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This week, Brenda Buttner was joined by Gary B. Smith, Tobin Smith, Eric Bolling, Pat Dorsey, and Julia Piscitelli.
Washington's Cash Handouts Causing "Astroturf" Recovery?
Eric Bolling, FOX Business Network: This is just an "astroturf" recovery. That's what happens when you give away free money. But when the flow of free money stops, a lot of people who are used to getting those checks in the mail are going to stop consuming. As a result, demand will go "bye-bye." Then you're left with one of two things: people continue to spend and build up a mountain of debt, or they keep sitting on the couch rather than getting up and finding a job. This is not a real demand-driven recovery.
Julia Piscitelli, Democratic strategist: Look at all the good news: the Dow is up, people are getting more money, and beginning to move forward. The markets are regaining some hope. But people are still complaining. My question is: when does a real recovery begin? What are the guidelines?
Gary B. Smith, TheChartman.com: Look at what's going on here. Take the auto industry, for example. The government comes in with a huge bailout and cash for clunkers program that gives away money to consumers. All of a sudden there's an auto sales spike. And people actually believe the robust purchase of cars will continue even after cash for clunkers ends. What planet are they living on? Auto sales will plummet, as will other sectors of the economy when all the stimulus money starts to go away.
Tobin Smith, ChangeWave Research: The stimulus is nothing more than a transfer of taxpayer dollars to people who don't pay taxes. Wait until the stimulus programs end. Then we'll really see the astroturf. What we need is investment capital to come back into the market, making real investments and building real businesses. Until that happens, there will not be a real, sustainable recovery.
Pat Dorsey, Morningstar.com: As we know, the cash for clunkers program is driving auto demand right now. New tax rebates are helping drive home sales. In housing, prices are simply coming back down to market-clearing levels--a point where a rational buyer comes in and sees potential to profit in the purchase of real estate. What I'm really worried about is a "W"-shaped recession when the stimulus money runs out. I'm not sure there's enough consumer demand to sustain a recovery without government cash.
$2 Billion for Brazilian Offshore Drilling; Why Not Drill Here?
Gary B. Smith: Without question, the U.S. has the technology, resources, need for energy independence and the willingness of oil companies to drill off U.S. waters. All they need is a clear political path. But President Obama has said that we can't do it here, bowing to political pressure. So instead, he's going to take taxpayer dollars and give it to Brazil to do it.
Julia Piscitelli: Why do we want to keep giving our tax dollars to countries that are our "frenemies" like Saudi Arabia, rather than giving it to a country who is an actual ally? When our only other oil supply option in the southern hemisphere is Hugo Chavez, why not help develop this new source of oil and gas?
Eric Bolling: Petrobras, the Brazilian oil company who will develop this new source for oil and natural gas, is a $188 billion market cap company. It's the seventh most profitable company on the planet. But we're giving Brazil this $2 billion loan so maybe they'll sell oil to us? They recently inked a deal to sell 58 million barrels of oil to China. What would be the reaction if the U.S. government were giving this loan to Exxon?
Tobin Smith: We have to remember Florida and California are essentially holding the rest of the U.S. hostage when it comes to offshore drilling. This oil find off of Brazil is 15 to 20 thousand feet deep. Getting to it is highly technical stuff, and of course Brazil will have to buy services from American oil companies to actually get to the oil. But hopefully, developing these new underwater oil fields will show that offshore drilling can be done safely. Not to mention, U.S. oil companies will see tidy profits from helping develop this new source of oil for Brazil.
Pat Dorsey: Oil is a globally traded commodity, so if you add supply, you're going to bring down the global price of oil no matter what. But, if you think the price of oil is going to go up over the long run because we've hit peak oil, which I think we have, it actually makes sense to conserve our offshore reserves. They will be worth much more 20 years down the road.
Should Government Take Risk Out of Investing for the "Little Guy"?
Tobin Smith: This would be a disaster. I've learned 100 times more from my failures than from my successes. Risk is at the very heart of capitalism. Cash is the blood of our economy. This "do-gooderism" idea would be horrible if implemented. You have to take risk to get rewards.
Gary B. Smith: People get ahead in the world when they take risks. That's the only way individuals or companies can grow, prosper, and accumulate wealth. You can't become a multimillionaire by buying U.S. T-Bills. Instead, the government seems intent on making sure we're all in some subdued state where we all act and think the same way.
