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This week’s Bulls & Bears: Tobin Smith; Pat Dorsey; Eric Bolling; Joe Battipaglia, and Marc Lamont Hill.
Trading Pit: Will Fears of a "New Cold War" Blow up Oil and Gas Prices?
Eric Bolling: Oil will go up if there’s a Cold War. Oil is like an international currency; it’s power. The Russians produce 9 million barrels a day, about 10-11 percent of world production. If they actually flexed their muscles, oil would spike and the price of gasoline go back over $4, maybe even $5 a gallon. It’s curious that the EU has stayed very quiet during this whole mess; a lot of oil goes from Russia into Eastern and Western Europe. If this controversy blows up, prices would skyrocket.
Joe Battipaglia: Supply and demand is going to trump the flux in energy prices on the short term basis. The Russians want a seat at the international table. They want a G8, not a G7. They want to be in the WTO. They’re not going to get there by knocking off Georgia or the Ukraine. Generally, the energy markets and international trade is not where they’re going to push the envelope.
Pat Dorsey: Short-term, the slow down we’re seeing in the global economy is clearly on the market’s mind, that’s why oil prices came down. Long-term, however, it’s a big deal if Russia does decide to flex its muscle, because oil is not growing in terms of production in most parts of the world. A lot of incremental supply was hopefully going to be coming from Russia in the next few years, and now that may not happen either by choice or by telling Western capital they don’t want help. By doing this they’re going to miss out on a lot of the technical expertise they need to explore a lot of their oil fields that are very difficult to get at. It’s going to be an expensive and cold winter in Western Europe if Russia decides to cut that pipe.
Tobin Smith: It’s not in Russia’s best interest for oil prices to go up because it kills demand. Their power is oil prices, their power is natural gas. Their production is down because they’re ticking off their partners, because nobody wants to do business with them, and because they don’t have the technology to drill in hard-to-reach places. High oil prices would kill them!
Will Obama-nomics Put the Middle-Class First or Last?
Joe Battipaglia: Essentially what Obama is doing is promising something that somebody else is going to pay for. He’s going to raise taxes on capital and capital formation. How is that pro middle-class, how is that pro-economy?
Marc Lamont Hill: The idea here is that people who make more than $250,000 will be the ones that pay the primary cost so that the average middle class person will have some relief. To be sure, someone is carrying the load here. Particularly in the last ten years, however, the middle class has been carrying the load, and now it’s time to divide it up in a way that is more just and fair.
Tobin Smith: It’s hard for the middle class to be carrying the load when the top 10 percent of the United States pays 75 percent of the taxes. The recipe for growth is to lessen the tax and increase the availability of capital to allow the entrepreneurs and the risk-takers to develop new jobs which helps the middle class. When you’re in a recession as the country is in now, the very last thing you want to do is, at the marginal rate, take more cash away from the people that are already paying the majority of taxes. That is a recipe for disaster, and that’s what Obama-nomics is.
Eric Bolling: John McCain wants to lower corporate taxes. He wants to make sure free trade stays and he wants to implement a lot of tax incentives. That creates jobs, it doesn’t send jobs overseas. When jobs are sent overseas to friendlier shores, the middle class loses out because they lose jobs.
Stock X-Change: 'Thunder' Stocks
Tobin Smith: Ciena (CIEN ); Friday’s Close: $18.76
Eric Bolling: Lockheed Martin (LMT ); Friday’s Close $116.67
Joe Battipaglia: Kimberly-Clark (KMB ); Friday’s Close: $62.92
Pat Dorsey: XTO Energy (XTO ); Friday’s Close: $45.79
Tobin Smith: Solar is the real election winner! "SPWR " up 50 percent by inauguration day.
Pat Dorsey: Get healthy with "COV "; Up 25 percent in one year.
Joe Battipaglia: China keeps slowing down after the Olympics; buy "FXP ".
On Saturday, August 16th, 2008, Neil Cavuto was joined by Ben Stein, "How to Ruin the United States of America"; Dagen McDowell, FOX Business Network; Adam Lashinsky, Fortune Magazine; Matt McCall, Penn Financial Group; and Jim Fisher, M&T Financial Group
Bottom Line: Should Walmart Be Able to Tell Workers How to Vote?
