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Bulls & Bears
This past week's Bulls & Bears: Gary B. Smith, Exemplar Capital managing partner; Pat Dorsey, Morningstar.com director of stock research; Tobin Smith, ChangeWave Research editor; Scott Bleier, HybridInvestors.com president, and Bob Olstein , Olsten Funds president.
Trading Pit: Deadly Florida Storms
Deadly tornadoes rip through Florida. Destruction everywhere and Americans are rallying to help the victims. When disasters hit other nations, the United States is expected to help. In tragedies such as these, why do we rarely hear of other countries sending us aid?
Gary B: That's a great question. I guess people in other countries think the U.S. just doesn't need aid. Here's an example: If you went outside and saw your neighbor's house on fire, you'd go out there and offer assistance. It wouldn't matter if he were ten times richer or even 10 times poorer than you. It's just the neighborly thing to do. Maybe other countries forget that. I'm really proud that the U.S. helps out other countries. I think that even if there were a natural disaster in North Korea, we would even send aid.
Tobin: I use the analogy that if there were a hurricane in Beverly Hills, no one would rush to help out because they're all rich. It would be assumed that people in Beverly Hills have insurance and wouldn't need the money. The gesture is the issue. We are the big guy on the block and have a lot of money. That's why other countries don't offer us money—it just goes with the territory.
Scott: When there is a regional disaster like this, nobody can get there faster than us. No one has our resources and technology. No one can get the job done like we can. BUT the offer would be very welcome and would be a nice political gesture for some of our not-so-friendly neighbors.
Pat: I think it does take something of a huge magnitude to see any international assistance. I don't think the U.S. is sending aid every time there is a tornado in another country. When there are very large disasters, we are very generous because we have the resources. When Hurricane Katrina hit, other countries stepped up to the plate and sent money here.
Bob: Well, I think the good news is that we really don't need the aid and have to deal with what we have to deal with. We are the ones that have to worry about the poor victims of this tornado. The fact of the matter is, I could care less whether the international community helps us out or not.
Can Social Security Be Saved Without Raising Taxes?
In an exclusive interview with our Neil Cavuto, President Bush said that he would not give up on fixing Social Security. But will he be able to get a deal on Social Security without raising taxes?
Gary B: It's a great idea and he's on the right track, but there is no way. Without having the Republicans in control of Congress, the Democrats are going to wait him out and play the class warfare/raise taxes card. There are too many people out there addicted to Social Security.
Pat: You can raise taxes or cut benefits. And you can call it raising taxes or eliminating a tax loophole. All we're really doing is going back to the original intent of the program. Right now, Social Security is set up as a "pay as you go." The problem is that there will be more people taking out than putting in. Unless we raise the age level, cut the benefits, or raise the contribution level, the "pay as you go" plan will break down.
Bob: Taxes will have to be raised to get Social Security on sound footing. We need to set up someone like NYSE CEO John Thain to become a czar in charge of Social Security. We have to allow people to invest 50 percent in equities to raise returns and make it a 401K. Then we can save the system. Right now, it's just too conservative.
Tobin: When the Social Security was started, people only put in just 1 percent. Now it's 6 percent and that amount is matched by the employer. We also have to separate Medicare from Social Security. Medicare has huge liabilities. We need to raise the amount of return we get on our investment. President Bush was right to say that if we put our money in the stock market, we would get a higher rate of return. Unfortunately he's not going to be able to sell it.
Scott: Raising taxes will not save Social Security. You can raise taxes every year and it will not close the gap. It's a "pay as you go" program and is a traditional pyramid scheme. The money I'm paying in now helps someone else. The only thing that will fix the program is to raise the age, cut the benefits, and privatize.
Each of the guys picked his Super Bowl team and the best stock from that city.