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This past week's Bulls & Bears: Gary B. Smith, Exemplar Capital; Tobin Smith, ChangeWave Research; Eric Bolling, FOX Business News; Pat Dorsey, Morningstar.comm and Larry Winget, author of "People are Idiots and I Can Prove It."
Let AIG Fail to Teach All Bailout Companies a Lesson?
Eric Bolling, FOX Business Network: Let them all fail. They're riding on bonuses and bailout money. AIG spent $100 billion to meet obligations they owed on garbage assets and $45 billion of it went overseas to foreign banks. This has to stop. Eight months ago I said don't do this. Now, I think the right thing to do is let them fail.
Tobin Smith, Changewave Research: It's too late to let companies like AIG fail. If we just got rid of these naked short financial contracts and any contract that covered capital in European banks, then the situation with AIG would be under better control.
Gary B. Smith, Exemplar Capital: We've given out over $170 billion to AIG so far, and it'll probably end up being $300 billion. We should cut our losses now and save the money. I'd like to see on paper how much the whole bailout of AIG is going to cost us. What I haven't seen is anyone come out with a plan that shows if we let AIG go bankrupt, how do we move on. Instead, we're locked into the too big to fail mentality. With AIG, the government has shown just how incapable it is at running a business.
Larry Winget, author of "People are Idiots and I Can Prove It": This whole mess is our fault. If we're in for a penny, we're in for a pound. We should have never gotten into this position by giving AIG money in the first place. It's our fault now. If you don't hold a snake by the head, it's going to bite you.
Pat Dorsey, Morningstar.com: The problem didn't start when AIG got its first bailout last fall. It started when we allowed the company to get as big as it did. It let the AIG Financial Products unit become an unregulated hedge fund. I do think it's too late right now. I wish it were as simple as just letting them fail. But letting AIG fail now would do tremendous damage to the financial system. I wish this weren't the case, but it is.
AIG "Bonus-Gate": Should Treasury Secretary Geithner Resign?
Eric Bolling: Geithner has generated 0.0 percent confidence. Every time he gets on the stage, he says absolutely nothing that reassures people. We're still waiting on a specific plan to save the financial system. He has given us nothing. Get rid of him.
Larry Winget: I've never been big on cutting people slack, but a position as important as treasury secretary can't look like a revolving door. If we throw this much money at a problem, we're going to see abuse. You can't just throw someone out because they've made a mistake. Look at Colin Powell's WMD presentation to the U.N. Leave Geithner in long enough to make this whole thing work.
Gary B. Smith: Geithner hasn't just made a mistake, he's made many mistakes. If you came up to your boss and told them you just let $165 million go through your hands, you'd be out on your rear end. Obama should have done a better job of vetting these guys. He's put a bunch of losers into these jobs. Put someone in that can get things right. You can't keep making mistakes when you have your hands on the purse strings of the country.
Tobin Smith: I would not fire Geithner. Part of the problem is there are not enough physical human beings at Treasury to deal with all the issues it's facing. It takes awhile to find, vet, and get these key undersecretary positions filled by good people. It makes it a tremendously difficult situation for Geithner. You can't just cut the head off at treasury this quickly. There has to be focus on getting these key undersecretary positions filled.
Pat Dorsey: Firing Geithner would be a huge blow to confidence. It would take months to get someone else in place. We can't afford to be rudderless right now. There's no one at treasury to answer the phones. This situation is not tenable. These undersecretary positions must be filled.
President Says Don't Pay Off Debt With Stimulus; Good or Bad Message?
Larry Winget: Paying down debt is exactly what we should be doing. It's the smart thing to do. We're too caught up with what is left and right, instead of right and wrong.
Tobin Smith: This stimulus money doesn't belong to the states. It's coming from the federal government. If states are going to take the money, it should go towards spending on various projects and programs. South Carolina would be paying down its debt courtesy of the tax payers in California, Texas, New York, etc. It doesn't make sense.
Gary B. Smith: States should be allowed to use the stimulus money in the way they see fit. Governor Sanford believes the best way to use his state's share of the stimulus money is to pay down state debt. It should be case closed.
Eric Bolling: When stimulus money goes to individuals, they pay down their debts, as we've seen. But when money goes to state governments, they should be spending that money in an effort to stimulate the economy. That's what it's meant for.
