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; Eric Bolling, independent trader; Patricia Powell, Powell Financial Group president; Cheryl Casone, FOX Business Network, and MeMe Roth, National Action Against Obesity.
Trading Pit: Happy Holidays For The Housing Market?
Gary B. Smith: I think we have hit a bottom in housing, at least in terms of the housing stocks. The stocks - like Toll Brothers (TOL) and Beazer (BZH) – have been down 60 percent - 90 percent since their peaks. We haven't seen this kind of sell-off in housing stocks since the late 1980's/early 1990's, after which they all took off. We've seen median home prices level off, and I think we will see them start to come back up.
Tobin Smith: The issue isn't the housing stocks but the massive amount of actual housing inventory we have in the United States. I don't think we will see a full recovery until 2010, when this excess inventory is cleared out.
Patricia Powell: It didn't take us a year to get here (the housing boom) and it will not take us a year to get out of this (the housing slowdown). It all comes down to buyers' confidence and lenders' confidence – and the days of cheap, easy, "brain dead" lending are over.
Cheryl Casone: I think we are hitting a bottom for housing, and that has to do with the psychology you are seeing out there. When you see most of the headlines talking about the "negativity" in the housing market that is a sign that we are at a bottom. And I think in two years we will actually have a shortage in new homes.
Pat Dorsey: Inventory is the issue and it is going to take us a long time to work off the excess inventory. I also think the home builders (stocks) will be down for at least another year – remember – these stocks made huge moves with falling interest rates – we won't see that again.
Scott Bleier: Banks aren't lending (as much as they were), Fannie Mae is crashing, home builders are going out of business, the housing market seems "frozen" and there is real fear in the air. As a stock market person, that to me seems like a bottom forming. But the housing market is much different than the stock market: it takes a long time to top and a long time to bottom.
Cut Off Government Health Care for the Obese?
A British man whop recently moved to New Zealand was told his wife could not enter the country… because she was too fat and placed too heavy a burden on their national health care system.
Should America learn from this plan and cut-off government health care for the obese?
Meme Roth: First off – we can't get too emotional over the weight issue. Second – realize that the woman in New Zealand wasn't totally denied entry – she was just delayed entry. So if she is willing to take some steps to lead a healthier life, she will get in. And New Zealand has a national health care plan that says if we are going to take care of you, then you in turn need to take care of yourself.
Gary B. Smith: Medicare or Medicaid are set up to give people health care, not to deny them health care because of a certain lifestyle. I agree that obesity is a national epidemic – but so be it!
Patricia Powell: Who is going to make the decision about who is fit to receive national health care: the "skinny minnies" in Congress? The last time I checked, eating was a legal activity.
Pat Dorsey: Unfortunately – our government's farm policy contributes to the obesity problem: they make calories through processed food cheaper than calories through fresh food. So until the government stops subsidizing foods that are high in calories, then the government really can't get too upset over the obesity issue.
The best holiday present you can buy for yourself? How about a stock that will give the best gift of all: cash!
Gary B. Smith's pick: Wells Fargo (WFC )
Tobin Smith's pick: Apple (AAPL )
Patricia Powell's pick: Hewlett-Packard (HPQ )
Pat Dorsey's pick: Medtronic (MDT )
Scott Bleier's pick: Verasun Energy (VSU )
Gary B. Smith's prediction: Bottom is in! Dow Diamonds (DIA ) rally 10 percent in next 5 weeks!
Tobin Smith's prediction: Patriots run the table and so does CRL ! Up 25 percent in a down market
Patricia Powell's prediction: Financial "mess" will get better; IXG up 40 percent in a year.
Cheryl Casone's prediction: Shop 'til you drop! Record spending this holiday season!
Scott Bleier's prediction: Sift through the retail wreckage; Zumiez (ZUMZ ) up 40 percent by spring.
Pat Dorsey's prediction: Buy 3M (MMM ) for a 30 percent boost over the next 12 months.
