DISCLAIMER: THE FOLLOWING "Cost of Freedom Recap" CONTAINS STRONG OPINIONS WHICH ARE NOT A REFLECTION OF THE OPINIONS OF FOX NEWS AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON AS INVESTMENT ADVICE WHEN MAKING PERSONAL INVESTMENT DECISIONS. IT IS FOX NEWS' POLICY THAT CONTRIBUTORS DISCLOSE POSITIONS THEY HOLD IN STOCKS THEY DISCUSS, THOUGH POSITIONS MAY CHANGE. READERS OF "Cost of Freedom Recap" MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN INVESTMENT DECISIONS.
SHOULD UNIONS BE ALLOWED TO TAKE MEMBERS' DUES AND SPEND IT ON CANDIDATES THEY DON'T SUPPORT?
STEVE FORBES: Yes David, you'd never know it but back in 1988, the Supreme Court said you can't force union dues for political purposes. It's never been effectively enforced. It should be forced. In fact, unions shouldn't get dues for political purposes unless the union member actually says take it out and has written permission. That would level the playing field very quickly.
RICK UNGAR: Well you know what; let's set aside Steve's interpretation of financial core. We greatly appreciate this outpouring of affection for union members and your heart warming concern. But let me make a suggestion, maybe you can direct that towards America's public companies who are making public contributions to political organization and not telling their shareholders. How do we know that? Just this week some of our nation's largest companies had to publically withdraw their support from an organization that was supporting causes that our shareholders didn't like, their customers didn't like, and when they complained these organizations pulled out. Why didn't their shareholders know it? Because they have no obligations to tell them. Let's get to unions later-let's focus on the companies.
ELIZABETH MACDONALD: We are talking about government unions getting their money from taxpayers. Rick is referring to companies getting their money from free market and investors that's a big difference. And another thing that Trumka is doing with the AFL-CIO, he's comparing fat cat CEO's pay and salaries with teachers and firemen. We should be comparing it fat cat union boss pay because Richard Trumka is solidly in the 1%. He makes nearly $300,000 a year. But you're right, 9 out of 10 union members are not democrats. A lot of them are republicans and they get corralled and bullied into voting for union members like spending and taxing at the state level when maybe they don't even want it.
RICH KARLGAARD: Well I'm for full disclosure. I think if Trumka wants to publicize a CEOs salary, that's fine. I think we should publicize his background. He advocated violence, he was head of the united mine workers in the 1980s, he was sanctioned by a Virginia judge. In 1996 he let the communist party back into the AFL-CIO. He said he was one step below a socialist. He admitted he was worse than that, I think that people should know his background. I'm for full disclosure for everyone.
DENNIS KNEALE: I love that Rick Ungar's first instinct is to do exactly what Trumka is doing which is diverting off of union issues, Oh lets divert onto fat cat salaries and corporations and they earn too much money. That is the business of their shareholders. When a company makes political contributions it does not dock that money from worker pay. When a union makes political contributions it comes directly from worker pay. Unions instead should do this- We will collect your dues guys, and we will use it to push for benefits, negotiations, and better terms and then for our political fund, we are asking for you to donate a second source of money for our political fund which we are going to use for democratic causes. Then let workers truly have a voice.
VICTORIA BARRET: Dennis that's a genius idea because it gets rid of this corrupt issue in unions. However it is also the reason that you are not a union boss. Clearly this would not in a union boss's interest to make this kind of separation. The way they have it now is incredibly powerful for them, for their organization. It's completely wrong, the fact that there is no choice here for union's members to actually join the union and then again to have their funds diverted to political causes.
WILL NEW EPA RULES DRIVE UP UTILITY BILLS?
STEVE FORBES: Well David, this thing is not going to hit until after the election, because these things are phased in the next 2 ½ years. This is just a warm up most of the frackers, drillers do what the EPA wants already. So the EPA is just establishing the precedent ‘we are coming after you' and once the election is out of the way and we don't have any more of this keystone stuff, we are going to hit you hard just like we did the coal companies.
