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This week, Brenda Buttner was joined by Tobin Smith, Eric Bolling, Pat Dorsey, Matt McCall and Sarah Flowers.
Are Town Hall Protesters Saving the Economy?
Tobin Smith, ChangeWave Research: A lot of people were thinking that the Democrats' health care reform plan was this unstoppable train moving down the tracks. But these town hall protesters are showing that this train can be stopped. They really are taking it off the tracks, and hopefully this will lead to a better plan for reform that will actually grow business and increase ingenuity in the health care sector.
Sarah Flowers, Democratic strategist: What's getting lost in the mind of these protesters is the economy. Poll after poll shows the economy is the biggest concern for Americans right now. What we're missing in this discussion is how we're going to reform health care costs. The rise in health care costs is the number one reason most middle class Americans don't have more dollars in their pocket. People who get insurance through their employer don't know what it all costs despite the fact premiums are going up by 20 percent to 50 percent. If companies have to pay more to cover employees, that means average workers won't see a rise in wages, and thus a lower standard of living.
Matt McCall, Penn Financial Group: The fact of the matter is that our current economy has to deal with the biggest deficit in its history. Health care reform as it's proposed will add considerably to the deficit. The result is that the economy will get worse. The stock market's rally shows that the markets do not want the version of health reform being proposed.
Eric Bolling, FOX Business Network: I think the economy and the stock market are on different trajectories. The economic outlook shows that we probably can't afford health care reform as its being proposed. Yes, at President Obama's town halls we've seen almost nothing but supporters of health care reform. But at all the other town halls, we see significant numbers of people telling their Congressional representatives to slow down and really consider what the consequences of health care reform are going to be. What Congress is proposing seems to be very different from the reforms the majority of Americans want to see.
Pat Dorsey, Morningstar.com: Neither side seems to be focused on what really matters. Our physicians currently have incentive to do more but not provide quality care for patients. Doctors are paid for conducting procedures, not the outcome of a patient's health. That's the fundamental problem with how the health care system works today. Unfortunately, none of the plans in Congress address this core problem. But it's not just Congress--the people against reform aren't doing anything to solve this problem either.
Stimulus Cash for School Supplies Spent on Cigarettes, Beer: What?
Matt McCall: I thought all this stimulus cash was designed to create jobs. How is giving somebody $200 creating jobs? If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime. The government is just handing out fish, rather than actually creating jobs with the stimulus. The thing is: other countries that passed their own stimulus bills are creating jobs.
Sarah Flowers: This is stimulus. We have to feel bad they're not getting crayons and scissors, but it is money being spent. Remember when George Bush sent $300 checks to all of us? This is all money that goes directly into the economy.
Tobin Smith: This is not stimulus. This is as stupid as when George W. Bush sent out stimulus checks to everyone. Going by Sarah's logic, if we break all the windows in our home and replace them that would stimulate the economy. It's ridiculous. Economic stimulus means you spend a dollar, but it creates $1.50 or $1.75. It increases economic productivity and monetary velocity.
Eric Bolling: This stimulus is creating nothing but free money junkies. Congressional enablers just keep this process up to buy votes for the next election. But eventually the money is going to run out. What we're left with are people who can't work, who are lazy, and just sit around on the couch all day.
Pat Dorsey: It sounds like having a voucher for school supplies would have worked much better if that was actually the intent. At the end of the day, infrastructure investment is a better enhancement of economic productivity than just cash handouts to people.
Is the Pay Czar Coming After Your Paycheck Next?
Eric Bolling: The pay czar is going to tell TARP banks what they can earn, and it's going to be low. I think non-TARP banks are going to look at the lower levels of pay TARP banks are giving out and lower their levels of compensation. TARP banks having wages set by the pay czar are going to lower and repress wages in the financial sector. It's never good when the government dictates the price of something--regardless of what it is.
Tobin Smith: This is high-end labor. The financial services industry already overpays and has a bizarre compensation model. Ultimately, these lower wages will stay within TARP banks. If I were a CEO, I'd be worried about the pay czar expanding his power down the road and deciding what other CEOs and top executives deserve to get paid.