On Saturday, November 24, 2007, Neil Cavuto was joined by Charles Payne, wstreet.com; Tracy Byrnes, FOX Business Network; Adam Lashinsky, Fortune Magazine; Jill Schlesinger, StrategicPoint Investment Advisors; Mike Norman, Contrarian Update founder.
Bottom Line: If Wal-Mart's Worried about the Economy, Should You Be Too?
Neil Cavuto: Black Friday on Thanksgiving Thursday; slashing prices on tens of thousands of items; plus, secret online sales. It's all part of Wal-Mart's push to get you buying this holiday season. IF it's a sign Wal-Mart's worried about the economy, should you be too? Let's get to the "Bottom Line."
Tracy Byrnes: Well, Wal-Mart's worried on its own level and on its own right. This company struggles to get cash. It has a load of debt. The company has problems. Big picture, are they worried about the economy, too? Yes. So there are two stories here: Wal-Mart as a company, and that the retail season will be a bit slower.
Neil Cavuto: I don't see it having a problem. It makes more money in an hour…
Mike Norman: What are you saying? That the company is struggling to get cash?
Tracy Byrnes: Somebody should look at the numbers. Somebody should read the financial statements.
Mike Norman: This is the largest retailing entity in the world. Neil, it's doing the right thing. Americans want to shop. Nobody wanted to wait the 24 hours to go to the store. The stores are opening up. That is the "American Way." I happen to think the sales season is going to well. There's a strong correlation between income, which has been rising in real terms, and sales over the last 15 – 20 years. By the way, very low correlation between home prices and sales.
Neil Cavuto: Alright, so to Tracy's point: Obviously you must have some problems if you're having this kind of sale.
Charles Payne: Well, there's no doubt this is going to be a difficult holiday season.
Neil Cavuto: What are they saying about the economy?
Mike Norman: Why is there no doubt?
Charles Payne: Because, we're already seeing it.
Mike Norman: I just went through the list…
Charles Payne: I know. I appreciate it.
Neil Cavuto: You argue with Norman… it's not good.
Charles Payne: It's not good! I'd rather arm wrestle Mike Tyson!
Charles Payne: Here's the real deal. To Tracy's point, Wal-Mart does have some issues. Because of its business model, it keeps cutting prices so it has to sell more stuff. They have personal challenges. I happen to like it. I happen to love that expectations are low for retail stocks.
Neil Cavuto: I think they set them low. But, that's a whole other issue. Jill, what do you think of all this? When Wal-Mart does this so early in the season, and they've never done it quite like this before, obviously, that sets the bar for everyone. Wal-Mart's a pretty good prognosticator. What's it prognosticating?
Jill Schlesinger: I happen to think it's also talking about the two economies we're starting to see. Saks Fifth Avenue just released earnings and they were really good. They can thank my mother for part of that.
Neil Cavuto: And Mike…
Jill Schlesinger: And Charles.
Jill Schlesinger: But, let's be clear. There are issues on consumers' minds. It's not just gas. It could be their mortgages. It does put a bit of a pall.
Neil Cavuto: So Wal-Mart's acting preemptively?
Jill Schlesinger: Yeah, I think so. But the consumer has been incredibly resilient. I can't believe I'm about to say this, but I agree with Mike.
Mike Norman: Why does everyone preface that comment with "I can't believe I'm about to say this"?
Neil Cavuto: It's a lack of respect. That's what it is.
Jill Schlesinger: Wages have been growing, not for everyone, but generally speaking wages have gone up. And that does speak to maybe a surprise for the holiday season.
Neil Cavuto: Alright, Adam Lashinsky, is there a bigger trend going on here? It's no riddle that if you want to get people to the stores, you put out the sale signs. By the way, half the time I don't think any of the items are on sale.
Neil Cavuto: But, you put the sale signs up and everyone thinks they're on sale. We're sort of preconditioned to that. We have to see the sale signs. What do you think of that?
Adam Lashinsky: Yeah, it's like you have to give the consumers something new. I guess being open on Thanksgiving is something new. I think that's just a horrible thing. I wish there was just one day when we didn't have to feel pressured to shop.