Pat Dorsey: This is the paradox of thrift. Long-term, you want people to save and pay down their debts. Short-term though, people paying down debt reduces the amount of spending, causing the economy to contract. Right or wrong, this is the point of the stimulus.
Tobin Smith: Signs of life in housing! "KBH " builds up 50 percent in 1 year
Pat Dorsey: Philip Morris is still hot! "PM " jumps 30 percent in 1 year
Gary B. Smith: Big Blue/Sun combo blooms! "IBM " up 40 percent by next spring
Eric Bolling: Gas up your portfolio! "UNG " leaps 50 percent by 2010
Cavuto on Business
This past week, Neil was joined by: Charles Payne, WStreet.com; Dagan McDowell, FOX Business News; Adam Lashinsky, editor-at-large, Fortune Magazine; Gary Kaltbaum, GaryK.com.
Congress Slaps 90 Percent Tax on AIG Bonuses; Are Tax Hikes Coming for Everyone?
Gary Kaltbaum, GaryK.com: Did anyone notice how easy it was for Congress to come out and say we're taxing these people 90 percent? Recently, we heard about taxing health care benefits which will go at lower and middle income earners. We heard about taxing stock trades even though China is lowering their taxes on stock trades. This government spends first, and the way they're going to get that money is through us.
Charles Payne, WStreet.com: Congress is trying to figure out which way the winds are blowing. To the greater point, this tax really concerns me. At the centerpiece of Obama's agenda is the redistribution of money, but it's retribution they're looking for now. This is just the tip of the iceberg. AIG obviously made themselves an easy target. Ultimately, I think we'll start to see efforts to instill salary caps across the board no matter what industry.
Dagan McDowell: This tax could apply to anybody who gets a bonus at any of these larger financial institutions at the beginning of this year. If you're an employee at one of these companies, did a great job and had nothing to do with getting the company in financial trouble, you get punished. This is a hideous, heavy-handed, arbitrary move by Congress. It's like something out of Soviet Russia.
Adam Lashinsky, Fortune Magazine: This House bill applies to all institutions that took more than $5 billion of TARP money and received bonuses of over $250,000. This sort of populism is stupid and reactionary. Congressional members are covering their rear-ends with this bill. But I don't think this means we'll start seeing wide swaths of taxpayers being hit with a 90 percent tax rate. Nobody responsible is talking that way.
White House Wants to Pay Stimulus Workers Union Wages; Bad for Job Market?
Charles Payne: You're going to create a mentality in people that they should be earning more than the job is actually worth. By paying people $40 an hour to hold a traffic sign at a construction site, you're mitigating the amount of jobs that can be created. By paying union wages for non-union projects, we're going to skew the system.
Gary Kaltbaum: This is more and more about government dictating policy. If you start telling companies how much they are going to pay employees, you get less business and less jobs because corporations aren't going to employ as many people or produce as much of its product.
Dagan McDowell: What the government is going to say is that it's the government's money. It's taxpayers' money, and the government will therefore specify the terms by which a business receives that money. I'd argue that it would be better if you didn't pay over-inflated wages and instead focused on hiring more people. With a higher wage, a worker might just save the money. That's what we don't want to happen.
Adam Lashinsky: There's going to be a negotiation between the contractor and the labor union. I don't agree with the assumption that union workers are lazy, inefficient and overpaid. Maybe some are, but certainly not all of them. You could say the same thing of nonunion workers. We've known for awhile that the administration was going to do this.
Do U.S. Leaders Need to Grow a Backbone to Rebuild Confidence?
Charles Payne: There's no doubt the country has been wallowing in self-pity. And it's coming from the top. We have to pull ourselves up from our bootstraps. We're starting to rip ourselves apart, and the rest of the world is licking its chops.
Dagan McDowell: We're co-dependent with countries like China. We depend on foreign nations buying our debt to help fund economic growth.
Gary Kaltbaum: We've got to follow the money. We are so indebted to other countries, we keep mum when they criticize us. I think there's a plan by our leaders to keep us down so they can build government up. Everything I've heard in the last 60 days is how big government is going to help people out.