Pat Dorsey: Executive compensation has been out of control for a long time. These TARP banks took government money, so the government is going to have some say in how the banks compensate their executives. What I'd be afraid of is non-TARP banks poaching top talent from TARP banks because they'll pay more. In no way, shape or form will this go across the industry. Only TARP banks will be negatively affected.
Matt McCall: This is the tip of the iceberg. The government is getting involved in a lot of things, and where does it end? What happens when the pay czar is done dealing with the TARP banks? He's just going to go home? Of course not. He's going to jump right back in there and take executives down. The top executives and earners at these companies deserve every dollar they get. They're the ones who generate the profits at these companies.
Matt McCall: Buy yourself a Volt! "SQM" charges up 50 percent by 2011
Tobin Smith: All you can fly is a hit! "JBLU" soars 30 percent by December
Pat Dorsey: Rent this stock! "AIV" builds 50 percent in 2 years
Eric Bolling: Don't bet on Vick's return! "BG" has real 30 percent return in 1 year
This week, Neil Cavuto was joined by Ben Stein, Charles Payne, Dagen McDowell, and Adam Lashinsky.
Report: Health Bill May Give Government Access to Bank Accounts: Why?
Ben Stein, Author, "How to Ruin the USA": This is scary, but the government has been nosing around in people's lives for a long time. I have a friend who just got a letter from the state of California Franchise Tax Report. The state knew that she had bought a car a couple of years ago. They want to know where she got the money for it and why she hadn't paid taxes. It happened to have been a gift from her old boyfriend. But this is what the government does. The government, given a chance, will take over your life.
Charles Payne, WStreet.com: I'm very worried about this. All governments gather information about their citizens, but it seems like this administration has such disdain for the wealthy that I think they would use this information as a weapon. Not just in the form of higher taxes, but maybe a shame campaign or another sort of intimidation.
Dagen McDowell, FOX Business Network: Collecting data for the efficacy of health care treatments isn't necessarily a bad thing. The problem isn't the collection of the information. The problem is how the government could possibly use it. We've got a 1,000 page health care bill. I was talking to somebody on the phone who said the bill could be 50 to 75 pages, but it's not. It's filled with all of these really vague lines about things like data collection—and we should be very nervous about that.
Adam Lashinsky, editor-at-large, Fortune Magazine: No one likes to have their privacy invaded in any way. But look, most of us have health insurance providers. They have a lot of information on us. Banks and credit card companies have a lot of information on us. They have information about our bank accounts, for example, because they're giving us money. Using that rationale, if the government is going to provide insurance to people, then they may need to have some financial information on the people to whom it's providing insurance.
Some Lawmakers Shunning Town Halls to Avoid Confrontation: Should They Rethink Government Health Care Plan Instead?
Charles Payne: This is pretty crazy. You know the saying "if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen?" Well the new one is, "if you can't stand the heat, close the kitchen down." First of all, any legislator who avoids these town halls is just a Prima Donna. They're gutless and this will backfire miserably. Keep in mind, King George also thought the American colonists were pesky and loudmouthed -- look where that got him. Not having these town halls meetings is anti-American, anti-democratic and an act of cowardice.
Ben Stein: I want anybody to try and read the different versions of health care reform proposals—it's absolutely impossible. Clearly, nobody has read them. They're a mess. This is a prescription for trouble. I don't blame the people at the town hall meetings for being upset and I don't blame the politicians for not wanting to face the music. They're doing something very questionable. People are angry and no politician wants to get yelled at.
Dagen McDowell: We're seeing the opposition to these health care reform proposals reflected in the polls. The level of opposition to health care overhaul is rising. But then again, people still believe that Congress is going to push something through anyway. But these politicians acting like they're going to do whatever they want despite the desires of their constituents is shameful.
Adam Lashinsky: Politicians know very well that if they disregard their constituents' wishes they know they won't get reelected. What we've seen at these town halls is a classic example of the tyranny of the minority. But just because you yell the loudest doesn't mean you're in the majority. This is not a silent majority. What we're seeing are very motivated and very loud people who are poorly behaved.
Is Government Using Sugar Shortage to Force Us to Eat Healthier?
Charles Payne: This is no accident. The White House knows the best way to get people to stop eating sugar products is to make them more expensive. Taking advantage of a shortage of the product is much better than leveling a tax on it. The White House wants us to live in a "Gattaca" world—where everyone is supposed to be slim and drive electric cars.
