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IN FOCUS: THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT'S GOING INTO STRUGGLING CITIES TO RESCUE THEM. SHOULD THEY STAY AWAY IF THEY REALLY WANT TO HELP?
STEVE FORBES: David, it is almost like sending mosquitoes to tell you how to cure malaria. What these cities need is not bureaucrats but entrepreneurs, job creating entrepreneurs. That means having a tax environment that is inviting instead of crushing. It means fighting corruption. It means curbing spending. It also means regulations, removing regulations that get in the way of jobs. The government has spent over $100 billion in various urban renewal projects in the past 30 years. It has all gone down the drain. You have to do it on the local level, and when you do cities can rise again.
QUENTIN HARDY: Well through the fun house mirror of that telling, it does sound very strange David, but it is a couple of people going out to each city and talking about how to better navigate the bureaucracy they know to get the funds these cities will use any way. Now the cities could learn it through trial and error which would waste time and money, or they could hire private sector consultants to help them gain the system, which would be more expensive and time consuming. This actually is a pretty smart way to go because the money that is going to get there gets there faster and more effectively because the people that administer it understand the city and the city understands how to navigate the bureaucracy.
VICTORIA BARRET: Right, right, and Quentin said there are a just couple of these bureaucrats coming out. There are actually dozens and I mean talk about fun mirrors, fun houses, this makes no sense. That is a lot when you have these programs springing up all over. And let's focus on Detroit, which Forbes has a great profile of Detroit in a recent issue of the magazine, and we show how Detroit is coming around and some of this is thanks to federal funds. They are using HUD funds to bulldoze houses in areas that are just falling apart. Now, do they need someone from Washington to tell them how to do that? No, they don't, and the smartest thing they are doing is simplifying their tax code, so business leaders and entrepreneurs are getting excited again about doing business in Detroit. That is what will matter.
MARK TATGE: I think local officials can help, but here they need outside help and I think this is prudent. Look we always talk about how great the private sector is and how great business is on this channel, but what did business do? Business deserted Detroit, Cleveland all the Midwest cities. Now we have, take Detroit; a third of the property is vacant there, fifty percent unemployment, the business sector has deserted Detroit, it is not coming back. So what do you want to do guys, burn it down? Bulldoze it? What is the next step? I think the federal government ought to get involved. I mean the private sector certainly is not solving the problem here. I would like to see Rich Karlgaard move his entrepreneurism to Detroit. Why don't you move to Detroit, Rich?
ELIZABETH MACDONALD: You know I understand what Mark is saying, but look the federal government has not been so state of the art when it comes to overseeing tax payer money and ways to grow the economy and help out entrepreneurs as Mark says. Cities for years have been acting like the tin cans on a "Just Married" car. Look at what happened in New York in 1975 well Gerry Ford said no way we are not going to nationalize local debt. I am not saying that is what is happening here, even thought New York City did eventually get federally backed $2.3 billion worth of loans. But the point is we only have about ten cities that were in default from '99 to 2009. Cities can grow their way and fix their own problems. That is the issue. It is not businesses to blame; it is the way cities have run their shops.
RICH KARLGAARD: Look, every state, every city, every country is in competition for capital and talent. You better figure out a way to become a magnet for capital and talent. Look, the history says that cities rise and fall. If you go back to the 1950's, when some of us were born, Fort Wayne, Indiana and Syracuse, New York had National Basketball Association franchises and Phoenix had a population of less than 100,000. We have got to preserve the vitality and dynamism in this country, that has made us great.
MORE AND MORE DEMOCRATS ARE COMING OUT AGAINST THE INDEPENDENT PAYMENT ADVISORY BOARD. IS THIS PROOF IT RATIONS CARE?
RICH KARLGAARD: Well this is really rich with irony isn't it? I mean the open secret of Obamacare all along has been how do we lower the cost of end of life treatment, which is very expensive admittedly, and move that costs, the government subsidized part of that cost, towards the young and the uninsured. That is the deal like it or not. And so for now democrats who have supported Obamacare without reservation complaining that this is going to happen is just beyond the pail.
MARK TATGE: We already rationed care David. I mean we have 47 million Americans who cant get health insurance, who don't have health insurance. The unemployed and underemployed don't have healthcare or have very limited access to healthcare. So I do not see what the big deal is about a bipartisan panel that is going to try to limit cost increases in Medicare that have been runaway.