Julia Piscitelli: I think it's reasonable to protect people who might be playing in a market with too much of their money. Average investors do need to be protected, particularly at a time when people may be more interested in gambling what they have due to current economic hardships. This is a perfectly reasonable thing for the government to do.
Pat Dorsey: The New York Attorney General going after auction rate securities, the market for which has functioned just fine for 20 years until last fall, is a little silly. However, the financial industry does not have a great track record of self-regulation. There are two sides to this coin.
Eric Bolling: If you regulate out risk, you regulate out reward. When reward goes, so does incentive. But right behind that is innovation, and that's the real thing you don't want to lose.
Gary B. Smith: We love our gas guzzlers! "USO" spikes 30 percent by year's end
Pat Dorsey: Go shopping with realty income! "O" marked up 20 percent by next August
Tobin Smith: Microsoft System 7 is a hit! "MSFT" clicks 30 percent by 2010
Eric Bolling: New homes about to break ground! "TOL" build 30 percent gains in 1 year
This week, Neil Cavuto was joined by Ben Stein, Charles Payne, Dagen McDowell, and Rob Stein.
Clunker Cash Mess: Bad Sign for Government-Run Health Care?
Charles Payne, WStreet.com: Watching how badly the government has been at distributing clunker cash to dealers is scary. They've only dolled out $145 million of the $2 billion. Cash for clunkers just shows you can't use the word "efficiency" and "government run" in the same sentence. They just don't go together. I think we know at the end of the day, any health care reform is going to be the first step toward a single-payer system.
Dagen McDowell, FOX Business Network: This is an example of what could happen with government run health care. If we got a public option, a lot of people are going to join it because it'll be cheap. What do you think that'll do to private insurance? The government planned $1 billion originally for cash for clunkers, but upped it to $3 billion. So what's to say a new government health option won't end up costing far more than the $1 trillion over 10 years they're estimating? It raises serious concerns.
Ben Stein, Author, "How to Ruin the USA": I think health care reform costing far more than its estimated cost will happen. It's very hard to use efficiency and government in the same sentence. There's nothing the government does that's particularly efficient. It's run by people with little to no accountability. Very few people actually understand this plan. The government will get wound up paying doctors, hospitals, etc. for their services the same way car dealers aren't getting their clunkers cash. This was nothing more than people happy with their cars paying $4,500 a pop to people who aren't happy with their cars.
Rob Stein, Astor Financial: You have to connect a lot of dots to conclude health care reform would operate like cash for clunkers. Cash for clunkers was put together in a very short period of time, and the jury is still out on whether it'll be a true success. Frankly, I think it will be, and those dealers are going to get paid. Just give it a little more time. A new government health care option would be modeled on Medicare/Medicaid. It's a plan that has been working for years. I don't think you can correlate cash for clunkers with health care reform.
Are Democrats Using "Mob" Tactics With Health Insurance Companies?
Ben Stein: This is pure repression of free speech. This is government squashing anybody who dares to challenge it. This is a dangerous development, and I think President Obama needs to take constitutional law again. We know that Senator Jay Rockefeller is demanding information from health insurance companies. They're being leaned on and bullied. I hope they stand up to the government. It's so funny for me to hear Senator Rockefeller, a man who is made of money due to the success of his great grandfather, bullying health insurance companies about their success.
Charles Payne: The health insurance companies promised to play ball with the White House, provided they weren't threatened or harassed by the government. But it looks like the Senate is doing its own thing. So now the insurance companies are starting to be dragged through the mud, threatened and harassed. I don't like health insurance companies, but I hope they fight back.
Dagen McDowell: The government is sending the health insurance companies a message. The Democrats have to create a villain in order to sell their reform plans. A lot of people have tough relationships with their health insurers. So, Democrats know that's who they need to go after, and play off the anger and frustrations of people who are insured, but not satisfied with their coverage.
Rob Stein: I think the way the government is going about this is terrible. If there is information gathering necessary to make the system and reforms work better, I'm in favor of that. But it's all in how you do it, and how you gather that information.