VICTORIA BARRET: Well that's actually why I'm not that worried about. Natural gas producers are actually curbing production because prices are so low. I mean these are bottom of the barrel prices-yes and that's a beautiful thing, and you know what? Clean air is a beautiful thing. I've been to Beijing; you can't walk 5 feet in that city without coughing. Look I'm not suggesting that fracking is going to cause that level of pollution, but I do think there is a place for environmental regulations here. The industry is on board, they are not suggesting that the administration is overreaching here.
RICH KARLGAARD: We should be encouraging just as you say. Look what really troubles me is that this is an executive order that was passed on a Friday night, so the Obama administration tried to slip it out of the door. So the woman who is in charge of this, Heather Zichal is a lifelong congressional advocate for the ethanol industry. So do you think that the natural gas is going to get a fair hearing in that kind of environment?
RICK UNGAR: I have to join with Victoria, you know what else is a beautiful thing? People who live in these areas not getting cancer and some of the other illnesses that come when methane gas is released into the air. That's what this regulation is about. We can be sensitive about regulations, I understand that many of you don't like regulations, especially when they come from democratic administrations. But I also know that you are decent people and you don't want to see people from this area getting sick. That's what would happen if we don't capture these gases before they stay in the environment.
MIKE OZANIAN: Only a government organization far removed from the real world like the EPA is, would tout that this is having positive cost- benefit analysis. The cost is $745 million directly to the gas producers, and the benefit is only $19 million dollars. One day the economy is going to get better and our demand for energy will increase and this is going to hurt the cost of natural gas.
JOHN TAMNY: I think they would. I mean to answer Ricks point, I don't like regulations because quite simply they never work. In this case, regulations by definition are going to be a barrier to production, which on the margin can drive up costs. But in the case of natural gas, so much investment has chased this weak dollar driven money illusion that I think natural gas prices go down regardless in the coming years. But what a shame, once again, that the government has to get in the way of something that's actually working that ultimately is going to drive up prices.
SHOULD GOVERNMENT BAN HIRING SMOKERS TO SAVE TAXPAYERS MONEY?
ELIZABETH MACDONALD: Yeah we would save a lot of money from lawyers possibly suing on behalf of employees who want clean air. Look I hear what smokers are saying, that they have a free-market right to do it. But it violates my constitutional right to protect you from their dirty cigarettes. I'm all about life, liberty and the pursuit of clean air. I am worried that smoking does kill and that second hand smoke is killing a lot of people who don't smoke. Lawyers will be getting ready with massive lawsuits if they don't toe the line.
STEVE FORBES: It's one thing to ban smoking at the workplace, quite another that you can't do it on your own time. What's next? Banning the hiring of fat people, people who put salt on their eggs for breakfast, saying you can only work here if you eat broccoli for breakfast. I mean come on, are we going to have a food Gestapo going around seeing what we do after work hours? No way!
MIKE OZANIAN: If you want to save tax payers money, you should encourage more smoking because smokers die earlier, saves the government money on Medicare and social security and an economist at Vanderbilt said 32 cents a pack net savings to the government. So if you are looking out for tax payers, get more people who smoke.
VICTORIA BARRET: He is kidding, I think? I'm with Steve it's a slippery slope smokers are a tax on the rest of us on healthcare and certainly as we move towards a more nationalized healthcare system, we are all paying the tax for people who overeat, or smoke, or don't exercise. But you can't enforce it this way. Most places now, you can't smoke in buildings, so the second hand smoking issue has been largely removed.
STOCKS TO BUY WITH TAX REFUND
DENNIS KNEALE: Chilean chemical & mining giant (SQM)
52-WEEK HIGH: $60.83
52-WEEK LOW: $43.00
ELIZABETH MACDONALD: DUPONT (DD) Its first-quarter profit and sales just beat Wall Street's expectations, helped by price hikes and strong sales of herbicides and genetically modified seeds.
52-WEEK HIGH: $57.00
52-WEEK LOW: $37.10