STEVE FORBES: Well, instead of going to more government control how about going the opposite direction and have real free enterprise to find better ways to produce more health care and have better delivery. David this panel is really almost unconstitutional. It has no judicial review, no administrative review and in terms of what they do, the way they ration health care, let's call them what they are which are death panels, is the will say certain procedures you don't get reimbursed for. That effectively cuts those procedures and Rich is right, it is going to go right after the elderly.
QUENTIN HARDY: Democrat Frank Pallone is a fool. Rationing exists in the world, and rationing is a good thing. When your health care provider says you can use this in-network doctor or pay extra for out, that is rationing. And when they say the co-pay has just gone up that is rationing. It is called an economic system, cost and benefits, you ration things. Now when ten percent of Medicare beneficiaries run up seventy percent of the costs, or when fifty percent of the elderly count for just four percent of the costs, I would like to see some intelligent rationing to try and redress some of those balances. And if you want to call them death panels you may Steve. It is strange to me that this supposedly "hyper religious country" is so afraid of death they will spend all of their wealth to stave it off for one or two days at an enormous cost that is pretty unsustainable and a pretty poor quality of life.
MIKE OZANIAN: Even the Medicare Board of Trustees this year, when it came out with its annual report, said that the cost savings that Obamacare was supposed to deliver, they were highly skeptical of that. In fact, what they said was likely to happen was it was either going to increase higher cost for providers which could lead to big losses by hospitals, or more rationing. So there is no doubt that as more and more is known about Obamacare, as it begins to work its ways into the system, more and more people are going to be against it. People like individual freedom and choice. They don't want their life and health to be determined by a small group of people in Washington.
DENNIS KNEALE: A week and a half ago, my dear 92-year-old grandmother died in her sleep in her nursing home. Now how much money should we have spent to keep her alive? Should we have given her surgery to replace her organs at age 92? I thought she was in terrible shape, two years of decline, but you ask her. I asked her once "Grandma, do you wish you could just go to sleep and now wake up?" and she said "Heck no man, I want to keep living!" But at some point guys, we cannot afford to provide all medical care to everyone. Can we? Don't we have to ration it?
ARE RESTAURANTS ACTING TO PREEMPT A GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWN ON THEIR BUSINESS?
STEVE FORBES: Yes the food fascists are in full force again, and they are trying to make sure to fight obesity by making sure you do not have the choice of what you eat. McDonalds, for example, is not one of these 19 yet. They offer very good salads in the restaurant. If you want to take them you can. And the key thing on fighting obesity David, is not food fascism, but really parents controlling what their kids eat and also allowing schools to have recess and exercise again so kids can burn off those calories.
VICTORIA BARRET: This is voluntary, and these restaurant menus are still going to have a wide variety of choices. If they are doing this preemptively, I am actually fine with that. You know, my toddler thinks that avocado blueberry milkshakes are like the greatest thing on the planet. And you can either say I am depriving him of fun or you can say that I am helping him make healthy choices in what he eats. And if we go to Burger King, I am thrilled that there is apple slices on the menu and he is going to be thrilled too and he is not going to be obese when he grows up, because obesity is a tax on our country.
DENNIS KNEALE: Two great points came up there guys. First was the word voluntary that she used and any time the government is doing what they are doing now, banging on the fast-food door, there is nothing voluntary. And second she showed a good mom, a parent who is making sure that their kids are eating what they should eat, not government.
MIKE OZANIAN: Right, I think these companies are doing this because they want the president's face as sort of a "good housekeeping seal of approval" that they can use to draw in customers, but I think this is going to be the detriment to these fast-food restaurants. I go there and other people go there, we want the greasy burgers and fries. If you go back before McDonalds starting serving salads and all that, their gross profit margin was 48 percent. It is down to 40 percent. So, I think this will actually hurt the restaurants.
BILL BALDWIN: I think it is a good business move to have a lot of choice on the menu. I do not see coercion. I do not see us reaching the point where the food police are going to arrest parents on child endangerment charges just for giving their kid a cheeseburger. We have a choice. Let McDonalds make their own choices and people can feel good about walking in the door and they do not have to buy the good stuff, they can buy the bad stuff.
INFORMER: STOCKS TO MAKE YOUR WALLETS FAT
DENNIS KNEALE: CHIPOTLE (CMG)
ELIZABETH MACDONALD: JOHNSON & JONSON (JNJ)
BILL BALDWIN: DOMINO'S (DPZ)