Report: 110,000 Government Jobs Added During Recession
Ben Stein: It isn't President Obama's fault the private sector has shed millions of jobs. But it is his fault he has made taxpayers pony up $787 billion, and only a tiny fraction of it has actually gone out to help anyone. The people getting the most help are civil servants who are members of various unions and interests groups that support the President. Most of the money is going to go out when the economy has already began its recovery, and this will lead to inflationary pressures.
Charles Payne: This stimulus was promised to generate millions of jobs. Unemployment would stop at maybe 8.5 percent. But obviously the government missed the mark on what the stimulus was supposed to do. I'd like to know from people who supported President Obama in the election if anything he has done so far has actually helped them.
Rob Stein: The TARP bank rescue package was passed by the Bush Administration toward the end of last year. And it saved the financial system which in turn saved countless numbers of jobs. So government bailouts and rescue plans originated with the Bush administration. The last two months, we've actually seen declines in government payrolls. So now it's leveling off.
Dagen McDowell: This perfectly illustrates how the government has mismanaged an economic recovery. As the downturn occurs, and tax revenues plunge, the government refuses to cut costs. I mean the Detroit school system had 250 ghost employees drawing paychecks. What does that say about how government manages spending and job creation?
Stocks for Your Future!
Charles Payne: Allegheny Tech (ATI)
Ben Stein: Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B)
Rob Stein: iShares Dow Jones US Healthcare (IYH)
Forbes on FOX
On Saturday August 22, 2009, David Asman was joined by Rich Karlgaard, Bill Baldwin, Mike Ozanian, Quentin Hardy, Jack Gage, Evelyn Rusli, Kai Falkenberg, and Mark Tatge.
Flipside: Spending More on Health Care Will Fix the Job Market
David Asman: A message for Washington: please spend "more" than $1 trillion on health care reform! It's the best way to fix the job market.
Mark Tatge: I think spend more but I think we also need to increase availability of health care as well. Right now we have a system where the private insurers ration health care and the people who are most likely the sickest and need care the most are not getting it. So spend more and we'll get more jobs and we'll have more availability of health care. We'll have a better system.
Jack Gage: All this would come to a screeching halt if we centralize and nationalize health care and extract from it the innovation that comes from being a private market. This is a big problem because if we spend more money all it's doing is growing the government's influence in health care by hiring bureaucrats and people to administer the government programs that go along with it like we have with Medicare and Medicaid now. Spending more isn't the solution. You need to reduce the burden and get free market players in there competing, getting scrappy, and driving innovation.
Evelyn Rusli: I want to cut waste out of the system just as much as Jack does but the reality is that we're going to need to spend more in the short term in order to get some long term gains. The system is broken. For example, let's look at modernizing the health care system by making medical records electronic and facilitating communication between hospitals and doctors. That will cost tens of billions of dollars. If you think about it, currently the inefficient processing of claims costs more than $200 billion.
Rich Karlgaard: I think you get much more efficiency improvements when people are spending out of their own pockets. For instance the price of Lasik surgery has come down and the service has gotten better. The main question is jobs in the economy right now and when you talk to employers they are increasingly looking at employees as costs and burdens because of mounting health care costs so I don't see how spending another trillion dollars and laying that on employers through taxes is going to improve the employment situation.
Quentin Hardy: I think the key is entrepreneurship and the key is jobs. The Journal says we should spend more money and I'm not sure that's true. But the cynical opportunists that seem to want the status quo, I guess for the sake of hurting President Obama, seem to ignore that it's just strange in this country that we've tied health care to employment. How many good entrepreneurs are stifled because they're afraid of leaving their jobs and losing their health care? It's a crazy system and it has to change. How many people without health insurance end up in hospitals?
Bill Baldwin: There is no question that increased government intrusion in the health care market would increase jobs. That's one of the bad things about it believe it or not. We're better off with longer and healthier lives created with fewer workers. I have a secret that I want to tell you about jobs and I want you to keep this confidential because if it gets out there goes my race for Congress. The engine for prosperity is not the creation of jobs. It's the elimination of jobs.
In Focus: Pay Czar's 'Executive' Money Grab; Is Your Money Next?
David Asman: All this time we've been told the pay czar was just going to target executives' pay at companies still on the government dole. Now it appears Kenneth Feinberg may be changing the rules mid-game. Mike Ozanian says this is proof everyone's a target.