Adam Lashinsky: It almost doesn't matter if we stand up for ourselves. We need to fix our problems. We caused this world financial crisis and it's our responsibility to fix it.
Gary Kaltbaum: Panera Bread (PNRA )
Charles Payne: National Oilwell Varco (NOV )
Adam Lashinsky: Celanese (CE )
Forbes on FOX
On Saturday, March 21, 2009, David Asman was joined by Rich Karlgaard, Neil Weinberg, Mike Ozanian, Quentin Hardy, Jack Gage, Evelyn Rusli, Mike Maiello, Josh Lipton, John Rutledge, and Elizabeth MacDonald.
David Asman: Talk about a firestorm. Those AIG bonuses sparking protests across America. But, someone at Forbes says we've got it all wrong; the bonuses are GREAT for America! Before you tune out – hear him out.
Jack Gage: This is a repudiation of Congress if AIG executives are allowed to keep their bonuses in the end, as well as other institutions that is to have taken financial aid taxpayer money. I think, look, the big problem here is that it's the first domino to fall in a long sequence that could set up a chain reaction. We have already heard Obama and Treasury man Geithner start to talk about a resolution authority or agency that would effectively have the sole purpose of going after bonuses that were negotiated.
David Asman: OK -- so why are taxpayer bonuses great for America?
Jack Gage: Because they are a repudiation of that slippery slope. Being able to keep and compensate the most important employees at the financial institutions is vital to turning this ship around.
Elizabeth MacDonald: The bonuses are bad for America. They are basically rewarding failure. This company already got $170 billion. The bonuses are going toward a unit that $40 billion in losses. By the way, a lot of people on Wall Street would take these jobs. There are a lot of laid off workers who could easily take those jobs for half the pay. Instead of retention pay -- how 'bout detention pay? And why not pay them in the rotten debt they took up or in AIG stock?
David Asman: That's not a bad idea.
Evelyn Rusli: I have to agree with Jack on this. We have to focus on the end-game here. And that is that the taxpayer should get their money back. The best way to do that is to make sure these banks are competitive. And the lifeline of these banks is their assets in terms of the people who work for them – their top performers. If we allow them to cap their bonuses and reduce the upside potential, these top performers are going to go to other banks. The CEO of Deutsche Bank was saying this was great for them. Capping bonuses means essentially talent is going to go to Deutsche Bank… and strengthen the foreign banks while hurting Wall Street. New York as a financial center will be no more if this continues.
David Asman: Josh, incentives are part of what America's all about. These bonuses are just incentives?
Josh Lipton: I don't have a problem with big, fat bonuses as long as you're tying them to results. I think the best approach may be that the companies pay their employees bonuses in restricted stock. That way, there's an incentive for the employee to ensure that business keeps growing, succeeding, and profiting… even after they leave the company. That's the smartest approach.
Mike Ozanian: What am I missing here? The Obama administration knew about these bonuses before it passed the program to lend them money. So, what you have a problem with is when the government gets involved. The private sector sets a bonus. You have a contract. It should be followed through. You don't want the government lying about whether it didn't know about it and going on to canceling its contracts. That's where you run into big problems because it eliminates all trust going forward.
Quentin Hardy: I think theory has finally met fact again and we really should pay attention! Look, Al Dunlap at Sunbeam, Robert Nardelli at Home Depot, Richard Grasso at the NYSE, Blackwater guys getting 10 times more than soldiers next to them… more pay does not mean better performance. It's about dedication and hard work.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: Who would not want to change the policy of kicking in doors in the middle of the night and sending a parent away from their families? I think it's un-American. The raids must end. The raids must end!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
David Asman: Speaker Nancy Pelosi says rounding up illegal workers is un-American. But, what's more un-American? Rewarding law breakers? Or crowding out Americans looking for an honest job?
Rich Karlgaard: Not long ago, I read David McCullough's great biography on John Adams. Adams was the one who realized the US would succeed only if we were a nation of laws and not the whims of men or women. When Speaker Pelosi says, "I think, I think, I think…" Hey Speaker Pelosi! They're illegal! They cannot be here. If we have to root people out of their jobs, that's tough.
David Asman: Does it hurt jobs?