Ben Stein: This really isn't a sinister effort by the White House. We have a very longstanding two-priced system for sugar. We pay domestic producers of sugar roughly twice the world price. And the people who consume sugar are very upset about paying twice the world price. I don't blame them a bit. The dislocation of the sugar prices is a perfect example of what happens when you screw around with the free market system. Price controls screw things up terribly. My major concern is having fixed pricing in health care.
Dagen McDowell: Price controls are coming beyond just the health care system. They'll probably start being implemented in the energy sector, such as on products like gasoline. We're already seeing what the White House and Congress want to do with regulating the commodities markets and keeping out speculators. Nevertheless, this is another example of how government policy can destroy market policy for a commodity that everybody is using.
Adam Lashinsky: First of all, President Obama is using the bully pulpit to argue for healthy eating and healthy lifestyles. That's a good thing and shouldn't be looked at as a negative. Republican and Democratic administrations have allowed the inflation of sugar prices for decades—all for the benefit of sugar producers. But I agree this is bad policy. We should do away with it.
Remembering Woodstock With Stocks Set to Hit New "Highs"
Adam Lashinsky: KBW Bank ETF (KBE)
Charles Payne: Zoran (ZRAN)
Ben Stein: Citibank (C)
Forbes on FOX
On Saturday August 15, 2009, David Asman was joined by Steve Forbes, Rich Karlgaard, Neil Weinberg, Elizabeth MacDonald, Mike Ozanian, Quentin Hardy, Mike Maiello, Kai Falkenberg, and Jack Gage.
Flipside: President Obama's Plan for Shortening Drug Patents Will Actually Cost Money and Lives!
David Asman: In just a few hours, President Obama will be out once again trying to save health care reform. He's promising to save you money by cutting the number of years drug companies can charge high prices for brand-name drugs. But someone at Forbes says the president's plan will cost money and lives!
Steve Forbes: This will cost lives. This is a poison pill from the president who has no understanding of innovation. It takes $800 million to $1 billion to bring a new drug to market. If you shorten the patent period, what you're going to have is either higher prices or, more likely, entrepreneurs and innovators taking less risk taking because the rewards are going to be cut short. It's very basic.
Quentin Hardy: I think we have to look at what drug companies really do. Thirty percent of their costs are marketing and 12 percent is research and development. They're actually just marketing companies. Twenty-five percent of the drugs they make are novel. The rest are just sort of following on the way Hollywood movies make sequels. They make sequel drugs. The fact of the matter is if they just stopped producing so many ads and if they stopped marketing so heavily, that money would go straight to the bottom line and yes generics would be better. But they don't want to tell you the facts.
Elizabeth MacDonald: It's not cheap to develop drugs and I hear Quentin's point. He makes a good one about the advertising costs. If you look at what's going on with Europe, when the government stepped in, it squashed the drug industry. A lot of drug companies fled here to the United States because it's too time consuming and the United States is innovative and an open market. Drug companies know that the rates of return that they get on investing in the drugs can be far less then what they plow into them in the way of cost and research.
Mike Maiello: I think it will be good and I think you can look to the drug companies for guidance on this. They're not that worried about this. They've made some horse trading in all of this. What they were worried about is importing drugs from Canada and the government using its massive purchasing power to bring prices down. That's also not going to happen. The pharmaceutical industry got those two things. I think they're happy to go ahead and shorten patents. They've got to give something back.
Mike Ozanian: It will be terrible for us. This is as stupid as the rest of Obama's health care plan. Look, Schering Plough just came to market with an anti-psychotic drug. It got this drug by paying $16 billion for the company that developed it two years ago. If they thought that the patent life would be very short on this drug, they would not have paid $16 billion for this company and the company itself would not have developed a drug knowing full well that no big drug marketer would have paid $16 billion. They never would have recouped their investment.
Neil Weinberg: BooHoo. I'm crying for the drug companies. The fact of the matter is that a patent is a license monopoly. That's what the drug companies often do. They game the system shamelessly. The patent period is 20 years. A certain amount is used for research and development and it's often eaten up in that way. What I say is let's shorten patent periods so we get cheaper drugs on the market and in exchange we guarantee 10 years maybe in which the patent will be in effect. That way the drug companies get a guarantee and we get cheaper drugs.
