Wednesday night's Daily Show took a break from politics — mostly — and delved into the world of high finance. Well, high finance, as played by global banking behemoth JPMorgan Chase, which was slapped with a $13 billion fine by the U.S. government for selling shifty mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.
To Jon Stewart, and most of the financial press, JPMorgan's tentative settlement with the Justice Department and New York State is "a mutually negotiated compensatory agreement for outstanding liabilities related to some shady business dealings," as Stewart put it.
Stewart suggested that the talking heads on CNBC and Fox Business News should be equally pleased that somebody is finally facing some consequences for helping cause the Great Recession. Nope. To Jim Cramer, Maria Bartiromo, Charlie Gasparino, and the other stars of financial TV news, he noted, the $13 billion fine is "a shakedown witch-hunt scalping jihad!" And Stewart has the video evidence to prove it.
The outrage seems to stem from the fact that most of the sketchy mortgages were packaged and sold by Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, both of which JPMorgan bought in the midst of the Wall Street meltdown. But that's how business works, Stewart said. When you buy a company, you buy its liabilities — as JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon told investors in 2008.
In the second half of Stewart's "Nightmare on Wall Street" segment, he looked at the sycophantic defense of Dimon by CNBC's anchors and guests when Salon's Alex Pareene dared to suggest that the JPMorgan CEO should be fired. At one point, Bartiromo mocked Pareene for citing a story in The New York Times. If The Times isn't a reliable source, Stewart asked, what is? The answer, at least as far as outrage over JPMorgan's settlement/"shakedown" goes, seems to be The Wall Street Journal's editorial page.
The JPMorgan apologists may have one point in their favor, Stewart conceded: The U.S. Treasury Department apparently asked the bank to buy Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual to shore up the teetering banking system. Or, as the CNBC/FBN talkers put it, Uncle Sam put a gun to Dimon's head. Except… roll clip of Cramer in 2008 calling Dimon a "ruthless" genius for outfoxing the feds to buy Bear Stearns for next to nothing.
After a dramatic pause, Stewart gave his final, measured verdict on the CNBC/FBN personalities: "F—k all y'all."
That part of the show is great populist fun. But the next segment is the kind where The Daily Show shines. Correspondent Aasif Mandvi hit the road to look into the motivations behind the raft of tough voter ID laws enacted in the Republican South since the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act over the summer. He talked to Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and a minor North Carolina Republican Party official.
The North Carolina Republican, Don Yelton, is amazingly candid and entertaining, in a caricature-type of way. But the end, where Mandvi advised Democrats on how to turn the tables on Republicans — with some celebrity help — is the comedic high point of the show.
Finally, Stewart's guest Wednesday night was conservative columnist and Fox News regular Charles Krauthammer. Their discussion was surprisingly civil and informative. If you're into that sort of thing, watch below: