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UNION ATTACK ON NATION'S LARGEST RETAILER: AN ATTACK ON JOBS IN AMERICA?
Tracy Byrnes: First of all, demands like this are ludicrous. No background checks? Come-on! Cheryl, D.C. has a 9.5 percent unemployment rate right now. They should be rolling out the red carpet for Wal-Mart. Not only will Wal-Mart bring in jobs for the local people, what about all of the suppliers in the area that can help as well. The unions are not thinking this through clearly and they're going to just hurt the people in the end.
Jonathan Hoenig: That's what I find bewildering, really shameful about the unions. Wal-Mart comes along, and as Tracy pointed out, they're investing in the community. Where are the jobs? Well Wal-Mart is trying to create them. They hire people. They offer a value. People want to shop there. They want to work there. The unions can demand anything they want kind of like I'd like to demand Anne Hathaway have dinner with me. The fact of the matter is that Wal-Mart's success is through voluntary trade not political force. That's the only way the unions have any power
Jehmu Greene: I think that clearly the unemployment rate in D.C. is staggering and they do need as many jobs as Wal-Mart can provide, but these aren't just unions. These are community groups. These are faith leaders asking Wal-Mart to live up to its promises of fair wages. Asking Wal-Mart to really look at the D.C. community and the challenges that are facing the community with very high rates of people who have been incarcerated and what are their job opportunities going to be? Wal-Mart clearly plays a leadership role in setting wage and benefit standards of how companies nationally are going to deal with wages and benefits for their workers and I think Wal-Mart has an opportunity to really come out in front of the union-busting and breaking of federal labor laws that they've done for so much of the entire career of the corporation.
Wayne Rogers: Well I don't know what's better for us. I'm not smart enough to dictate what's better for everybody else. All I know is this is a free market. It's up to Wal-Mart. If I were Wal-Mart I'd just say, well fine you all do whatever you want to do. I'm not coming to Washington, D.C. Jonathan's point which I think is well-taken, unfortunately he wants to have dinner instead of breakfast with Anne Hathaway. Other than that though, Wal-Mart is free to do what they want to do and it's not any necessity that they have to do this. Why not just say, look, you people want to do that? You make your own store. You get your own store. You do whatever you want to do. This is a free market. This is what entrepreneurship is about.
John Layfield: There are two sides to every coin here. Look, you talk about employees' rights here the employer has a right too. If I'm an employer I don't want to necessarily hire a guy who's just walked out of county jail okay? That should be my right as an employer if you've got a felony. If you've got a misdemeanor or drunk driving, I don't care. You're not driving my trucks. You're not working in my store. That is my right as an employer. I have rights just like the employees do and when you talk about pay at Wal-Mart, the average retail worker in America makes twelve dollars and four cents an hour. The average retail worker at Wal-Mart makes eleven dollars and seventy-five cents an hour, but at Wal-Mart you get price discounts at your store. Most get health insurance. They also get stock options and they get profit-sharing. Wal-Mart pays significantly higher than the private sector. So to go after Wal-Mart for paying unfair wages the numbers simply don't make sense. There's this emotional thing that we're screwing workers. They're not screwing workers. They're hiring workers. They employee one percent of the American work-force.
SHOULD LIBYAN REBELS HAVE TO PUMP OUT MORE OIL TO GET MORE MONEY?
John Layfield: This is crazy. Look, long-term our problem is that we are the only developed country in the world without an energy policy. Short-term, Goldman Sachs came out with a report on Friday talking about how Libyan oil, if the spigot is not opened, what it's going to do to oil prices. It's going to make them go up significantly over the next year. Two things we need to do: number one, if we're going to help you and you ask for it, you open up the spigot. Number two, pay for what we're doing. We have money in this country that we could be spending on our own cities, not on that country over there in North Africa.
Tracy Byrnes: The amount of oil we get from Libya, it's not enough to make a difference. It's the notion that the entire Middle East is basically holding us hostage to oil prices right now, so our gas prices are reflective of what goes on there. It's unsettled. There's unrest; therefore, we pay more.