In Focus: States Cutting Taxes Actually Have a Lower Unemployment Than the National Average: Time for the Federal Government to Do the Same?
David Asman: It's the answer we all want to know. What's the best way to get Americans back to work? Cutting taxes or more government spending? Well, we crunched the numbers and found several states lowering taxes this year Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, North Dakota, and Texas and guess what? They all have a lower jobless rate than the national average of 9.4 percent. Is it time for Uncle Sam to follow their lead?
Rich Karlgaard: Yes. Absolutely. The big problem in this recession is high unemployment and the unemployment rate unfortunately might get worse. Traditionally it's small businesses that come in and create the majority of new jobs after a recession. Small business is on the side lines this time. People forget that most people who run small businesses do not have corporations. They are taxed at the rate of personal income. So the more you lower income tax rates, the more small businesses feel empowered and confident to go out and expand and create good jobs.
Neil Weinberg: Unfortunately the free marketers may not like it but at this point we can't afford that. The fact of the matter is there are two sectors that are creating jobs right now, government and health care. Both rely on taxes. In addition what we're talking about here with Arizona increasing the sales tax at a time when consumers are not spending so why don't we just take a gun and "shoot ourselves in the head" here?
Steve Forbes: When you reduce the tax burden on people who take risks and create jobs, you get more of those things like productive work. You also have those surveys showing that high tax states like Michigan, New York, New Jersey, and California have the worst economic problems out there. Low tax states make a swifter recovery from bad times even if they get hit like New Hampshire in the early 1990's because of their low taxes they made a bigger come back faster comeback.
Quentin Hardy: Responsibility is the answer. On the one hand I do believe that the Arizona-type move of taxing consumption may make more sense than taxing income. That's a transfer of tax burden and that's ok. What I object to is "victimhood" on the part of really powerful institutions. Yes our nominal corporate rate is 35 percent but according to the Treasury Department when you add in all the loopholes, it's 25 percent. And then big corporations move a lot of stuff offshore so it doesn't get counted. Bottom line our tax payment by corporations is about 2.2 percent of GDP. The OECD average is 3.5 percent. Our corporations pay less than most countries.
Elizabeth MacDonald: Rich is absolutely right. The reason why companies are taking their profits offshore is because of the high rates. If the tax rate was lower, there's a chance they might keep those profits onshore. I love how Sweden, Canada, and South Korea have lower corporate taxes than we do. Also China, Greece, Mexico, and the Netherlands have no capital gains tax. Look, H&R Block screwed up its own corporate tax returns. Congress set up its own personal IRS office on Capitol Hill to figure out the tax code. Twenty-six-thousand government workers filed no tax returns because they did not understand the code. Get it out of the way of the entrepreneur, small business, and the individual.
Mike Maiello: We're talking about a very simple thing. Lowering income taxes on individuals is spurring unemployment right now. I think that's out of step with the psyche of the country. You lower my income taxes and I am going to put that money away because I'm in a conservative place right now. I'm going to take that money and hold onto it in case something terrible happens and that's what businesses, especially small businesses, are doing now. Nobody is really out there now taking a risk and hiring anyone at the moment.
Workers Suing for After-Hours Work on Blackberry: Are They Just Crybabies?
David Asman: Has this ever happened to you? The boss "Bblackberry-ing" you at home and asking you to do extra work without the extra pay. Well, some hourly employees are saying "no mas." They're suing to get paid for all "off the clock" duties.
Jack Gage: As a Blackberry-carrying worker, I really think that this is ridiculous. I think wages always follow rises in productivity. During second quarter of this year we had an unprecedented rise in productivity which was bigger than any time in the past 5 years. So it's a matter of time. It will trickle down as employees do more work they will soon see their wages increase.
Kai Falkenberg: Jack I don't think you get paid by the hour. We're talking about hourly workers and if they're getting paid by the hour and they work after hours and this is real work and not auto workers getting paid for doing nothing, the hourly workers doing work off hours should be getting compensated for the time that they work.
Steve Forbes. Both are true. They are crybabies and the lawyers are right. However I hope these lawyers will hire these workers after they lose their jobs because the employers can't afford them anymore due to these high wages. We are in a tight economy, so we all should cut back a little bit to make sure we get through this.
Quentin Hardy: I don't think there is anybody who doesn't think we feel that way right now and I really object to the idea that these people are crybabies. The fact is they're working flat out. The fact is they really try hard and they get up in the morning and they go 20 or 30 years working as hard as they can, but it's an information age economy. You can be available all the time. You're competing around the world. You've got to get used to this. We have an industrial structure of pay. We've got to figure out a new way to do business.
Rich Karlgaard: I'm just going to talk strictly economics. Point number one is that unemployment is high. Point number two is because of that employers have leverage. Point three? End of story. Look when the economy recovers it will be the reverse story. That's when you're going to hear employers complaining about disloyal, job-hopping employees.
Informer: Stocks That Will Pay You Even If Your Boss Won't
Mike Ozanian: France Telecom (FTE)
Neil Weinberg: Worthington Industries (WOR)
Jack Gage: AutoZone (AZO)
Government Nurses May Enter Homes: Intrusion or Economic Rx?
Tracy Byrnes, FOX Business Network: I think it's genius. I had an MBA and they handed me this child and I didn't know what the heck to do with it. You need a license to fish in this country, Cheryl, but yet we're giving babies out to crack addicts left and right. We're paying for this indirectly through welfare anyway and you're going to pay for it down the line if these people don't know how to care for their kids. I wouldn't have minded a few little tips before I took this little creature home and had to wake up at dawn to feed him.
John Layfield, www.layfieldenergy.com: Wouldn't it be cheaper just to nuder poor people and euthanize old people? I mean come on! Where does this end? This nanny state has gotten completely out of control. Most of the bill in this "stimulus package" is not stimulus at all. It's total safety net spending! This is insane!
Jonathan Hoenig, CapitalistPig Asset Management: Well, it's chilling. That's the problem. Once health is public, then the public has a very vested interest in your health. And it starts with assistance and then to influence, and ultimately, control. I mean honestly, government nurses in private homes? That is straight out of communist China. Someone advising you to have greater intervals between births? The government are not parents.
Mike Norman, Founder, Pitbull Economics: There is no question that this runs against our creed as a nation. We like individualism. We don't like government intrusion. This is massive paternalism. But I agree with Tracey. In this situation, getting a little help, getting a little education for people that otherwise would not have that- what's so bad about that? And by the way, as far as government being involved in health care, we've had that for 70 years with Medicare. That's been around. It's been a function it's been a part of our healthcare system. It's worked well for the people who have not had anything else.
Wayne Rogers, Wayne Rogers & Co: The Americans are absolutely right by saying leave us alone. What is this nurse, who is going to be paid by tax payer dollars, going to do? What is she going to say to this woman who has already had a child, who is about to have a child. What is she going to do to stop that or prevent that? She's not going to do anything. This is idiotic! It's one of those things buried in the 1000 pages. One of the things not in the bill is tort reform, for example. The whole bill is a mess and this is one of the prime examples of it.
Jonas Max Ferris, www.MaxFunds.com: Add more money to the welfare system now so you won't have to add more to it later. If those kids are going to be on the welfare system later, the less you have, the less it's going to cost taxpayers later. It may not work, to Wayne's point- they may not be able to pull this off but the concept will lower costs. If you don't want the government sending people into your homes or your bank account, don't take their money. You don't have to take any of these programs being proposed.
Outrage Alert: Union Using Stimulus Cash for Pay Raises
Jonathan Hoenig: I don't understand it. Wasn't the stimulus as you pointed out supposed to create jobs, stabilize the economy? Just like the auto bailout it is becoming a slush fund for unions. Our viewers are losing their jobs, their taxes are going to give a pay increase to union guys in the MTA. That is shameful.
Mike Norman: What I love about you guys, you just hate it when anybody else gets money except the rich. What do you think a tax cut is? It's an income boost. What is bad about working people getting an income boost? Again, you focus all the time on one side of a balance sheet looking at it as if this is some kind of outrageous cost. They won't be leveraged out on debt. They will be able to buy stuff. It is a circular flow.
