This article was originally published Jan. 26.

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Good news in housing can trump bad news in unemployment, but only if President Barack Obama comes through with a tax credit for homebuyers, Jim Cramer told the viewers of his "Mad Money" TV show Monday.

Cramer said the market is hopelessly stuck between two opposing forces: housing and unemployment. "Dodge one," he said, "and get gobbled up by the other."

He said Obama seems to have a plan for fixing unemployment with his stimulus package, but there's been no mention from the administration on how to fix the housing market.

To fix the housing problem, Cramer is advocating a $25,000 tax credit for the purchase of an existing home.

Cramer explained that while the new home builders have lobbyists in Washington, more new homes will only make things worse. He formed his own one man lobby to promote the purchase of existing homes.

He said it's been proven that low prices, combined with low interest rates, bring out buyers, and a reduction in existing home inventory is exactly what the market needs.

Cramer said a boon in existing home sales would help ailing bank stocks, which desperately need additional capital and solid loan portfolios.

Cramer urged Obama to consider his tax credit proposal to fix the housing problem and lift the economy.

Cramer: Can't Get Enough China

Favorite Restaurant Stocks

Cramer took a close look into the restaurant sector to see if the recession had left any chains unscathed. He discovered three stocks which he said were the best of the best, in a market when only the strong will survive.


Cramer said both Darden Restaurants ( DRI), of Red Lobster and Olive Garden fame, and Brinker International ( EAT), purveyor of the Chili's chain, make the grade. He gave five reasons for his picks.

First, Cramer said restaurants can't get any TARP money from the government. He said this means that in tough times only the strong will not only survive, but will also get stronger. He said the Darden and Brinker are in a position to capitalize on the failures and slow growth of other chains.

Second, the earnings estimates have come down to levels where the companies can exceed expectations and beat them.

Third, strong restaurants can retain their talent and build great teams in recessions. As smaller chains struggle, the best managers flock to the stable companies.

Fourth, low advertising costs are helping these companies get our their message.

Finally, Darden, trading at just 10 times its earnings with an 8% growth, would be his favorite, but he fancies both names on any weakness. "Don't chase them," he said," let them come to you."

The Golden Arches

Investors looking for the strongest stock in the restaurant group need look no further than McDonald's ( MCD), said Cramer. He talked with CEO James Skinner to find out why.


McDonald's recently reported its earnings, beating Wall Street estimates by 4 cents a share. It also posted favorable same-store sales, up 5.8% on operating income up 11%.

Cramer, though, was most excited about the company's venture into the premium coffee market, which has now hit 30% of the company's stores, with the remainder scheduled for later this year.

Skinner said McDonald's is focusing on its fundamentals, bringing value and convenience to its customers with great food, redesigned stores, and a strong marketing message. He said he feels the company has all of the resources it needs to continue paying its dividend, while growing their business and returning value to their shareholders.

Skinner said McDonald's is overcoming inflation and other issues in Russia, and still sees tremendous opportunities in Germany and other parts of the world.

When asked about premium coffees, Skinner said the decline at Starbucks ( SBUX) is likely not the result of McDonald's entering the market.

Cramer told viewers McDonald's one of the best run international companies in the world.

Outrage of the Day

Cramer sounded off at the SEC for its inquiry into the health of Apple ( AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs. He said of all of the lying, dishonesty and fraud permeating Wall Street, why has this, of all issues, become a national priority?

"Give the guy a break!" exclaimed Cramer, who called Jobs a marvelous CEO and a hero among many. He said there is no standard for the disclosure of medical issues. There are no blood tests or urine samples required at quarterly meetings, he joked. "Apple should be given the benefit of the doubt," he said.

Cramer said he feels Apple will do fine without Jobs. With over 32,000 employees at the company, it's ludicrous to think that one man invents, designs and builds all of their products, he said.

"Can't we just wish Jobs the best?" he asked.

Lightning Round

Cramer was bullish on Hasbro ( HAS), Mattel ( MAT) and Terra Nitrogen ( TNH).

He was bearish on Petrobras ( PZE), Cedar Fair ( FUN), Hudson City Bancorp ( HCBK), Shaw Group ( SGR), Mosaic ( MOS), Geron Corp ( GERN), Badger Meter ( BMI) and Southwest Airlines ( LUV).

Check out the latest edition of "Cramer's Take on Top-Searched Stocks" on Stockpickr.

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