Mike Maiello: I think jobs beget jobs. The more people you have working, the more demand you have in the economy, the more jobs are created overall. Legal or illegal, it really doesn't matter to me. And I don't think it matters economically at all. I think the whole notion of an "illegal worker" is kind of absurd. It's illegal to go out and try to make a living?
David Asman: By the laws of the United States, it's illegal. It's very simple.
Rich Karlgaard: Now we've become a country where everybody says "I think this…" instead of a country where the laws and the Constitution mean anything at all!
David Asman: The thing that worries American workers is illegal workers are crowded them out of jobs. Is that true?
Neil Weinberg: First of all, I have a message for Speaker Pelosi and that is that the most un-American thing is for the Speaker of the House to not be respecting the rule of law. But, I'll tell you this, Mike: It's simple math. There are only so many jobs right now and the number is shrinking. And if we have millions of illegals in this country taking jobs, there are few jobs for us law-abiders, who came into this country legally.
David Asman: Are illegal job seekers crowding out legal job seekers?
Quentin Hardy: She is not saying whether or not we should enforce the law. She is saying do not kick in doors at night. Do not do raids on sites. We've done stuff like that and guess what? It didn't work. And I say God bless Nancy Pelosi. Here's why: In Hungary, they are killing gypsies over the economy. They hate the foreigner. In China, they just prevented Coke from buying a big company. They didn't like the foreigner. Here in America, we recently passed a law saying Mexican trucks that meet U.S. safety standards still can't go on U.S. roads. Guess we hate the foreigner too? This protectionism will destroy the economy.
David Asman: I gotta focus on that main question I gave to you. Will the illegal workers crowd out the legal workers looking for work?
Quentin Hardy: Then set aside anything Pelosi said because she's still saying it's wrong to be illegal. She's just saying enforcement and checking have to happen. But, the economy will take care of that itself. It's not like people want to hire illegals. Americans wouldn't take the jobs when unemployment was high.
Elizabeth MacDonald: I agree with Quentin. The at-home raids are despicable. You don't tear away parents from their children. Pelosi's right on that matter. But, I have to disagree with Mike. When employers hire illegals, they don't pay payroll taxes. A lot of illegals don't get Social Security funds because they aren't in the system. The government should make them taxpayers and put them into the system. They also are not covered by work safety rules. You see a lot of illegal workers in the meat industry losing limbs. Why don't we have an Ellis Island type of office on the border to process these people and make them legal immigrants? We had Ellis Island – why not do it now?
John Rutledge: Quentin, for once I'm 100 percent on your side. There are two issues. One is we're not talking rule of law here, we're talking rule of mob. Let's face it, the reason this is an interesting story is because all across America there are witch hunts and trials in the street. People are trying to go after rich people. This is a fear-driven mob environment. Secondly, there is a practical matter. Companies are trying to survive today. It is not time to go out and rip people's lungs out today. Enforce the law, but don't do it with emotion or malice.
Forbes on FOX Debate
David Asman: Paying your credit card bill on time? Think you're a good customer? Well -- apparently you aren't good enough! Even after taking your taxpayer money, some bailed-out banks are hiking fees on good customers. And Neil Weinberg is fed up.
Neil Weinberg: I'm mad as hell, David. It's a sad commentary on our system that once again we have responsible homeowners and taxpayers and people who pay their bills on time… who going to have to pay for the deadbeats. That's what's happening here. I say jack up the fees for the people who aren't paying their bills!
David Asman: We should incentivize the good people and not the bad people.
Mike Ozanian: My good friend here is missing a good opportunity to do what I did… which is to tell your wife to not use the credit card any more!
Mike Ozanian: If you don't like the fact that your bank is raising its fee, go to a different bank.
David Asman: We have 8,000 banks in this country… maybe what Mike's saying has some merit.
Mike Maiello: Yeah, but the banks have the easiest deal in the books. We give them free capital and all we have to do is lend against it at any sort of interest rate and they can make a profit! Now, the banks are trying to nickel and dime us after getting that great deal? There's no honor in banking!
David Asman: Josh, we paid these guys billions… they owe us a break?
Josh Lipton: A bank or any business should feel free to charge whatever fees they feel are appropriate to their products. Mike [Ozanian] is right. Consumers can navigate the marketplace and vote with their wallets. It increases competition.
