Jim Cramer wants Wall Street CEOs to stop talking about hiring veterans and actually put them on the payroll.
The CNBC “Mad Money” host broadcast his investment-focused show live from the Air Force Academy’s Polaris Hall on Friday, praising Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson during an on-stage interview for meeting the company’s goal of hiring 25,000 veterans by 2025 six years early. He used the show and nearly 200 cadets and Starbucks employees in the audience to push CEOs to hire more veterans not out of charity, but to make their businesses more profitable.
“This program is about making money. If I can shame them into becoming better CEOs and hiring more veterans, I will. If I get just one CEO to say he or she is not doing enough, then I will have achieved my goal,” Cramer said during the interview. “If you get the real numbers from companies on how many veterans they have hired versus what they said they would do, it is shameful. There are way too many companies that say they want to hire vets but don’t.”
Cramer pointed to Starbucks, JPMorgan Chase, Home Depot, Disney and Comcast (which he acknowledged owns CNBC — the network that broadcasts “Mad Money”) as the best examples of companies that hire tens of thousands of veterans and are thriving because of it. Businesses that hire veterans benefit from the leadership, teamwork and other skills veterans develop and use during their military careers, he said.
“This isn’t charity but good business,” Cramer said. “Look at Southwest; one-sixth of their workforce is veterans. While the stock had gone sideways this year because of competition and the Boeing (737 Max grounding) issue, it is up 20% since August. ... I’m glad so many companies are making a major effort to hire veterans. Not only are they doing good, they are also doing well.”
Cramer also spent a segment singing the praises of off-price retailers Burlington, Ross and TJMaxx. All three are thriving and opening more stores when traditional retailers Macy’s, Sears and JCPenney are shuttering locations. Landlords of open-air shopping centers — not enclosed malls — love the three companies because they are leasing more space, not closing stores, he said.
“You can’t get deals this good online. You have to offer something consumers can’t get online. These companies buy merchandise from department stores at a huge discount, mark it up and sell it to you,” Cramer said of the three chains. “What sets them apart is they are countercyclical — department stores dump more inventory during downturns and that is fabulous for the economy and consumers.”
After the opening two segments, Cramer spent the rest of the two-hour show taking questions from cadets on everything from whether to take out loans, what stocks he recommends (he doesn’t like many retailers or automakers, but loves Apple, Microsoft and many other technology companies), the economy and politics (he isn’t afraid of Democratic front-runner Elizabeth Warren as you would suspect).
Cramer was interviewed by The Gazette after the show. Here are his answers to a few key questions:
What it is the biggest mistake investors make?
They buy things they don’t understand. Instead of making it easy, they make it hard. They get a tip, buy the stock and then sell it when it goes down.
What is the best and worst recommendations you made this year?
The best is Apple; I have been bullish on Apple the whole time. I fell in love with it at $5 a share (the stock last traded at $5 in 2005 and now trades at $260). You are not supposed to fall in love with a stock, but I did. The second best was Shopify and now Nvidia. The worst is Viacom. It has been just a disaster. I had dinner with the CEO, and it was a disaster. There is a lot of value in the CBS merger and once it closes, the stock should go up.
How do you see the market behaving next year with uncertainty due to the presidential election and trade tension with China?
I think it will be a unique year. You have opposites with (President Donald) Trump and Warren. The economy is good, but Washington could hurt the economy. I am bullish through year-end, but it is hard to be optimistic with Warren. I like her and she has good ideas; I don’t think she is as off the reservation as Wall Street thinks she is. ... I’m bullish on the country. I never thought I would see unemployment and inflation this low. We have so many smart people who want to create things, start new companies and put dinner on people’s table. We have to fix public schools; that is our weakness in this country.