Neil Cavuto: Oh, c'mon. No one's pressuring you to shop.
Adam Lashinsky: They're putting on a ton of pressure. And we're putting pressure on people right now. Look, I want to say one thing about Wal-Mart. They have had a lot of problems. One thing they've never had a problem with is information. They have some of the best data flow of any company in the world. The fact that they're going to these extreme measure tells you that their data is telling them it's going to be bad.
Neil Cavuto: You know what it is? I think it's nothing more Machiavellian than looking at gas prices going up and seeing mortgages in the headlines, so be preemptive and offer a lot of sales and see what happens.
Mike Norman: The problems Wal-Mart has are exogenous.
Neil Cavuto: Who?
Adam Lashinsky: You can't say that on television…
Neil Cavuto: You know a lot of big words.
Mike Norman: Wal-Mart is being attacked politically. That's the problem Wal-Mart is having. People are saying Wal-Mart isn't paying its fair share wages; it's not taking care of health care…
Tracy Byrnes: Oh, stop defending Wal-Mart!
Mike Norman: Wal-Mart is a great company. I own shares of Wal-Mart.
Tracy Byrnes: That's exactly why. Here we go! The National Retail Federation came out and said that sales for this holiday season would be 4 percent versus 4.8 percent. I happen to think Target is a better measure.
Neil Cavuto: Why don't you like Wal-Mart and why are you shouting?
Tracy Byrnes: Because I have to yell at him.
Mike Norman: She's a big-time TV star… so now she's a snob.
Tracy Byrnes: Ahh! Happy Thanksgiving!
Neil Cavuto: You are a snob… a couple of months ago you liked Wal-Mart!
Tracy Byrnes: No. Never. I like Target.
Neil Cavuto: Here's what's happening here…
Adam Lashinsky: Neil, may I defend my friend, Tracy?
Neil Cavuto: No, no. We're picking on her right now. I'll pick on you in just a second. So Wal-Mart is trying to stay ahead of the curve and you're jumping all over them.
Tracy Byrnes: I think Target is a better barometer of the economy. It hits more of the middle class.
Charles Payne: Listen, I just think it's a business move by Wal-Mart. Yeah, they expect things to be a little slow. Soon, we're going to have Thanksgiving Day sales on July 4th.
Charles Payne: Everyone's just trying to get an edge. I think it's fair to say we're going to be a little slower, but it doesn't mean we should be worried. At the top of the show we asked if we should be worried about the economy. I think the economy is doing extremely well. We heard from the Fed this week and it sounds like the economy is going to be doing well for the next several years.
Neil Cavuto: Adam, final word on this?
Adam Lashinsky: Wal-Mart and all sorts of retailers are having sales at all sorts of ridiculous hours. They're desperate. It's not going to be a terrible Christmas season, but it may be financially for Wal-Mart.
Head to Head: Should Carry-On Bags Be Banned to Stop Delays and Keep Us Safe?
Neil Cavuto: Want to take off on time? Then pack NEATLY! That's right. That's what the government's saying. The TSA urging everyone to get their carry-on's cleaned up to keep security lines moving and planes safe. But, would banning all carry-on bags be a better fix? Let's go "Head to Head."
Mike Norman: Get rid of 'em! Get rid of the carry-ons altogether. We have to stop thinking we deserve something when we get on airplanes; that civility is a thing of the past. We have a big problem with delays and overcrowding and I hate it. When I'm in that little area waiting to board the plane…
Neil Cavuto: You're mobbed by people looking for autographs… you don't need that.
Mike Norman: … you finally get a boarding call… and what happens? You wait an hour and a half more because you have all these people trying to stuff these gigantic suitcases into these overhead bins designed to hold socks!
Neil Cavuto: I thought you flew first class!
Mike Norman: I'm tellin' ya… Get rid of it!
Charles Payne: We pay money to fly on these planes. What are you talking about that we take certain things for granted? First of all, I'd rather take a carry-on than get my luggage lost. The TSA is doing a great job, but there are a lot of holes in the system. Do we expect a terrorist to be Felix Unger and pack neatly?
