Defending the Brokers

Cramer's grown tired of the electronic-trading ads that bash full-service brokers.
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All day long we sit and listen to ads that savage brokers. There's the car/boat-washing guy who talks about how wrong his broker was about everything. There's the obnoxious kid broker who talks about his live-fast-die-young-have-a-good-looking-corpse retirement plan. And there's the shlepper broker who dials you up with some killer piece of bad information. In between, two obviously snarky brokers stupidly put down some bartender who just bought the PimDot Company for $43 billion.

But here's something you never see in TV ads: smart, conscientious brokers who make you money and do a good job, like most of the people who call me all day. It's as if the off-line guys simply have given up without a fight. Their lack of response comes through loud and clear:

Yeah, we know our highly paid brokers don't really make you money or do a good job, so we aren't even going to defend them.

This response, quite simply, is an outrage. Brokers perform a vital role for people who don't have the time or inclination to do their own work. They can help you find out about things and do work for you for what amounts to be pennies per inquiry. They can be your eyes and ears. The good ones can and do make you money.

OK, maybe I am being too defensive about my old craft. But if I were still a broker at

Goldman Sachs

, as I was in the '80s, I would demand that management take the offensive and present the very easy case that supports the fine work brokers can do. I would be up in arms screaming that we better put some bucks behind our efforts.

What is the reticence? Is it because they are embarrassed at the higher rates their people charge vs. the machines? Is it because they see the market cap of

Schwab

and think, heck, maybe they are in the wrong business? Or is it the truly worst thought -- that they themselves don't believe brokers do anything worthwhile? Maybe they think their own brokers are overpaid. They recognize that their research is simply a tool of corporate finance, so it can't make you money anyway.

Do they think they provide no value-added service? That's what their silence says.

I hate their silence.

James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund was long Goldman Sachs. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at

letters@thestreet.com.