Neil Cavuto: Unions accusing Walmart of telling workers which candidate is best for business. The retail giant denies even doing it. But, would all workers be better off if it was?
Jim Fisher: Absolutely. Walmart provides thousands of jobs for thousands of Americans. If the unions can do it, then why can't Walmart do it? I don't think they should be able to go in and force employees to vote for certain candidates, but when it comes to business and being able to grow and provide additional jobs, I think they should be able to get the facts on the table.
Neil Cavuto: Ben Stein, I had one of the union representatives on earlier this week, and he was saying the issue isn't whether they were suggesting… but rather demanding or coercing.
Ben Stein: It is absolutely clear-cut that Walmart wasn't demanding or coercing anything from anyone. If you read what they said, it is clear that this might be a consequence of electing a Democrat. There is no hope of belief anyway on this planet that Walmart was coercing employees. They are getting a completely bum rap.
Dagen McDowell: I agree with you Ben and I disagree with you Jim. Rules exist for a reason. It is intimidation if a company tells an hourly employee whom to vote for because they are holding their job, salary, and pay over their head. At least that has been the suggestion of this
Neil Cavuto: Is it wrong for a company to say, "Look, you can do what you want to do, but if we had unions where there are no guarantees things are going to be the same way around here, we think it would be best…"
Matt McCall: They are informing their employees. As an employer, they have a right to inform their employees.
Neil Cavuto: But, anybody can interpret that as coercion.
Matt McCall: If a union comes in, you are handed a card and you have to vote right in front of them.
Adam Lashinsky: There is a subtle, but important, distinction in what you said. It is one thing to say, "Here is our opinion on unions." And it is another thing to say, "Here is who you should vote for." It is against their policy. It is a bad practice. It is un-American for companies, for employers, to try to suggest to their employees whom exactly they should vote for.
Matt McCall: Why is it ok for unions? They are pushing and putting pressure on that person to vote for the union. That is completely peer pressure. Here it is information versus pressure.
Neil Cavuto: Ben Stein, here's the bigger pick to me: Not a single politician is taking up this cause. Walmart is attracting a lot of business in a slowing economy. Walmart is providing $4 prescription drugs, 10 percent cheaper than people can get elsewhere. Walmart seems to be a champion of the consumer around here, and that seems to trump this issue. What do you think about that?
Ben Stein: The truth is, and I am an avid Walmart shopper, I shop there every day in Idaho. The truth is Walmart gives 10 percent to 20 percent pay raise for everyone in the neighborhood when it moves there. There is no advantage in beating it up.
Adam Lashinsky: We use Walmart as an example, Ben. Walmart is the biggest and the best. I agree with everything you just said. But, this gives us the opportunity to ask the question: "Should employers tell employees whom to vote for?"
Ben Stein: We agree it is against the law and not a good thing.
Jim Fisher: I didn't say they should tell them. I think they should get the facts on the table and say this is what should happen.
Ben Stein: They should be allowed to do that.
Jim Fisher: That is exactly what the unions are doing.
Neil Cavuto: I think this is a real key distinction here. Rupert Murdoch can come up to me and say, "Neil, I seriously suggest a salad." But, if he were to say, "If you do not have the salad, you might not be around next week." That is another disturbing type of coercion. We get really nutty about this.
Dagen McDowell: We do get nutty, but the rules and regulations are very clear. I am sure that Walmart did follow them.
Neil Cavuto: I said look. Truth be told, you wouldn't even be on my show now if Walmart were unionized today. He said that's not true. I said that would be true.
Dagen McDowell: These issues, all the other issues, cashiers chained to their registers, and everybody miserable… that would disappear. All of it. The health care issues that have been brought up by union-backed groups, this issue. All of it. IF they were unionized, Walmart would be the golden child. But it is not. The point is that what Walmart is saying… that it didn't violate the rules, it didn't for one reason. They know it is bad business when you tell individuals whom to vote for; it alienates people. We see the votes as a right and we cherish it.
