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.
This past week's Bulls & Bears: Gary B. Smith, Exemplar Capital managing partner; Pat Dorsey, Morningstar.com director of stock research; Scott Bleier, HybridInvestors.com president; Tobin Smith, ChangeWave Research editor; Joe Battipaglia, Stifel Nicolaus market strategist, private client group; and Peter Schiff, Euro Pacific Capital president and author of "Crash Proof: How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse."
Trading Pit: Dems Di$$ Economy: Are They Right Or Wrong?
Democrats dissing the economy, warning you how bad it is out there. But do the numbers tell another story?
Gary B.: It's a great economy! Unemployment is low and household net worth continues to grow. Things are pretty great for the economy.
Peter: The Democrats are wrong: the economy is even worse then they think! In this case numbers do lie. To get a 3.9 percent rise in GDP the government assumed that inflation rose at an annualized rate of only .8 percent, less then 1 percent a year. The actual inflation is much higher than that. In 2000, the average American earned 70 percent more than the average Canadian. Now we earn about the same. A year from now the average Canadian will probably earn twenty-percent more than the average American. This is not a record high our economy is a mess.
Tobin: Homeowner cash flow is higher that it has ever been and employment rates are high.
Scott: The economy has been very good. Granted there are some issues now in the financial world, and the Democrats are certainly going to seize on that. It's politics you have to expect it.
Pat: There are good arguments on both sides. It's going to get a little ugly. When bubbles deflate the bottom is always worse then you thinks it's going to be.
Joe: The Democrats will raise taxes using surcharges on the very people who create jobs and spend money. They want to regulate parts of our economy that don't need regulation. If spending is curtailed on the federal level, there is no need to change the tax code.
$3 Gas at the Pump: Will Holiday Shopping Suffer?
Scott: It will. Gas prices have stayed very quiet while oil has shot up to $95 a barrel. There is this magic number at three dollars. Above $3 the consumer gets hurt, below they're ok.
Gary B.: The consumer won't let the price of gas effect their holiday shopping.
Peter: It's hard to say that high gas prices will impact American's ability to borrow by this holiday season. But if things continue at this pace there may not be that much holiday shopping in future years.
Tobin: There are a couple of things here. People are actually driving less. And refinery production is up at 92 percent. The price will come back because people are driving less and buying smaller cars.
Joe: In the near term more disposable income will be spent on gasoline and heating oil. This will eat into disposable spending elsewhere.
Stock X-Change: Buzz Stocks!
Stocks creating a bigger buzz than the blockbuster 'Bee Movie'
Tobin: Yingli Green Energy (YGE )
Gary B.: GameStop (GME )
Pat: ABB Limited (ABB )
Joe: Getty Images (GYI )
Scott: Fair Isaac (FIC )
Tobin Smith's Prediction: Britney is the poster child for saving: buy Franklin (BEN )
Gary B. Smiths's prediction: Fed cuts another 1/4 pt in Dec. Buy Citigroup and Merrill
Pat Dorsey's prediction: America Still Loves Junk Food! Buy Kraft (KFT )
Scott Bleier's prediction: Squeaky clean at Lazard (LAZ ), up 35 percent by March
On Saturday, November 3, 2007, Neil Cavuto was joined by Ben Stein, "The Real Stars…" author; Charles Payne, wstreet.com; Tracy Byrnes, FOX Business Network; Adam Lashinsky, Fortune Magazine; and Julian Epstein, Democratic Strategist.
Rudy Giuliani says the Dems' health care plan would destroy health care. Is he right?
From the exclusive "Your World" interview on Tuesday:
Rudy Giuliani: "We cannot destroy it in the effort to reform it, which is what the Democrats… America is going to have to understand this… they want to destroy our health care system in order to reform it. A government-controlled health care system is a health care system that will dramatically deteriorate."
Neil Cavuto: Is the GOP presidential frontrunner right or wrong? Ben Stein, what do you think?
Ben Stein: I think it won't destroy it for everyone, but I think it'd destroy if for enough people that I think it's a very bad idea. Government lines at the Department of Motor Vehicle… government lines at any incompetent government service… not everywhere, but in some place. It's a bad idea when people's lives are on the line. It's not necessary. A better idea would be to give poor people money to buy private health insurance. And if you're rich and too slovenly to buy private health insurance, then I think we can't really care for you.
