, Jim. He completely clammed up.