Ben Stein: And they would not want the unions taking away that right to vote either.
Jim Fisher: I totally disagree with you. If you get the unions in there, they are no longer the low-cost provider.
Neil Cavuto: This isn't about the survival of the workers, but of the unions. This is not a political football. I couldn't get the Obama folks or the McCain folks to comment on it. This used to be the hot political football early in the election year. No more.
Adam Lashinsky: Right. I am sure that if Hillary Clinton were the nominee, a former Walmart board member, you wouldn't have gotten her campaign to comment on it. I think this goes away, and I don't think we are going to see Walmart get unionized any time soon. I was going to say not in our lifetimes, but not any time soon.
Dagen McDowell: It is worth noting that Walmart, at last check, has given evenly to both campaigns.
Head to Head: Gamers Go Mad Over Madden NFL! Proof Economy Is Back?
Neil Cavuto: Look at those lines. No, they're not bread lines, like a lot of economists say we should be in, they are people waiting for hours this week to get their hands on the new Madden NFL video game. It sells for $60 each! Matt McCall says those lines show our economy is winning again! It's time to go "Head to Head."
Matt McCall: This is proof that we have disposable income and we're still spending. We have Madden, we have Wii, we have people waiting in line for days for sneakers in Philadelphia last week. How about the new iPod? There have been lines for months for that! If this economy was so bad that we had to save for food, for water, and for clothing, we would not have disposable income to throw $200 at an iPod or $60 at a Madden. This proves that statistics aren't always right. The lines tell the true story.
Adam Lashinsky: In the Great Depression people waited in lines to see movies. The entertainment gave people a lift in their lives. This is an example of pulling out one anecdote, one piece of data, that is not confirmed by the overall data.
Ben Stein: There is a $10 trillion number attached to consumer spending in the States. This little Madden game, this line to see Batman, they mean nothing, they signify absolutely zero. The fact is that we're only 1/10 of 1 percent below last months and the previous months spending – all were rising before that. The data does not show a severe drop in consumer spending at all. This is a scare tactic from the naysayers. The data doesn't show that things are that bad.
Dagen McDowell: You can't say that you're going to signal "all clear" on the economy and everything is going to be rosy from here. A lot of people think the economy will get weaker from here. Housing is still weak, the job market looks tough. You have restaurant chains like Bennigans that have been in business for decades and are now going out of business. Credit is contracting; this country lives on credit, and that is a concern. Gas is a dollar more a gallon than it was a year ago. We are resilient, but not everything looks fabulous from here. That said, consumer confidence is the critical part of all of this, and as long as consumers don't get down in the dumps, we'll be alright.
Jim Fisher: Consumer confidence is ridiculous. For over a year now consumers have been hit over the head with the fear of a recession. If you tell people enough times that the world is going to end, people are going to begin to believe it.
More for Your Money: New Stock Leaders
Neil Cavuto: The new leaders in the stock market that will get your "More for Your Money."
Matt McCall: salesforce.com (CRM )
Jim Fisher: Allscripts Healthcare (MDRX )
Adam Lashinsky: Intel (INTC )
Ben Stein: Vanguard 500 Index (VFINX )
FOX on the Spot!
Dagen McDowell: Phelps does for Speedo what Spitz did for mustaches!
Adam Lashinsky: Democracy wins! We'll get more drilling
Jim Fisher: Don't run out of energy! Ensco (ESV ) up 40 percent in 1 year
Ben Stein: Buy "DBC " for a wild, but profitable ride!
Matt McCall: "RTN " will help protect your life and wallet from Russia
Neil Cavuto: Cold war is back and we need cold cash to pay for it!
In Focus: Boycott Russia Right Now?