Neil Cavuto: Alright. How many emails are we going to get? Charles Payne, what do you think of that?
Charles Payne: I agree that the Democrats would destroy the system. This whole idea of socialized medicine… it's a dream, it's a fantasy. I don't know who's crunching the numbers. To go after the rich to pay for the poor, it's not the right way to do it. Somehow the small businesses need to get into the mix. They need to be given the leverage to get cheaper insurance. A lot of these folks work for small businesses.
Tracy Byrnes: I think we have to empower people more. Let's let people buy their own insurance. The Edwards plan, I think, is going to cost $120 billion. Socialized medicine doesn't work in Europe. Granted, he's not saying let's make doctors governmental employees, but, to have this whole notion that the government is going to control our health care is not going to help the fact that costs are just blown out of proportion.
Neil Cavuto: Adam Lashinsky, obviously Hillary Clinton is focusing on the amount of money Americans are spending on health care. And obviously, there have been focus groups that confirm her strategy is the right one. Which wins out? This idea that you'd be better off with what we've got? Or better off with what the Senator wants to do?
Adam Lashinsky: Well, Tracy hit on an important point that no one's really talking about socialized medicine… that is, except for Rudy Giuliani. It's a political move to say socialized medicine won't work here. That's not what the presidential candidates are talking about. They're talking about a way to provide health insurance to people who don't have health insurance. And as Ben pointed out, we're not really concerned with slovenly rich people who aren't going to go get health insurance. What we're trying to do is provide for the people who don't have it. That is NOT making doctors government employees. Rudy Giuliani would like you think that's what it is. It's a very politically popular thing to say.
Neil Cavuto: Well, Julian, isn't it inherent in whatever strategy you take to fix the health care system… you're changing what's also right about it? After all, better than 90 percent of Americans do have insurance. Now, you could argue that many of them are dissatisfied with what they have, but certainly not all of them. So a system that's presumably serving the vast majority of Americans well would have to be junked for those few for whom it is not?
Julian Epstein: Well, large portions of the American public are uninsured or underinsured. And large portions who have health insurance don't seek out health care for different reasons. But, anybody who calls the Clinton or Edwards plan socialized medicine has no idea what they're talking about or hasn't read the plan. First of all, it's very similar to the plans put forward by Republican Governors Schwarzenegger or Romney. Secondly, if you listen to what the Business Roundtable is saying, the Business Roundtable supports much of what's in the Clinton and Edwards plans. Thirdly, Democrats are getting more than the Republicans are in terms of donations from the health care industry.
Neil Cavuto: Well, to be fair, they could also be trying to get on the wagon before it leaves.
Julian Epstein: Well, that may be a charitable interpretation of it. Essentially, what the plans propose is that the private sector will continue to provide health care insurance. Nobody proposes changing that. No Democrat proposes changing that. What the Democrats propose is giving small business and individuals tax credits and help from the federal government to pay for premiums.
Neil Cavuto: Ben, here's what I want to know. One thing Rudy Giuliani is doing is running these spots saying he survived prostate cancer and his odd of getting better were much better in the U.S. than in other countries where health care is more government-run. Does that register? Will that register with voters?
Ben Stein: I think it will register very much. And I respect very much what Mr. Epstein is saying, but I think what he's missing is that there are going to be certain government standards under HillaryCare and EdwardsCare that are going to impact what the health care providers can provide. There's not going to be that kind of flexibility that we have with health insurance right now. There's going to be some kind of mandatory, government controls. That's a very scary proposition. I don't like that at all.
Charles Payne: In addition to that, the vilification of drug companies… that's going to hurt research and development. Listen, the life expectancy has gone from 40 to almost 90 years old in this country. That's because of the health care business.
Neil Cavuto: Even as we're getting fat.
Charles Payne: Even as we're getting fat.
Neil Cavuto: That's pretty cool! Imagine if we had stayed thin. We could live to be 200!
Head to Head: Illegals Getting Drivers Licenses -– Is It Vote-Buying?
Neil Cavuto: Pressed for an answer, Sen. Hillary Clinton now says she's for giving illegals driver's licenses. Is she putting votes ahead of protecting us? It's time to go Head to Head.
Tracy Byrnes: I think this is loony. These people are illegal. They shouldn't be given anything. This whole notion that these people should be car insurance is crazy! I mean, first of all, who's to say illegals are going to get licenses anyway. It means they're going to be documented. I think the only thing illegals should get is a bus ride home, then come back legally.
Neil Cavuto: I have problems about giving my daughter a driver's license.
Neil Cavuto: Ben, what do you make of that? That this is something that could come back to bite Hillary?
Ben Stein: I think it could bite her very hard. Imagine if an illegal crashes into you or God forbid runs you over and he has a driver's license but doesn't have car insurance… who do you sue? To whom do you make a claim against? I think it's a very bad idea unless they find a way to give illegals driver's licenses AND liability insurance at the same time… then, it's fine by me. Otherwise, I don't want people driving around who can crash into me and I would have no recourse
Neil Cavuto: You would be a target, too. You know it.
Ben Stein: I know with my gorgeous Cadillac.
Neil Cavuto: Adam, what do you make of that? The argument for giving illegals driver's licenses is that then they could get insurance and God forbid they do anything to Ben, he'd at least have the grounds to sue and get some money.
Adam Lashinsky: Well, there's also an argument that presumably somebody with a driver's license actually knows how to drive and knows the rules of the road.
Neil Cavuto: Obviously you haven't seen my wife driving…
Adam Lashinsky: But, to Tracy's point earlier, many illegal aliens are already documented in the U.S. because they pay taxes. I actually think that Gov. Spitzer is not playing politics with this. I think he's trying to do something to make the roads of New York safer. Maybe we should give him a pat on the back for this.
Neil Cavuto: A pat on the back??
Adam Lashinsky: One thing we can all agree on, Neil, is that illegal aliens do not vote in New York or the U.S.
Neil Cavuto: But, you don't think that giving them a license leads to just that?
Adam Lashinsky: Leads what? To citizenship? Yeah, eventually.
Neil Cavuto: And you don't think that with a license you can do a lot like getting a voter registration card? That's what this is about Adam. I'm sorry, but that's what this is about.
Adam Lashinsky: I understand that people are concerned it would lead to getting a passport and to terrorism, but I think you can have provisions to prevent that.
Ben Stein: Adam, there's something very basic, with all due respect, that you're missing. Only citizens should be allowed to vote. It's America. It's not the world. Americans only should be allowed to vote in America.
Adam Lashinsky: I completely agree with you. I don't think non-citizens should be allowed to vote. The issue is whether or not they should be allowed to drive.
Charles Payne: The answer is no. Adam, the answer is no. Why do you want to validate their illegal existence?
Adam Lashinsky: To my earlier point Charles, you would like them to stop paying income taxes as well, right?
Charles Payne: Well, usually they don't pay under their own name; they pay under somebody else's Social Security number. But you said it'd make them safer drivers. That really goes over my head! Getting a driver's license doesn't make you a great driver. You're intelligent. I can't believe you're falling for this one.
Neil Cavuto: Julian, another intelligent man I want to bring into this. Hillary Clinton thought this through after the debate and said she's for it. So why did she say that? She said it for a reason and I suspect politically it resonated.
Julian Epstein: Well, there may be a political reason. There's also a substantive reason. And listening to this conversation is like listening to a conversation in an ivory tower. There are 12-20 million undocumented workers. Many of them are going to drive. So Ben, if you get in an accident with one of these 12-20 million, it's better if there's some documentation so if you want to take action, you can.
Ben Stein: Whom would I take action with if they didn't have insurance?
Charles Payne: Hillary Clinton.
Julian Epstein: Well, at least you'd have some ID, some knowledge as to who they are. That's important for law enforcement and for a whole host of other people. The fact of the matter is we're not going to deport these 12-20 million people.
Charles Payne: No one's talking about deporting.
Adam Lashinsky: Sure you are.
Julian Epstein: Now, if I could just finish my point.
Charles Payne: They shouldn't be driving if they aren't here legally. That's the point!
Julian Epstein: There is a bi-partisan agreement in Washington that we have to find some sensible way of integrating these undocumented workers into mainstream society.
Charles Payne: If they aren't here legally, why are they on the road?
Julian Epstein: Let me finish the point. The fact of the matter is President Bush has failed to do that. The measures Gov. Spitzer is proposing at stop-gap measures.
Neil Cavuto: You support what he's trying to do, right Julian?
Julian Epstein: I think it's a good, temporary stop-gap measure.
More for Your Money: Best Stocks for the Next 1, 5, and 10 Years!