David Asman: Rich, you're the tie-breaker here.
Rich Karlgaard: I agree with Josh and Mike Ozanian. Look, there's no monopoly here. People can go out and shop for whatever credit card they want. This is another stupid intrusion proposed by government.
Neil Weinberg: No, this is an insidious plot by the banking industry.
David Asman: We're back with the stocks ready to pop and make you a quick buck!
John Rutledge: iShares Dow Jones U.S. Financial Sector (IYF)
** John owns shares of this exchange-traded fund
Evelyn Rusli: Mylan (MYL )
Neil Weinberg: KB Home (KBH )
Jack Gage: Amedisys (AMED )
AIG Bonus Mess: Will It Put a Stop to All Bailouts?
Jonathan Hoenig, CapitalistPig Asset Management: Absolutely. These bailouts have been an unmitigated disaster. The problem isn't with the bonuses but with the bailouts. We're all in voluntary shareholders now in these truly terrible companies. Whether it's Citigroup's plane or bonuses or junkets to Vegas, whatever it is, this is the inherent problem with socialism, with government ownership of the private economy. The only way to stop it is to stop these bailouts once and for all. To me it's a power grab. You have bureaucrats deciding the fate of multinational corporations. Unfortunately I think that's the way the direction is blowing. It's hurting the economy big time.
Nancy Skinner, www.NancySkinnerLive.com: The problem with the AIG Bonuses…It's like rewarding a driver with multiple DUI's with a bottle of Jack Daniels. That was bad. They should not have gotten those bonuses. The solution is we need to get these guys sobered up. This is why I'm so glad that the President is out talking to real people at town halls, Jay Leno, however he can get around the media. When the banks can't give credit, then all businesses are going to fail. Small, big businesses will fail. The whole economy will go down.
John Bradshaw Layfield, www.layfieldenergy.com: Absolutely not. I need Nancy's Jack Daniels right now. I agree with President Obama going out and standing in front of something Hank Paulson did. They are pointing the finger at AIG. This is $165 million of contractually obligated bonuses. They are voiding a legal contract. Private enterprise will not invest in the government which we have to have because they don't think the government is going to honor a legal contract or not. Compare that -- compare that, Nancy, to $7.7 Billion in earmarks. What Congress has done, they have stolen money at a 500-1 ratio percentage wise according to the stimulus package.
Wayne Rogers, Wayne Rogers & Co: The government, you know, when you say that - for example, of the things that's going on right now, you talked about credit being tight and all of that sort of thing. We have to loosen up credit. All of those things are true. In the meantime, the FDIC is charging the good banks, if you will, the small banks which represent, by the way, 10,800 banks in the United States. The FDIC is asking the independent banks to put up 200 percent on their insurance. Which means that the big banks, the major banks who have committed these sins are the ones that are asking the good banks and the good people to bail them out. Congress is asking us to bail out people who have made a mistake. It should not happen. You could separate AIG into two pieces. One that is their good insurance. They priced all of their credit default wrong. That should be separated. And then let that one fail.
Jonas Max Ferris, MaxFunds.com: I think this bonus thing was a serious situation. What happened this week in government was really terrible. I'm not for the AIG bonuses or the way the bailouts were orchestrated but I'm for bailouts in general. We just saw vigilante taxation in America where you're going to arbitrarily tax people in certain industries at ridiculous rates. Why have a court system? They were going after the tech IPO people. They were crooked. They didn't just arbitrarily tax them 90 percent on all the money they made. They tried to win in court. They didn't win in many cases. That's how America works. You don't pencil out people and say you're going to get taxed at 100 percent. Why don't we tax Bernie Madoff 100 percent instead of going through a trial?
VP Says President Obama Inherited Worse Economy Than FDR; Really?
John Bradshaw Layfield: I'm not making light of the economy or President Obama's daunting task but he has inherited the worst Congress. Biden had 56 earmarks by the administration that said they wouldn't have earmarks. The vice president had 56. You don't have bread lines, you don't have double-digit employment. You don't have a physical run on the bank. This economy is bad but there is no comparison to this and what FDR faced.