Neil Weinberg, senior editor: Absolutely. We don't have the moral high ground after invading Iraq halfway around the world – obviously a questionable pretext. The other problem is that we don't really have a lot of economic leverage. But what else are we going to do? We have to hit them where it hurts, we have to keep them out of the international organizations they want to be in like the WTO. We've got to make them feel some pain! The only other alternative we have is to do nothing or to get into a military confrontation
Rich Karlgaard, publisher: No, that would be punishing private enterprise which is innocent of this. This is a failure of diplomacy of government intelligence and so on. The better long term solution is to go all out of U.S. energy sources, drive down the price of oil internationally, that would hurt Russia while helping ourselves.
Kai Falkenberg, editorial counsel: Neil is completely right. We cannot allow this aggression by the Russians to go unchecked. They don't respond to talk and they don't respond to American politicians saying "you're not playing nice in the sandbox."
Quentin Hardy, Silicon Valley bureau chief: Hit them in their wallets, but let's think about what works first. You're talking about an economic boycott of the biggest country in the world. The world's largest oil producer with gas pipelines going into Europe. On the supply side, they offer so much that people need on the world market. And if you're going to cut them off, they'll cut you off. They export beets and those nested dolls, we can stop buying those, big deal. On the import side, they've got twenty cities with populations over a million that buy luxury goods. People will sell into that. So let's think about what works. Let's offer visas and citizenships to their best and their brightest and undermine them that way. Let's go slow on their diplomatic visas. Let's not offer them access to financial products that would help them out. There are other things we could do besides a trade boycott.
Evelyn Rusli, Forbes.com anchor: We shouldn't jump the gun with economic sanctions, especially when we haven't exhausted our diplomatic options. Beyond that, Russia is a huge producer of oil and natural gas, one of the biggest suppliers in the world. So obviously we're going to levy all of economic sanctions. We should be ready that they may bite back and they could tighten the world supply. And you'll see the price of oil go to unprecedented levels.
Mike Ozanian, senior editor: Rich really hit the nail on the head. Russia is basically a lamb in wolf's clothing right now. Their economy, with the exception of oil and gas, is nothing. It's like a third world country. I'd like the humiliate Putin. I'd like to kick him out of the G8, which wouldn't hurt anyone outside of Russia economically, but would show the world that Putin is really nothing.
Flipside: U.S. Companies Pay Too Much Tax!
Mike Ozanian: The GAO report that came out saying 60 percent of U.S. companies didn't pay income tax is nothing but leftist propaganda. American corporations are way overtaxed. That report included a lot of companies that lose money, so therefore that's why they don't pay taxes, and companies that are private partnerships, so the individuals who own the companies pay personal income taxes not corporate taxes. Companies are paying way more than many countries in Europe right now which is why money is fleeing the United States and companies are going to Europe.
Quentin Hardy: They say we pay this high tax rate, then 60 percent of companies don't pay it, so that's not the right figure. We're not paying that high of a tax rate. Number two, this has been a year of record profits for corporations, and they're clearly not paying the taxes. Something's wrong with that picture. The deficit still shows up, the deficit still matters, and while you've got this cockamamie tax system where people can cheat their way into not paying anything at all, you've got a broken system.
Jack Gage, associate editor: You have to look at 85 percent of the companies that were included in the 60 percent who didn't pay taxes. They were posting losses, they weren't making any money, so you can't tax that. The second issue is that look at our peers in the Europe, the developed nations over there, they're paying on average 10 percent less on corporate taxes and they're generating 50 percent more tax revenue for the government as a share of GDP. So it shows you that the Laffer Curve is still relevant. It is still based on how much people are willing to pay and what the incentive is to pay the taxes.
Mike Maiello, associate editor: Our companies are so much bigger and can afford to pay a lot more so you have to take that into account. Every time you look through our economic cycles you see it in the news. Back in 2000 at the height of the dot.com bubble, Microsoft and Sysco paid no taxes that year. You see throughout this decade people moving their headquarters to Bermuda to avoid U.S. taxes. Why are they going through all the trouble?
Rich Karlgaard: There's a terrible hypocrisy on the left. The left is obsessed with the fact that we're not creating enough high-paying jobs at home, and here what we're doing. We're chasing our multi-national companies, who are reporting good profits, to invest overseas. That's what happens when you're number two in the world behind Japan. And by the way, is Japan any kind of a model to follow?