Neil Cavuto: What if you don't take a carry-on, but the guy in front of you does? You still have to go through the same thing…
Charles Payne: Yeah, and what about the inevitable delay on the tarmac? You need bottles of water and a magazine because you could be out there for hours.
Neil Cavuto: Everyone fly commando. You could save yourself a lot of hassle and the trip could be interesting. What do you make of that Tracy? Not the commando part…
Tracy Byrnes: Thanks… This is a global world. It's a global economy. If we're going to act that way, we have to be able to get on a plane and go to Dubai.
Neil Cavuto: What about packing neatly? Does everyone on the globe fold clothes the same way?
Mike Norman: What's the big deal?
Neil Cavuto: The TSA says it's a very big deal. If you just fling that toothpaste in there… you're in trouble.
Tracy Byrnes: Put everything in a clear bag from the get-go. But, people should be able to bring a bag on the plane.
Mike Norman: What? Is it some sort of a birthright?
Tracy Byrnes: You have children. Have you traveled with children? You need a lot of stuff! I'm not going on a plane without a bag.
Adam Lashinsky: I want to remind you all that immediately after 9/11 there was a ban on carry-on bags. We all checked our bags. Do you remember how well things worked for that little while? We breezed on to the planes…
Neil Cavuto: No, we breezed on because no one was flying. The volume was non-existent for months.
Adam Lashinsky: The flying picked up fairly quickly. I flew within two weeks of 9/11. Look, I try to get my bag on, I stuff as much as I can, but if I couldn't do that, things would move more quickly.
Neil Cavuto: Yeah, but you look suspicious…
Adam Lashinsky: One more point. The TSA's main job is to keep us safe. So Charles, when you say not everyone can pack neatly, you're missing the point. They're trying to explain to us how to help them do their job. It's that important.
Charles Payne: We have to help them, but can't we bring an overnight bag for a one-night trip?
Adam Lashinsky: Maybe try to get it in your briefcase.
Charles Payne: Why do I have to wait 30 minutes at the carousels? C'mon Adam!
Mike Norman: How many changes of clothes do you need? You're going for one day!
Neil Cavuto: Jill, the TSA is saying be neat.. Is it the right message?
Jill Schlesinger: I actually agree with Adam. What's the big deal? If checking everything is going to make us safer, I'm all for it!
Neil Cavuto: You know what I think though? They're so obsessed if you have the cap on the toothpaste, they're missing the gun. And to Charles's point, it has become a hassle. We are the paying customer. I know they're trying to keep us safe, but when you are so focused on how the clothes are folded and if you have the right ounces in the clear bag, I think you're missing the potential explosive.
Jill Schlesinger: I think it's probably true, but if it makes them slightly more efficient at keeping us safer, I'm all for it.
Neil Cavuto: I argue it won't.
Jill Schlesinger: You don't think so?
Neil Cavuto: It'll do no such thing.
Mike Norman: I think the whole reason they're floating this as an idea because they're realizing they can't police every bag and it's much better if you put everything in the plane.
Neil Cavuto: To Tracy's point about how crazy it gets… whenever they started with the certain-sized bags we have to use… on my first flight after this, apparently my bag was too big. They pulled me aside to tell me my bag was too big. Not my bag-bag, my Ziploc bag. I asked what they were going to do and the person said "Well, I just want to point it out for future reference." I kid you not! We spent 10 minutes going over the fact that my bag was too big. It's asinine. In our post-9/11 world, this isn't about the size of the bag or whether you have a cap on the toothpaste.
Tracy Byrnes: It's all about transparency. And to Adam's point, we should work with these guys, but putting my bag under the airplane isn't going to make anyone safer. It still needs to be checked!
Mike Norman: You know why you're saying that?
Neil Cavuto: Don't take anything!
Mike Norman: You don't feel like waiting the extra 15 minutes at the carousel. Right? That's the reason.