Neil Cavuto: The best investments for any age. It's time to get "More for Your Money."
Charles: Nvidia Corp (NVDA)
*Charles owns shares of this stock.
*Best stock for the next year.
Adam: Vanguard International Growth (VWIGX)
*Adam owns shares of this fund.
*Best fund for the next 5 years.
Ben: iShares MSCI Emerging Markets (EEM)
*Ben owns shares of this fund.
*Best fund for the next 10 years.
FOX on the Spot
Tracy Byrnes: Britney's Expense Report & Jobs Report = Happy Holidays!
Charles Payne: Housing Slump Proves U.S. Economy is No. 1
Adam Lashinsky: India is the Future; Superpower Before I Retire
Ben Stein: Tax Dollars Well Spent on Walter Reed
Neil Cavuto: Everybody Needs the FOX Business Network!
In Focus: Dems Open Fire on Hillary: Good for the Markets?
Victoria Barret, associate editor: I think her fellow candidates did the GOP a huge favor this week by bashing Hillary at the debate. Hillary has been a very vague candidate. We really don't know where she sits on key issues; immigration, taxes and Iraq. These guys are pinning her down and in the end it will be good for Republicans. I do think it would be great to have a woman in the White House. Hillary and I both went to the same all-women University, Wellesley College. But I don't think Hillary is the right woman to be President. I think when we find out more about her policies, it will be clear that's she's not the right woman for the position and would not run our country in the right direction.
Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief: What doesn't kill her will only make her stronger. If she gets bashed now, she will be a better candidate in the election because she will battle harder. She'll turn that fork tongue into a silver tongue. She'll still get the nomination, even though the Left will fight her tooth and nail, but then she'll really be ready for the big debate with Rudy in the general election. Even though she doesn't have Bill's followers, never underestimate the power of the Clintons. And the fact that she's so far ahead in the polls, which is why they're finally attacking her, shows she's no slouch on this campaign trail.
Quentin Hardy, Silicon Valley bureau chief: Let's first set aside that bizarre logic that's what's good for Republicans is good for the economy. I don't get it at all. What's wrong with the world seeing that Hillary has a tough skin? It shows she gets questioned, it shows that she gets pinned down on certain issues and that's great! Who doesn't love a good debate? I wish the current President went through this too.
Mike Ozanian, national editor: This is terrible for the economy because in my opinion, Obama and Edwards are playing right into Hillary's hands. They're making her look mainstream because they are both so liberal. And let's not forget, when word of Hillary's secret healthcare plan came out in the early nineties, healthcare stocks crashed! So I think Hillary would be terrible for the economy.
Mark Tatge, Forbes contributing editor: This is good for the economy and this is good for Hillary. This has finally come down to a gender issue and shame on all these Conservative bad-mouthers. What's wrong with having a woman as a President? But all conservatives think that if the President is not a man, then they can't run the country. Well look what happens with European countries and all other countries outside the United States. Women run those countries successfully. And a woman can run this country successfully too! I think it's about time to get a woman running the White House.
Lea Goldman, senior editor: There's nothing that Democrats can say about Hillary that Republicans haven't said already. . .and worse. This is all part of campaigning and Hillary has been through the ringer for years now. I heard a speech that Steve gave last week and he predicted this would happen and get worse, which is exactly what's happening now. I don't think voters will make their decision based on gender. I think people are going to look at bigger issues like, who's going to get us out of Iraq? Who's going to prevent a real estate driven recession? Who's going to rehab our image abroad? And I honestly don't think any of these candidates are going to generate confidence along any of those fronts.
Wal-Mart Starts the Holiday Season Early: Proof They Do More for the Poor Than Liberal Wal-Mart Bashers?
Steve Forbes: Only a twisted liberal would think that low prices hurt the poor. People love a good bargain and Wal-Mart is giving it to them. Wal-Mart also provides good jobs which people are lining up for. What's not to like about Wal-Mart? They're doing everyone a favor. They provide low prices because they manage inventory better than anyone else. I think it's great for the economy.
Mark Tatge: There's a lot to not like about Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has an atrocious record with their employees as well as the communities which they are in, where it sucked the life out of rural America. Wal-Mart is starting to realize that it has a big problem with their image now. So starting their holiday season early is sort of a window treatment on protecting their image.
Victoria Barret: Wal-Mart has low prices and what people don't always understand is low prices means more money in your wallet. Wal-Mart is good for the economy.