Tracy Byrnes: Here is the thing, they put no rules in the stimulus money when they handed it out. Much like TARP. It is the government making mistakes. But to Mike's point these guys work so hard. And we are talking about couple of thousand dollars in a raise. They are not going to make millions of dollars.
Jonas Max Ferris: First of all, I just got stuck on the B-train so I don't care if it is 2 percent. But if you work for the government and this is a good social security payout you shouldn't get raises in a deflation. There is no inflation right now in New York City. They don't need an increase this year. Maybe two years from now. Because there is no inflation, the cost of living is not going up.
Wayne Rogers: This is not a moral question at all. This is an economic question. If in fact the budget contains that pay increase and that is a Metropolitan Transit Authority's budget then it is fine. If it doesn't, then they should not do it. It is as simple as that. If the taxpayers have agreed there is fine, do it. But they are like any other business. In the free economy they should go broke if they can't meet the budget. If they have done something outrageous, given a big pay hike and can't afford it they should not do it. It is very simple. It is not a question of morals, right or wrong, whether you are against or for unions. Has to do with economics, period.
John Layfield: Wayne is right, it is a matter of economics but the problem with the government, this was for stimulus. This is -- we have lost 2.2 million jobs since February. Part of the stimulus has done nothing to create jobs. Unions are the ones that ruined the auto makers. Unions, their burden ruined the airlines. They almost ruined baseball. They have to cut their expense to stay in business.
Using 401(K) Like a Credit Card: Smart or Dumb Money Plan?
Tracy Byrnes: We will be bailing out the 401(k)s next. We have to take care of social security. That is the biggest blow-up that is so under-funded. Now you will have to fund 401(k)s that will be pulling their moan out because you are allowing them to. We have to save for retirement. We don't need to pull money out of the 401k. It is not going to help. We are going to be bailing these people out two times. Once because social security won't be there and then they won't have any savings.
Jonas Max Ferris: It is your money and I'm not against tapping it. The current system is acceptable which is you pay income tax and penalty. I'm not for removing the penalty but that is your money and it can be a better source of funds than credit cards or loan sharks or whatever else people get into. It is bad if people spend it on junk but in a recession to access at a low rate can be an acceptable move if you are sensible.
Wayne Rogers: But the fact is you said if you go to rob your 401(k) you will pay a 10 percent penalty on top of that paying taxes and you have to know that up front. It is just a question of people understanding what the plan is and what its purpose is. If they want to use their retirement, fine. If they rob it they might as well have a piggy bank and do that.
John Layfield: To Tracy's point, you look at how many we bailed out when they used their houses as an ATM. We are bailing all these people out because at the made bad decisions. It is their money. Once they start using the money that is a retirement I believe it is right. We will bail them out because it is the greater good.
Jonathan Hoenig: I'm sorry, but that is their problem and I'm not responsible for everyone's retirement. Only my own. The author of this study estimated the average household can save $275 taking money out of their 401(k), their own money as opposed to going to Visa or MasterCard. To a lot of folks that is a lot of money.
What Do I Need to Know?
Tracy Byrnes: Congress grounded their private jets this week. You heard it on the show last week. $550 million, excuse me. But the moral is they hurt us, they listen to us. You complained out there. Congress backed off.
Wayne Rogers: Well, this all came out of the fact that the White House and Obama administration said all of this misinformation about the healthcare bill you could call the White House and they were going to trace your calls and monitor it. They were going to know who was for and who was against. I said where was the ACLU. They heard us and they are coming in and making complaints to the OMB saying this is wrong. This is Big Brother all over.
John Layfield: Michael Vick, I hate what he did but he served his time. He's a great player. Only 29. This is a great move for the Eagles and for the NFL.
Jonas Max Ferris: I like things that are easy to do. I drink a lot of wine because it is good for my health. Your heart attack chance goes down if you eat chocolate. So I have loaded up on Hershey (HSY). I'm drunk and loaded on sugar right now. Let me have it.
Jonathan Hoenig: A new study from a British University says that companies with women on their boards of directors dramatically underperforms those which have all male boards. Don't blame the messenger, but one of my favorite stocks, NTT, has an all men board so buy it.