Tracy Byrnes: The beauty of air travel in this global world…
Mike Norman: It'll slow you down on your way to Target.
More For Your Money: Be$t Gift$ for You!
Neil Cavuto: It's a "Cost of Freedom" exclusive! The very best gifts you can give yourself as you shop for everyone else this weekend. Time to get "More for Your Money."
Charles Payne: Amazon (AMZN)
*Charles owns shares of this stock
Adam Lashinsky: Sun Microsystems (JAVAD )
Mike Norman: Wachovia (WB)
*Mike owns shares of this stock
Jill Schlesinger: BLDRS Emerging Markets 50 ADR Index (ADRE)
*Jill owns shares of this stock
FOX on the Spot
Charles Payne: Dow Drops to 12,600; Buy Deere (DE ) When It Does!
Mike Norman: Bet on America and Dollar! Buy XLF
Tracy Byrnes: Happy Online $ales! Cyber $hoppping Jumps 25 percent
Adam Lashinsky: Housing Gets "Healthier" As We Say Goodbye to McMansions
Jill Schlesinger: Fed Fake Out! Cuts Rates in Dec
Neil Cavuto: Best Present for You? The FOX Business Network!
In Focus: Are Environmentalists to Blame for Near Record High Gas Prices?
Neil Weinberg, senior editor: The most remote part of our nation has this huge amount of oil, the Artic National Wildlife Refuge. We have at least ten billion barrels there but we can't touch it, why? Because the environmentalists say it's going to muck up the country. So where would they like us to dig? All the lefties like to talk about how we're still driving around in these big SUVs. Well I don't see Al Gore about to stop driving around in a large Suburban and we don't see him getting off his private airplane either. The point is, we have 20 billion barrels of oil offshore, we have 10 billion in Alaska. This may not be a large amount in terms of world supply but this game is in the margins and prices are determined on the margins.
Quentin Hardy, Silicon Valley bureau chief: Yes there is a bunch of oil up in ANWR, but it is about 1 to 3 percent of the world's supply, so it really isn't that significant. Here's an idea: You can go down there, drill and provoke our addiction to oil or we can stop the SUV oil exemption, actually work on better gas mileage, lower demand and lower prices.
Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief: ANWR will solve oil problems. One to three percent would be good in this current oil market. Also, 85 percent of the outer continental shelf is off limits. And yes, environmentalists are to blame but so is the Federal Reserve. They had a monetary oil spill, which is still ruining the housing market. The price of oil today is inflated by $30 a barrel.
Poppy Harlow, Forbes.com anchor: Environmentalists aren't causing this problem any more than the average American is. Every day we fill up our SUVs/ That's a problem. America needs to catch up with the rest of the world. We need to buy smaller cars, we need to give automakers incentives to stop making these gas guzzling SUVs and we need to catch up with Europe.
John Rutledge, Forbes contributor: This tiny supply of oil which Quentin is talking about, 10 billion barrels, is a lot of oil! They didn't cause the high prices for oil, that's mainly due to global growth of 5 percent, the highest number in history. But environmentalists are going to have to be part of the solution, along with everyone else. Drill ANWR, drill Florida, drill nuclear power plants, but we also need more communication technology. The best way to conserve oil long-term is to use people power through education and technology instead of dinosaur power for long-term effects. It's really about producing more and consuming less.
Victoria Barret, associate editor: Perhaps it's because I'm a lot younger than most of the people here but I like to look at things long-term. This is a short-term fix which will not solve our addiction to oil. We are still buying huge SUVs, our cars are less fuel efficient than the ones in Europe. These are the fixes we need to make. The solution isn't drilling more and continuing our addiction which we're really relying on crazy dictators for.
Flipside: Toxic Toy Fix: Consumers Not Government!
Bill Baldwin, editor: How does the government protect us from life's hazards? Well the Consumer Product Safety Commission, that's the Federal agency, recalls weather radios because they failed to accurately predict weather conditions. I don't think the government has any say in this matter. I have an idiot proof lawn mower. Why is it idiot proof? Because the lawn mower company is scared of being sued by idiots! So this is a case where I think lawyers actually did some good, not the government!