Bill Baldwin, editor: Radical thought here, let's abolish the corporate income tax! Put all that income on the 1040s of the owners, just the way partnerships are done. It's very easy, since a corporation doesn't have a face or a soul, to kick corporations. There are a lot of people who would be very reluctant to steal from a sole proprietorship, but who would have no problem stealing from a Walmart. These people are, of course, politicians.
Tabloids: Good or Bad for America?
Josh Lipton, Forbes.com Staff Writer: Tabloid journalism is good for America. It serves a really vital role in the modern press given the bias, the favoritism, the selective reporting of the media elites. The National Enquirer deserves a lot of credit. They broke that story of John Edwards, they showed tenacity in going after a story that no one else would. That tabloid showed heart, guts, and it deserves a big pat on the back.
Neil Weinberg: This is bad for journalism. You can go to McDonalds and get a salad, and healthy food, but eating there three times a day is junk food, and it's garbage. The vast majority of what comes out of the tabloid press is garbage. Just because they break a story every now and then doesn't mean they don't debase the national discussion in this country. Instead of talking about important stuff, like Georgia being invaded by Russia, we're talking about John Edwards' love child. That's what we've come to and that is pathetic.
Bill Baldwin: It's not so much that the tabloids are great, it's that the mainstream media is bad. For example, the New York Times was all over John McCain's "supposed" girlfriend, but couldn't bring themselves to look into John Edwards' case. Why was that? Could it be because McCain's a Republican, he's got to be evil?
Quentin Hardy: There are three points here you need to remember. One, the voters rejected John Edwards long before, he wasn't a player anyway. Two, the Enquirer paid someone to betray this woman, so that John Edwards could be photographed at a hotel. Three, we've been treated to Clinton and Monica, Gingrich leaving his wife while she's in the hospital being treated for cancer. Bob Livingston, Henry Hyde, Gary Hart… were we better off not knowing about JFK's girlfriend and Ike's girlfriends and FDR's girlfriends? Does this really make us better or are we just baying to the moon and never mind what happens to Elizabeth Edwards' humiliation?
Lacey Rose, Forbes.com sr. reporter: Accurate, relevant, newsworthy stories are good for American whether they come from the New York Times or the National Enquirer. It's really easy to chalk this up to the lack of coverage in the mainstream media's liberal bias. This is more an illustration of the mainstream media's laziness and arrogance. By not following the tabloids lead here they missed what ended up being a really newsworthy story.
Informer: Stocks That Go Up When Gas Prices Come Down
Jack Gage: Continental Airlines (CAL)
Josh Lipton: Thor Industries (THO)
Bill Baldwin: Bob Evans Farms (BOBE)
Evelyn Rusli: Under Armour (UA)
Obama's Tax Plan for Couples: Better to $hack Up Than Marry?
Jonathan Hoenig, CapitalistPig Asset Management: I have always known that Barack Obama is out to get rich people… but married people? I don't get it. Should married couples face a bigger tax burden? Obama talks about tax fairness. Who this ultimately hurts is that young working couple trying to get started. What is fair about that?
Chris Kofinis, Democratic strategist: When I reached out to the Obama campaign to explain this, they made it very clear in response to the editorial, they made it clear that not one new married couple is going to be taxed. It is story is a gross distortion of Senator Obama's
tax plan. That marriage penalty they talk about is already in the tax code. It is not something new from the Obama campaign or a new proposal.
Tracy Byrnes, FOX Business Network: It is gone, Chris. They got rid of it in 2003. It is not there nearly as bad as it was. This is going to make it bigger again and bring back 2003.
Jonas Max Ferris, MaxFunds.com: Jonathan made it out like it is not a big thing. It is over $250,000 a couple. So you are talking about fairly high network couples. But it is a return to the marriage penalty we have had since basically the 1960's when they redid the tax code. That's ok in my opinion. There was a reason they went to that policy in the 1960's. Couples get to share costs, live in one cost, they should have to pay a higher rate than singles. The bush tax cut had a lower deductible.