Lea Goldman: Starting the holiday season early isn't good for the poor! They're doing it because they are scared of the upcoming shopping season as are more retailers in this country because the predictions aren't pretty. The problem for the poor now is Wal-Mart is lengthening the shopping season which is going to make people spend more money, put more money on their credit cards, and create more debt. You haven't even bought the Butterball turkey yet and you're already buying the new Nintendo?!
Neil Weinberg, senior editor: It's not like Wal-Mart is standing in a parking lot with a shotgun forcing people to come in and shop. The fact of the matter is, Wal-Mart brings lower prices for everyone. When they go into poorer communities, the average family saves around $500 on groceries a year. That's a lot of money for the poor. Liberals don't like Wal-Mart because Wal-Mart doesn't want to be unionized and the Democrats are very pro-union because that's where their support comes from.
Quentin Hardy: If you want low prices, let's have no food safety or drug laws, no overtime, and let's have sweat shops because all those things give us low prices too. It's not about price, it's about the overall environment. And Wal-Mart, after numerous lawsuits and public embarrassments, has actually gotten better at paying overtime and increasing wage. But this isn't because they're a good organization, it's because their feet got held to the fire.
Flipside: Congress Set to Shorten Work Week: Good for Economy!
Mike Ozanian: I love it! Do you realize the Dow Jones Industrial Average began in 1897 and since that time, on days that Congress has been out of session, it's does 100 times better than on days when Congress was working! Congress wants to run and regulate everything and the market hates that. Let's cut their pay by 20 percent. That would be perfect!
Josh Lipton, Forbes.com staff writer: This is bad for economy. Let's say you have a trade bill or tax bill which gets to a legislator's desk on a Thursday afternoon. Nothing gets done with it until Monday! While the rest of the country is moving on, what are we doing? We're waiting for our Congressmen to get stuff done. It's bad for the economy. Let me put it in another way. Taxpayers are going to pay just as much of their salaries, right, but we're going to get 20 percent less work out of these guys. Where's the deal?
Neil Weinberg: The government that governs least, governs best. We have 535 people on Capitol Hill who are trying to make a name for themselves by passing legislation bills which we don't need. I say the less they work, the better. The best thing we can do is show how they're spending their time. If they spend that extra day lobbying and raising money, it would be a bad thing. But they still would govern less, and that would be good.
Lea Goldman: Call my crazy but I have this quaint notion that our Congressmen should be leaders and set a good example for the rest of us. We're putting in more hours of work on our blackberries and through emails and cell phones. And these guys are taking time off to "spend time with constituents"? I don't think so! I would like to see Congress' schedule posted online. I would like to see where and when they work. We keep on forgetting that these guys work for us!
Steve Forbes: The question is what kind of work are they doing? Not how much work they're doing. And I don't know what all the fuss is because they hardly ever worked on Fridays to begin with. They come back to work on Tuesdays and leave on Thursday nights. So this formalized what they're doing anyways. Making them more accountable doesn't mean they'll do better things. The reason why it takes them so long to pass these trade bills is not because they don't work on Fridays, it's because the union bosses say no.
Informer: The Next Google Stock
Evelyn Rusli, Forbes.com reporter: VMware (VMW)
Mike Ozanian: XenoPort (XNPT)
Josh Lipton: GameStop Corp. (GME)
Victoria Barret: Cypress Semiconductor (CY)
Our Cashin' In crew this week: Wayne Rogers, Wayne Rogers & Co; Dagen McDowell, FOX Business Network; Jonathan Hoenig, CapitalistPig Asset Management; Jonas Max Ferris, MaxFunds.com; Stephanie Auwerter, Editor at SmartMoney.com; and Brandie Malay, Host of HGTV's "Hidden Potential"
Election Day One Year Away: Are Tax Hike$ One Year Away?
Election Day is just one year away. GOP frontrunner Rudy Giuliani telling our very own Neil Cavuto this week that we will definitely see a big tax hike if a Democrat wins the White House next year. If a Democrat does become President, will America lose when it comes to taxes?
Jonathan: Yes! The Democrats' basic philosophy is that wealth is public and it's their job to hand it out. They do that by taxes, by taking money from people who have earned it and giving it to those who haven't earned it. There's no question taxes will go up under a Democrat and I think they'll go up the most on the most productive people, or those who earn the most money.