Victoria Barret: The reality is toy companies are not doing enough and the problem is one of complexity. They're sourcing their production from thousands of agencies in China and they're not really sure where this stuff is coming from. And I think the government needs to step in and hold these companies accountable for their actions. It's going to become more of a problem as we become more of a global nation and get more of our products abroad. This is a huge problem which not only affects toys but pet food, pesticides, and the food we buy at the grocery story.
Evelyn Rusli, Forbes.com markets reporter: The government does not buy toys, the consumer does. Haphazard litigation is really only going to be a small bandage. It's really not going to change the ways companies do business. So we really need to turn to the consumer. If the consumer says I want company A instead of company B because they have safer toys, then the companies will listen. It's not really the government's place to push these companies to make safer toys. The companies can control themselves. If they're not selling products then they're obviously going to go out of business.
Steve Forbes: The consumer has a lot of power here but there is nothing wrong with suing a company to get their attention. Yes, there are a lot of people which make this happen, but the manufacturer has to be held responsible. The best way to do this is to hold the manufacturer responsible. Set up a system where people go into a business and inspect the factories and make sure they have quality conditions.
Mike Ozanian, national editor: The lawyers are way too expensive. The government can't do it and they haven't for years even though their budget has gone up. This is very simple. Give it to someone who has a profit incentive to do it. Give it to someone like Consumer Reports Magazine which publishes a list every year of dangerous toys you can buy for cheap. Do you know that over 700,000 kids go to the hospital every year from this problem? Go to a third party, independent source like Consumer Reports and you won't have these huge government budgets, which are out of control!
Quentin Hardy: Well frankly, no toy company is going to say to consumers, "Hey, you shouldn't but all these toys on the shelf because they contain lead." They might have occasional recalls but that really won't solve this problem. These recalls need to be publicized right away and it is the job of government inspectors to be impartial. I have a solution; start rewarding whistleblowers for spotting these problems early on the supply chain but I don't see Mattel doing that.
Should Bosses Fire Employees for Not Speaking English Only?
Victoria Barret: Communication is a very important part of conducting business. In many cases you are required to communicate in English especially if you are dealing with customers. You need people to speak English. If people are speaking gibberish in the stock room, it doesn't matter. But employers should be able to enforce the policy of speaking English if their employees are required to associate with customers.
Quentin Hardy: This law is a 30-year-old anti-discrimination law that included equal rights for minorities, different races, and the subset of it applied to immigration. You can get a waiver under it if you establish a legitimate business or a safety reason to speak English and the Salvation Army didn't do that. I like the Salvation Army. I used to give them money before they did that whole anti-gay movement. Nonetheless, this is just a cheap anti-immigration ploy. Immigration is good for the workforce and it's good for America.
Steve Forbes: I'm a fan of immigration. I think we should have more illegal immigration then we do today, it's a huge source for our country. But in terms of working with customers and coworkers, you should be able to communicate in English if it's a requirement. What's wrong with that? It's the official language of this country.
John Rutledge: If I had to fire everyone who doesn't speak English, then I would have to get rid of my five kids because I still can't understand them when they speak. I think special laws which carve out offenses are always a bad idea. What we need to do is allow people to make specifications for certain jobs, including which language they need to speak with their customers. But if they don't speak English then don't hire them! Don't fire them for speaking a foreign language on the job. Maybe we should fire the boss for refusing to learn a foreign language!
Neil Weinberg: The boss has every prerogative. If he doesn't want to learn a foreign language, then doesn't have to. The fact is, one of the great strengths of our economy is that we have a very liquid workforce. You can leave whenever you want and your boss can fire you whenever they want, and that's the way we need it. So if you start tinkering with this, and say you can fire for this but can't fire for that, America is going to turn into Old Europe or Japan and that's the last place we want to go.