John Bradshaw Layfield, Layfield Energy: When I was single, it really cost a lot… but that's a different story. 21st century socialism is what it is. Obama wants to bail out bad home owners from good homers. He wants to take the money and give it to individual citizens. This is nothing but socialism. I cannot argue with that. It is impossible.
Wayne Rogers: I'm kind of lost about what Jonas said in the sense that he is talking about the people who were married before we had this, and they could live in different places. If a man and a woman just live together, that is $200,000 each. That is $400,000 before they're hit with this tax. It is simple math. Why should I get married and get hit at the $250,000 line? As opposed to final as two single people and get hit at $400,000.
Americans Shrugging Off Climate Change: Good News for Economy?
John Bradshaw Layfield: Look at what the government got involved in before and how bad it is. Our government is reactive, not proactive. They have been on vacation for a month. They have two more weeks. They need three things. Production tax credit renewed, a D.C. Power line, create many nobs and we would be off fossil fuels in 20 years. That is not a real plan at all. We have done nothing for renewable energy. Jonathan is right. You talk about the greens…You build a DC Power line, you can take wind power from West Texas to New York City. Nobody is doing that, and that is killing renewable energy infrastructure. It was down 93 percent last time that was not renewed. Nobody is doing that.
Chris Kofinis: You simply follow public opinion polls. That is not the way you want to address something as complex as the environment and dealing with greenhouse gases. For the most part, republicans and democrats realize we have a serious crisis on our hands with respect to global warming and it requires serious policies and decisions. Obama's campaign talks about it. The notion that you should shift away from that focus because a public opinion poll says that, that is not a smart way to do policy.
Jonathan Hoenig: The fact is we have to use the world and the environment to survive and prosper and it is green movement has been against that from the start.
Tracy Byrnes: Congressmen, don't even go to the bathroom before checking the polls. All for voter constituency, all to please their people. Today, if no one cares about greenies, nor do they. They can't think outside the box…they follow the box. We have seen this. That is exactly what they are doing.
Wayne Rogers: There are two points here. Number one, the fact that there's a 5 percent switch one way or the other is not meaningful. No one cares whether that is true or not. The facts of the matter is Jonathan is making a point that I think is slightly skewed in the following sense. If we are dependent on foreign oil, that is a disadvantage to us as a nation. Therefore, we should develop all of the alternatives that we can to use hydrocarbons as a fuel source. I'm saying that we are doing this in the private sector. It is being done -- the number of people who are involved with wind, government thermal and others is being produced by the capitalist economy because it is economy based.
Homes Selling for $1; Good Deal or Bad Bet?
Bethany Souza, Host of "Designed to Sell": Like any investment, it is a good deal if the numbers make sense. Run the numbers, see what happens. In this situation absolutely it can be a great deal for a savvy investor who knows what they are doing.
Wayne Rogers: I think she is right. You run the numbers. This is ideal not for somebody who is going to live in the house, but for contractor who would fix it up. Generally in these homes, they have been looted. They have taken out all the doors and utilities before they give it back to the bank. A guy who fixes up homes, this is ideal for them. This may work for him. Otherwise, stay away.
Tracy Byrnes: This house was completely gutted. You are inviting speculators, who originally caused this market mess, back into the market.
Jonas Max Ferris: I used to live in Detroit. I drove by a house that you don't want for a dollar. You have a population leaving you. You have too many houses on the market. There are taxes you owe, renovations, kicking people out. It is tough.
John Bradshaw Layfield: It is like buying an elephant in a bottle for a buck. If you have something to do with it, then you can make it work. This is not a hold. It is a flip. It is a cash deal. But this is an investment opportunity where you can hold it long term. It can be a great return on your investment. There are plenty people experienced in lower income areas. It is a great thing for the market. One it is getting inventory off the market and going to people who care about it. It is not going to sit there and become a drug house.
Best Bets: '$in Is In' Stocks
WAYNE ROGERS: Phillip Morris (PM)
JONATHAN HOENIG: Church & Dwight Co. Inc. (CHD)
JONAS MAX FERRIS: Constellation Brands (STZ)
JBL: YUM! Brands (YUM)