Jehmu Greene: It absolutely won't affect gas prices. We get three percent of our oil from Libya. Clearly the aid that we're giving to them is focused on humanitarian reasons and I think that to try to tie increasing their oil production in the middle of what is basically a civil war to get this humanitarian aid is just a bit ludicrous, and the reason the gas prices are so high and all of the speculation that is going on, yes has a little bit to do with the unrest in the Middle-East, but has more to do with speculators who are messing around with the numbers to raise the prices
Jonathan Hoenig: Oil prices cannot dictate foreign policy. It's like Roosevelt not declaring war on Japan because he didn't want sushi prices to spike. We need to look out for our own self-interest. Now, whether this current campaign, Jehmu you want to call it humanitarian aid, we're obviously targeting Qadaffi. Unfortunately, we're not really acting in our self-interest and we're shuffling billions of dollars in the Middle East and going to leave a more militant, more Islamic, and more radical regime than we started with before.
Wayne Rogers: You're talking about aid and oil and they don't really have anything to do with it. I'm kind of with Jehmu on this one in the sense that three percent of the oil is not going to make any difference in oil prices in the United States. Oil prices dropped seven dollars a barrel this week. Congress in the United States throwing away the anti-trust laws have allowed major oil companies to dominate the oil market. You had eight major oil companies in the nineties. You now have four. It's created a monopolistic thing. There's no longer a free market operation at all and we're confusing our foreign policy with oil. That's crazy. If our foreign policy is about oil, like Jonathan said, do it in self-interest. Don't do it for any other reason.
IS PAYING GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES MORE A GOOD THING FOR TAXPAYERS AND AMERICA?
Jehmu Greene: Clearly we do not want the students who in medical school were basically at the bottom of the barrel in their class to be the ones who are treating our veterans. These higher wages are tied to doctors, physicists, scientists, lawyers that are doing very highly-skilled jobs in the government and we need the best people possible doing it. Clearly the President has come out and instituted a salary freeze, but we can't just throw the baby out with the bath water. We need these skilled workers. We need to pay them a fair wage, and we need the cream of the crop to take care of the thousands of men and women who have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. They need the best doctors.
Wayne Rogers: Listen, I couldn't agree with her more in that sense, but God forbid lawyers? I mean don't tell me that's the cream of the crop. I mean, we've got a lot of lawyers here who are stealing money. Don't talk to me about lawyers. That's why Bernie Madoff did so well. That's what all of those lawyers at the SEC were doing. The lawyers at the SEC aren't doing anything more than anybody else. Look, a lawyer's a lawyer. The Department of Defense had a ten-point rise. It went from one thousand, eight hundred and sixty-eight people in 2007, to ten thousand, one hundred in 2009 who are making over one hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year. So it's not just confined to doctors Jehmu, and the average federal worker, according to the Office of Personnel Management, makes seventy one thousand plus a year, to the private sector of forty thousand dollars a year. That's an outrageous amount to ask the taxpayer to pick up and pay for and I think it has to stop.
Tracy Byrnes: Well it doesn't include all of the benefits and life-long pension, and all the other things that come along there that the private sector does not get. Look, if you promote apathy, somehow or another, in the government we're promoting apathy and we need to stop that. Maybe then you'll get people that are actually skilled and want to be there. Now, people only go to the government for that check at the end of the rainbow and we have to stop that.
Jonathan Hoenig: The government is already the country's largest employer and I love how Jehmu sells it: Don't you care about veterans? It's always like bring out the handkerchiefs. Don't you care about poor people?
John Layfield: Throw out cancer; throw out soldiers when you don't have the numbers to back it up. Make it an emotional, anecdotal argument that makes no sense across the board. Federal workers, like Wayne said, make 30 percent, on-average above everyone else. Those guys working at the DMV you could hire guys for 30 percent less. They shouldn't be paid below what market is, but they shouldn't be paid above either.
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
Tracy Byrnes: So this week we heard that housing is in a double-dip Cheryl. It's just getting worse and yet the government wants to get involved again and telling big banks to offer twenty one thousand dollars to help people who are in foreclosure. What? Stay out of it. Stop paying.
John Layfield: Wal-Mart has just issued a test-run of home delivery in California. I believe in the next decade you're going to be able to order something online in the morning and have Wal-Mart deliver it; groceries, TV, everything by the afternoon. Wal-Mart is still a great company and a good long-term buy.
Wayne Rogers: Despite what Tracy just said, the small banks in the competitive nature of the United States if you want to get a bank, and the government is not helping us at all. The Fed is interfering in the system. They're closing small banks right and left. You're going to have a tough time getting loans and it's not the banks' fault, it's the Federal Government's fault.
Jonathan Hoenig: Danos, Cheryl. It's a distressed, Greek shipping company that actually beat earnings expectations last week. The stock had a nice pop and I think if the economy stabilizes and if we start to get a little more growth out there you could see companies like Danos start to do well. I own it in my fund and I think it moves higher from here.