Informer: The Best Christmas Present You Can Buy Yourself
Josh Lipton, Forbes.com staff writer: D.R. Horton (DHI)
Mike Ozanian: Kraft Foods (KFT)
Poppy Harlow: Goldman Sachs (GS)
Bill Baldwin: Hershey (HSY)
Our Cashin' In crew this week: Wayne Rogers, Wayne Rogers & Co; Jonathan Hoenig, CapitalistPig Asset Management; Jonas Max Ferris, MaxFunds.com; Gary Kaltbuam, Kaltbaum & Associates; and Jehmu Greene, Democratic Strategist and former president of Rock the Vote!
Hillary Clinton Says the Middle Cla$$ Is Struggling: Fact or Fiction?
Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is accusing President Bush of ruining America's middle class, but do the facts tell another story?
In a poll from Investor's Business Daily & TIPP, 3 out of 4 Americans see themselves as a "have", rather than a "have not". In addition, 60 percent of those with incomes of $30,000 a year or less count themselves as a "have".
Gary K: The Democrats are wrong. They have played the victim card for decades. They believe that if you aren't doing well, it's the free market's fault. If you are doing well, it is because you are corrupt or don't deserve it and they want your money. It's ridiculous. I hate the fact that more and more people are starting to believe this noise. This trend needs to change.
Jonathan: The "have nots" in this country are really "haves". The poor people in this country are amongst the wealthiest on earth. Even the "have nots" in this country have what most people in the world don't have: a government that protects their rights. They have the right to rise as high as their ability and values will take them. Even the richest people under Hugo Chavez really have nothing, because they don't have the protection of individual rights. The poor in this country do have something most of the world lacks.
Jehmu: It's not a surprise this close to Thanksgiving when people are thinking about turkeys and pies that they are considering themselves as "haves". The facts speak for themselves. The typical household has $1,000 less in income than they had in 2000. College prices have risen 40 percent. Health care premiums have nearly doubled. Gas prices have doubled. Those are the facts and that is not good for the middle class. This is why Senator Clinton is talking about returning prosperity to the middle class.
Wayne: I don't see that. We all think of ourselves as middle class. You don't go out on the street and ask someone, "Are you a low class person?" and they respond, "Oh yeah." It doesn't happen like that. I don't know how strong and accurate these polls are either. I disagree that people think they are worth less than what they were before. Yes, we have had inflation and gas prices go up. So have wages. We have more now than we had 20 years ago. The fact is that it may be divided differently each time because there are more people joining the middle class and upper class.
Jonathan: Even people at the poverty level in this country have big screen TV's. That's the whole point. The "have nots" in this country still has everything the rest of the world still lacks.
Jonas: The numbers aren't that good. People look at how they are doing themselves. They don't care how they are doing in relation to other countries. To Gary's point, it is a stale message, but it will ring true for some and probably more so if the economy softens.
Gary K: You know what the "have nots" have that is most important: opportunity and hope.
Jehmu: It's great that Americans believe they are doing so well, but what they deserve is a president that will deliver of affordable and quality health care, and make college affordable and more accessible. I hope the new president coming in will address the fact of income disparity in this country.
Wayne: The wealth gap has been growing for decades. The whole spectrum is rising. It is fair to compare us to other nations in the world. We are a very rich country. We have entitlements, yes. But we don't deserve anything. We earn it.
Jehmu: We deserve the right and ability to pursue the American dream. That has been taken away from a lot of people in the middle class.
Gary K: Who's taking away the American dream? Every person has the right to get a good education and study hard. Each person can become anyone they want.
Jehmu: They can't afford that education right now.
Jonas: Latin America has the worst income equality in the world. It has all those government and social programs that are supposed to help people. They haven't been proven to be good examples of ways to improve this problem.
Jonathan: John Edwards is not the frontrunner right now. He is in third place and not going to win. What makes America so prosperous? It's not like the water is so different here than in Beirut or North Korea or Mexico. This is a country that has always protected individual rights. That is what has made us so successful over time. Unfortunately, what a lot of the democrats are proposing is what Gary K. is talking about. It's not the right to pursue an education, but a right to an education.
