Cramer: Shameful Hesitancy

Editor's Note: This article was originally published at 6:06 a.m. ET on Real Money on May 15. To see Jim Cramer's latest commentary as it's published, sign up for a free trial of Real Money.

NEW YORK ( Real Money) --There should have been mergers and acquisitions. That's right, during this whole run-up, there should have been many more deals, more acquisitions to spur growth, or to take market share. We can sit here and wonder why the heck there's been such a dearth of M&A since February. Or we can reach a very logical, inescapable conclusion: Most CEOs were too stupid and pessimistic to take the opportunity to do any buying.

Well, here's some real bad news. The time for transformative deals, unless we get a broad-market pullback, has probably passed. Harsh judgment?

I don't think so.

We spend a heck of a lot of time, much more than we should, about why stocks shouldn't be higher. Think about all of the admonitions we've heard: There's no real revenue growth, so don't pay up. Fed chief Ben Bernanke is about to change his mind; don't pay up. Tax rates are going higher; don't pay up. Sequester's coming; don't pay up. Fiscal cliff's here; don't pay up. Europe's burning; don't pay up. China's faltering; don't pay up. Valuations are stretched; don't pay up. Commodity prices are falling; don't pay up.

I mean, the fact that I have sat here and listened to these different objections at every single milestone is a pathetic reminder of how wrong people can be. It's an incredible thing, isn't it, that a good manager like David Tepper can come on CNBC's "Squawk Box" and just be unequivocally bullish and make news for doing so?

But most chief executives don't see it that way and didn't see it that way. Instead of looking for bargains when prices were lower, they sat on their hands and bought back their own stock instead of the stocks of others when they had the chance.

Most -- but not all. Think of the ones who did. Think of the people who did step up to the plate in this period. First, there's the totally and correctly beloved Warren Buffett, who bought Heinz ( HNZ) three months ago at the same price he would have to pay for it today, except he got the whole company. That's right: In retrospect, he stole Heinz, given how high Campbell Soup ( CPB), General Mills ( GIS), Hershey ( HSY) and the like have traded.

Or how about John Malone? At Europe's bottom he only spent $23 billion to buy Virgin Media ( VMED). This one's pretty amusing. Everyone's always talking about going global, but when "going global" finally gets cheap, Malone is the only one who steps up. He's not afraid to make a mistake. He seizes the moment. I wonder what he would have had to pay if he had started the bidding now.

Or how about Sandy Cutler at Eaton ( ETN)? Cutler knew that the economy could be in a period of lower growth, so what does he do? He goes and buys a principal competitor during a period when the antitrust department is pro-trust, or at least pro-trust in CEOs' ability to create entities that can be much more tough with their customers. Eaton and Cooper will make 2.5 times more money than Eaton and Cooper would collectively make otherwise.

Or how about Jeffrey Sprecher, the CEO of IntercontinentalExchange ( ICE)? You ask anyone in the U.S. about the New York Stock Exchange and they will say it is the pinnacle of capitalism. You ask them about Intercontinental and they will tell you it is a hotel. But Sprecher had a vision, and now he will be running the largest exchange in the world.

Then there's Rich Kinder at Kinder Morgan ( KMP). Rich bought not one, but two companies: El Paso for pipe and Copano for oil and gas. He paid about $24 billion to get both. They were immediately additive.

Buffett, Malone, Cutler, Sprecher, Kinder. They weren't afraid. They were bold. The door's now closing and all I can say is that, once again, the smartest guys acted. The others? They just sat on their hands when things were cheap, worried about everything instead of being bold and actually changing the fortunes of their company to the positive.

At the time of publication, Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust, was long ETN and KMP.

More from Investing

REPLAY: Jim Cramer on How to Navigate the Stock Market Amid Tariff Worries

REPLAY: Jim Cramer on How to Navigate the Stock Market Amid Tariff Worries

Will Kraft Heinz Buy Pepsico or Mondelez?

Will Kraft Heinz Buy Pepsico or Mondelez?

Jim Cramer: 4 Stocks Could Get Throttled By a 'Knock Down Drag Out' With China

Jim Cramer: 4 Stocks Could Get Throttled By a 'Knock Down Drag Out' With China

Why Starbucks Latest Data Reveal Should Worry Investors

Why Starbucks Latest Data Reveal Should Worry Investors

Starbucks Sets Latest Plan to Recaffeinate Shares

Starbucks Sets Latest Plan to Recaffeinate Shares