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Dr. Phil to Give Credit Crisis Tough Love

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How bad has the financial crisis gotten? Today’s Dr. Phil devotes itself to the economy, with a roster of guests including CNBC’s James Cramer and economist/game-show-host Ben Stein.

To be fair, it’s not as if Dr. Phil just discovered personal finance. He, along with daytime-TV fixtures like Suze Orman, have long been giving viewers advice focused on avoiding, and getting out of, debt. Indeed, tough, common-sense advice about cutting up those credit cards and not buying what you can’t afford has been as much a staple of daytime TV as relationship counseling. (Or, for that matter, pie-in-the-sky systems like The Secret, which tell you that yes, you can have anything you want.)

Which makes you wonder how much people pay attention to any of the advice on daytime TV. We’re Americans; we love to be lectured, or see others lectured, for their profligate habits as we nod along. Then we need to put a big-screen TV on credit, so we can watch even better.

In any case, the Dr. Phil episode plans to put into perspective some of the hyperventilating commentary on the markets lately, some of it by Cramer, who explains to the Doc his widely publicized advice that people should pull any money they’ll need in the next five years out of the market. (Actually fairly routine advice—stocks are not generally meant for that time frame of investing—but phrased in Cramer’s usual dramatic style.) Cramer doesn’t believe he contributed to a market panic: “It would be pure arrogance for me to think that I had that much power. I believe that whether I had stayed home in bed or gone to work that day it wouldn’t have mattered.”

Meanwhile, Stein adds, “I question, Dr. Phil, whether retirement as a concept is even going to exist in ten years.” Way to dial back the scare talk, guys!