Are New Ads Attacking Wal-Mart Really Attacking Capitalism?
New ads out this week attacking Wal-Mart and accusing the retail king of being more worried about selling Americans cheap goods made in China than selling safe goods. Wal-Mart says it's untrue. Are they really attacking capitalism?
Jonathan: The ads are attacking capitalism. WakeUpWalMart.com hates Wal-Mart. We get it. They will use anything in the news to demonize the company. Wal-Mart is Wal-Mart because of capitalism, because of hundreds of millions of successful transactions between customers to their employees. That's what makes Wal-Mart so great. WakeUpWalMart's message is loud, but it's falling on deaf ears.
Wayne: I'm a fan of Wal-Mart's economic model, but I'm not a fan of how it hurts small town America. Are you going to say that you are going to restrict freedom of speech? This group can go out and say what it wants. I do not think it is attacking capitalism. Maybe the free market, though.
Jonathan: Do you think Wal-Mart is selling tainted food?
Wayne: I think they are out to poison you particularly, Jonathan!
Wayne: WakeUpWalMart has the right to attack Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart can defend itself. It is wrong if someone is selling tainted food, but there's a legal way to deal with that.
Jehmu: No one thinks capitalism in America is the unfettered right to make as much money without any corporate responsibility. It's in the best interest of all Americans and in the tradition of corporate responsibility for Wal-Mart as the nation's biggest employer and company to take responsibility for some of the things they are being accused of. The group is called "Wake Up Wal-Mart," not "Get Out Wal-Mart." They are asking Wal-Mart to change its ways and be a more responsible company. That's in the best interest of all Americans.
Gary K: Wal-Mart is a great corporate citizen. We talk facts all the time. It is the greatest job-creating machine in the history of business. It has single-handedly lowered the rate of inflation and lowered the cost for the consumer. Just recently, it has listened (to the critics) and created a better health care plan for employees. I love that this group is coming out with these ads because it shows what kind of idiots these people are for attacking a great company.
Jonas: The ads are a little bit of an attack on capitalism. Capitalism has benefits, but some side effects too. It is a drive to get the cheapest possible supplier. That's why companies go to the lowest quality place to make stuff. There are down sides to that. It's the consumers' fault just as much as the companies because they demand the low prices.
Jonathan: All these issues that WakeUpWalMart is protesting happen at union shops all the time. This is just the xenophobic nationalism that WakeUpWalMart is tapping into to rally against anything that isn't stamped "Made in America."
Record Wall $treet Bonuses: A Great Sign for America?
Wall Street plans to pay out a record $38 billion in bonuses this year, despite big losses on Wall Street. Is this proof America is doing great?
Jonathan: We are doing great! What were the bonuses in Zimbabwe this year? Zero. The market hasn't done as well as one would have hoped, but Wall Street has made a lot of money. The talented employees at these Wall Street firms are the brains behind that profit and they are entitled to these bonuses. They've earned it.
Jonas: Are you really going to compare this to bonuses in Africa as an excuse of why this is ok? There's nothing wrong with making big bonuses when you're making lots of money, but this is a year when all of the stocks are down. If bonuses were tied to stock performance, there wouldn't be any bonuses this year. Being down is not the time for companies running off billions of billions of dollars to send out record bonuses to executives. That makes sense. There should be some downside as well as good side.
Jonathan: Anyone who has stock-based compensation has seen it fall. These companies made a lot of money. If your stock picks haven't worked for the latter half of the year, you don't refund the subscription price of your website. The money is paid. These CEOs and execs don't grow on trees. Anyone can serve a cup of coffee, but not everyone can work at a major investment bank.
Best Bets: Best Pre$ent to Give Yourself This Holiday!
Jonas: ValueClick (VCLK ) (Friday's Close: $21.35)
Gary K: Nokia (NOK ) (Friday's Close: $38.66)
Wayne: iShares Lehman 1-3 Year Treasury Bond (SHY ) (Friday's Close: $82.40)
Jonathan: CurrencyShares Euro Trust (FXE ) (Friday's Close: $148.57)