Wayne: All you have to do is read what Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y. is proposing. He wants to take more money from the top 10 percent and hike that even higher. They are appealing to the majority. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) desperately wants to get elected and will do anything to appeal to that group of people.
Dagen: Hillary Clinton embracing Charlie Rangel's plan could hurt her in getting the nomination. His plan will start to fuel the debate over who is wealthy in this country. Is it 2 people who earn $200,000 or is it even less or more? It will give her a headache and the other Dems who are running. Republican hands might be tied if they did win the presidency and could possibly make Bush's tax cuts permanent. Beyond that, we've got problems with spending and the deficit. That would still tie them up.
Stephanie: A lot of people aspire to make $200,000 a year. That's the concern in talking about a tax hike. Our eyes are on the consumer right now. The consumer is already facing strong headwinds with falling home prices, the tightening credit situation, and rising oil prices. If you start talking about increasing taxes even if it is to benefit the middle class, people will start to get nervous.
Jonas: At least the Democrats are admitting that they are going to raise taxes. Rudy Giuliani is right. They are going to raise taxes. Even though Mitt Romney signs a "no tax" pledge doesn't mean the Republicans aren't going to raise taxes on some level too. With a strong economy, we are still running a budget deficit. Take a look at the future liabilities of this government. There's no way to not raise taxes in order to cover these deficits without massive spending cuts.
Dagen: You're talking about the entitlements, fixing social security and Medicare, specifically.
Jonas: The spending on the war is not going away either. Someone will have to raise taxes to pay for these things.
Jonathan: It's the rich who will pay for it all. Charlie Rangel would say the rich owe it to the poor. Hillary Clinton would say that the rich become rich on the backs of the poor and that raising taxes on the rich isn't just good policy, but good economics.
Jonas: Taxpayers owe it to the children not to leave them this huge deficit.
Wayne: If you want to get elected in this country, you must appeal to the majority of the people. The majority of the people are not rich, so you will tax the rich. Jonas is on to something in regards to cutting spending. This is not just about raising taxes. The Republican Party has destroyed itself by promising to cut spending and then hiking it all over the place. They are just as guilty.
Jonathan: Do you think poor people are so devoid of any values that they are going to vote for an entitlement program just because it means cash in their pocket?
Wayne: Yes, and history proves me right.
Jonas: Jonathan, didn't you vote for our current President who is going to lower taxes on investing because it benefits you? Why is that so crazy? To vote for someone who is going to benefit YOU with a certain package of taxes and spending?
Jonathan: Maybe I'm idealistic. I would hope for a President or leader who would treat all men equal under the law and not favor one particular group.
Dagen: So, Jonathan, you're in favor of the House move to a tax carried interest, not as capital gains, but his income then?
Jonathan: I'm in favor of a flat tax, but you don't hear anyone proposing that.
Stephanie: Governor Huckabee did talk about that this week. However, I don't see it ever being implemented.
Wayne: A sales tax is a flat tax. A value added tax is a flat tax. It works in Europe and in some municipalities in the U.S. We already have a history of a flat tax. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just a matter of the degree of the flat tax.
"Buy My House & Get A Full Refund!" A Sign Housing Has Bottomed Out?
A Pittsburgh couple is so desperate to sell their house that they are offering the buyer a full refund when they pass away. Is this a sign the housing market is still dying or coming back to life?
Brandie Malay: This is so ridiculous. These people do seem very desperate. This isn't Chicken Little. The sky is not falling. The market is going to rebound. The stock market did take a hit yesterday, but it will absolutely recover. Everything is cyclical.
Wayne: I do not see signs of a bottom. Brandie is right in that everything is cyclical, but the cycle is going to take a long time. We know from the billion dollars in write off Merrill Lynch took and that Citigroup is going to take a big hit for $30 billion. These are huge numbers. These are the numbers that are the fallout of the housing market, not only subprime loans, but all loans. It's going to go a lot deeper and last a lot longer before it turns around. We're at least 18-24 months from the bottom, as we have yet to see all the foreclosures come out.
Brandie: Don't you think this is a great time to build your portfolio?
Wayne: What portfolio?
Brandie: Your real estate portfolio.
Wayne: Only if you want to go bottom fishing.