Nancy Skinner: So simple, wasn't it. There is a lot in common. You have the banking crisis, you have the recession. The home values. Here is what's worse about it. Now it's global. Now when we have to spend to get out of this thing, we have to worry about the Chinese. Are they going to be able to continue to finance our debt. You have these banks so interdependent globally. That is why things are way bigger and harder to untangle. He is absolutely right that it's a lot more complicated. Unemployment is not as high as it is now. If we don't do anything about it, it's not going to be there.
Wayne Rogers: No. I think JBL is right in the following sense. Unemployment was much higher as a percentage of the total work force under Roosevelt. It is true that it is more complicated because it's worldwide. It is true that it's complicated because of all of the derivative instruments that are floating around that have to be cured. That part is more complicated. The biggest problem is the one that you just said. The intelligence that we have in Congress can't deal with it. These are people who don't know. They can't read a 10-k or 10-q. They don't know what an annual report looks like. They voted on bills they did not read. They are continuing to do this. They are making it even worse. That's the biggest problem.
Jonathan Hoenig: I tell you what, the markets now are as volatile as they were in 1939. Maybe the unemployment hasn't gotten to that point, but these markets are unbelievably volatile. I think that uncertainty isn't even economic uncertainty. The economy is bad. What's causing traders to sit on their hands is the political uncertainty. There is the sense that really anything is up for grabs, right. Taxes, deductions, ownership, the ownership of the economy. That's what's creating so much of the uncertainty and ultimately so much of the volatility in the markets and the economy right now.
Jonas Max Ferris: Biden puts his foot in his mouth all the time. The bottom line is he is actually fairly accurate. He is not saying the economy is worse. Obviously it's not worse. The stock market is volatile to get out. It was down 90 percent before. It's only down 50 percent roughly. The things we're talking about is that Obama has a harder time than FDR had because when FDR came in, everything already collapsed. There wasn't much government. So there was a whole lot of room to fix very obvious things. The FDIC came in. Spending. They increased, social security was eventually added. All these programs did not exist. We already have a big government that grew over the years over the last 50 years. Today your solution of making government bigger and having more agencies to solve the problem is not going to work nearly as well as it did in 1933. It's a great, daunting task at this point. We have a lot of debt. We came in with 20 percent of debt back in 1933. We have a huge amount of debt going into this mess. You can't just double the deficit to get out of this one.
Wal-Mart Hands Out 2 Billion to Employees: Time for Unions to Shut Up?
John Bradshaw Layfield: Absolutely. Unions ruin the automakers, they ruined airlines, they almost ruined baseball, which is impossible to do. Wal-mart is great for America. It's great for jobs. Small communities are centered around Wal-mart. They are the second biggest employer thanks to the government. You go to Mexico and Wal-mart shows up. It's a big deal because they understand how important it is and how much of the economy it is.
Nancy Skinner: This is a preemptive strike. The employee free choice act, the credit act does not go through. Look how great they are. What's so ironic about it. All this aggregate demand has been lost because of the Wal-martization of the entire company. Of the entire economy.
Jonathan Hoenig: But it's real money. They are handing out real bonuses that are benefiting its really employees. The same employees who line up to get a job whenever they hope.
Jonas Max Ferris: This is when Henry Ford doubled the wages back 180 years ago and hired more people. That was a really impressive thing. As a percentage of all Wal-mart's payroll, this is not all that impressive. I'm not a Wal-mart hater. Unions negotiate more deals for their workers. You don't just get ford car-buying credits. Unions are bad for the economy, stock prices. If you're in the union, it's actually not bad.
Wayne Rogers: Any bonus is a good bonus. That is correct. This may have been a ploy on behalf of Wal-mart to -- because they are undergoing the possibility of being unionized. This may be saying to their workers listen, you don't need the union. This may be a defense. I don't know. It may be that ploy. I'm not that familiar with exactly what the numbers are, but it could easily be.
Stocks Our Cashin' In Crew Is Buying and You Should Too
Wayne Rogers: General Electric (GE ) -- Friday's close $9.54
Jonathan Hoenig: Bob Evans Farms (BOBE ) -- Friday's close $20.98
John Bradshaw Layfield: World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE ) -- Friday's close $10.72
Jonas Max Ferris: Sprint Nextel (S ) -- Friday's close $3.45