Jonas: In general, it's a good sign to see sellers getting aggressive trying to move this inventory. They've been acting like prices do not have to be lowered. I would suggest lowering prices is better than the tricks and gimmicks that have been going on. It's a good sign that the economy is strong and that jobs are strong. There will be some time, though, as there is a lot of inventory that has to be sold.
Dagen: The problem is that the prices aren't dropping. Even the homebuilders are resorting to gimmicks, auctions, and free TV's. Cut prices – that's what has to happen. We've seen price weakness in the last year or so, but like Wayne said, it's going to be 2009 before there will be any kind of price recovery. I applaud these people because they are selling this house on their own. Plus, they are getting massive amounts of press.
Jonathan: There was a time when REIT's (real estate investment trusts), savings & loans, and financials were the strong stocks. That's not the case anymore. Although the scene is bad out there and the housing slump is front-page news, I don't think it is bad enough to really constitute a tradable bottom right now. I want to buy when there's blood in the street.
Brandie: Real estate will always be the soundest investment. I will dispute anyone who says otherwise. Back in the 1980's when interest rates were at 15-16 percent, people were still buying houses. It's going to recover. When you buy a house and are in the same market, you will make that up on the back end when you buy. Everyone is running around tearing his or her hair out, but this is going to fix itself. Everyone needs to take a step back and take a breath.
Wayne: Yes, the housing market will fix itself over the long term. It always does. Brandie is right about real estate over the long term, but we have to think about 4 or 5 years out. Some people can't afford that. Some guy has a payment that he has to pay next week. It's a big one and he can't pay it or cut it.
Brandie: Instead of giving your house away when you die, how about preparing your house for sale? I am still in the streets selling day to day and people do not prepare their homes for sale. I will see dirty dishes in the sink and laundry all over the place. It's simple. Just put a little money in and prepare your house.
Dagen: When I was looking at houses a couple years ago, I did see a lot of dirty laundry on the floor. As the real estate market got worse and worse, I started to see that disappear, thank goodness. The problem right now is that a lot of potential buyers will have problems getting a mortgage. If you don't have pristine credit, good luck!
Boy Admits Lighting a Wildfire: Should His Parents Pay?
A firestorm has erupted over the boy who set one of the California wildfires. Should his parents be forced to pay for the devastation it caused?
Jonas: It was an accident. It was a terrible tragedy with billions of dollars in damage, but at the end of the day it was a 10 year old who set the fire, not an adult. It wasn't arson, but a mistake. I feel bad for the parents, but I don't think the parents are bad parents.
Jonathan: Do you feel bad for the families who have lost their homes? If the parents don't pay, who pays? Is the 10-year-old kid going to come up with the money? Terry, if your 10 year old went into Macy's and started breaking all the China, wouldn't they come after you for the money? Of course they would. That is what makes the parents the parents.
Jonas: It's true, most parents tell their kids not to play with matches, but at the end of the day, children playing with matches start half of fires. It's very common for boys to play with fire. I did as a kid. To an extent, I think parents should be liable for their kids' mistakes, but are you really going to lay a billion dollar settlement on a family that doesn't have that kind of money?
Jonathan: I'm no Judge Andrew Napolitano, as we all know, but I think a lot of this depends on whether this boy was just playing with fire or if he intended to start a fire. The parents could have had early warnings, like if he liked to burn stuff around the house or if someone at school saw him playing with matches. That will have to eventually lay in the judgment as well.
Jonas: He is living in a fire-prone area. If other kids had dry wood brush around their house, there would probably be more fires. I don't have a child, but Jonathan, what if you were watching your stock charts one day and your kid goes out and accidentally starts a fire? You want a $10 million settlement that makes you impoverished for the rest of your life?
Jonathan: Hopefully, he will be watching the stock charts with me! That's what makes the parents the parents and the kid the kid. You aren't going to put a 10 year old in jail, so the parents are accountable.
Jonas: How accountable? What would you want them to do? Pay a fine or go to jail? How would you solve this problem?
Jonathan: We have objective judges who will make those decisions as to what the culpability is. The parents are the responsible party. Sure, the kid is responsible and should feel the ramifications too, but the parents should be held accountable.
Best Bets: Election Winner$
Wayne: Focus Media Holding (FMCN ) (Friday's Close: $65.00)
Jonas: Siemens (SI ) (Friday's Close: $135.40)
Jonathan: iPath AIG Nickel (JJN ) (Friday's Close: $50.77)