Mike Ozanian: As the Obama administration has forced more and more people and companies on to its plantation, it has exerted greater influence in terms of how much money people and companies can earn and how they can spend that money. We've already seen this in the past where it was prohibiting companies, for instance, that received TARP money from spending money on sporting events. Well, you're also affecting those sporting events whether it would be golf or baseball. That has a big effect on companies and businesses that have not received bailout money. This is a huge problem.
Quentin Hardy: Well people got pushed onto the government's plantation, especially Wall Street, when we're talking about these big pay packages during the Bush Administration and you know something? It was probably a good thing because they had destroyed the world economy with their shenanigans. We had to bail them out. The government gave the treasury secretary $700 billion because the world was flying apart. AIG was bailed out and that's why Goldman Sachs even exists today. Goldman Sachs has done a brilliant PR job convincing the world that they have nothing to do with this downturn. It's nothing but the financial system which we had to save. These guys have lost perspective giving themselves these monster pay packages.
Bill Baldwin: I think we're all at risk here. The government and Quentin's populist friends are running the country and I think we have to focus where this pay czar is going to pay attention and it ought to be on monopolies. So maybe the pay czar goes after the people who founded Google. That's kind of a monopoly and I think they're paid a dollar a year. I could be wrong. A bigger monopoly in this country is the government. Let's have a pay czar limit the discounted present value of government pension to $2 million. That would be devastating.
Kai Falkenberg: I'm not afraid of the pay car. The pay czar is going to have limited impact on most people. Most people like me are "at will" employees. Our salaries can be reduced at any time and the pay czar is going to have limited impact on anybody else. He only has jurisdiction over the top companies that took the most money from TARP. That's seven companies and only the senior executives at those companies. So it's a very limited impact. I think he's a big talker. He thinks he's going to be like the "Wizard of Oz" in "The Emerald City." I think he's going to be more like the scarecrow.
Rich Karlgaard: It makes me happy that he said that because now it's out there for everybody to see. It's just one more brick that is weighing down the Obama Administration up there with Rahm Emanuel's "never let a crisis go to waste" and some of these other exorbitant examples of overreach. The public is now seeing what these guys are all about and that's why their ratings are tanking and that's why we're going to have balance in government after the 2010 elections.
'Cash for Caskets': Are Publicly-Funded Burials a Good Use of Taxpayer Money?
David Asman: First it was "cash for clunkers," now it's "cash for caskets"! State and local governments are paying for funerals for people who can't afford them… with taxpayer money. And Jack Gage says this is taking "cradle to grave" entitlements to a whole new level.
Jack Gage: It is David. I'm all for publicly funded funerals for servicemen and servicewomen that come back that have died in the field of battle. But look, this is ridiculous. You have to have a bare minimum as a social safety net for those who can't afford funerals but expanding this program takes the worst parts of cash for clunkers and combines them with the bad parts of cash for clunkers mainly putting state and local tax dollars on the line to provide a "welfare net."
Mark Tatge: This is not outrageous. It's just another sign of how bad this economy is and how poor people can't afford to bury themselves. So I don't see anything wrong with this. And guys? Come on. It sounds very callous of you to not want to bury the poor who are indigent.
Mike Ozanian: I'm not a callous guy. I'm Mr. Softy. The reason why I don't like this is because government subsidies always increase the costs of something. It doesn't matter whether it's health insurance, energy, and food. When the government pours money into something, the price goes up not down. That's why I think this is a bad idea. I'm Mr. Softy.
Quentin Hardy: Well what's outrageous here to me is the way people want to play "Gotcha!" with the government all the time. We have been burying the poor for centuries. Have you ever heard of Potter's Field? They have existed since forever. There are more private burials of the indigent now because there are more poor people. You seem to think the poor are some other species than you. I'll tell you what. Sometimes they are just you with a little bit of bad luck. Have some heart here.
Kai Falkenberg: There's no risk of bodies piling up on the streets here. We're in a recession. We don't have a plague. There's no typhoon. Jack is exactly right. The only people who deserve publicly-funded funerals are servicemen and servicewomen and people who have served this country. We should do what New York does and have prisoners bury the indigent.
Informer: The Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women in the World List and Their Money-Making Stocks!
David Asman: Just released! The Forbes "Top 100 Most Power Women in the World" and our Informers have the stocks led by these women that are sure to make you money!
Evelyn Rusli: Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)
Jack Gage: Rite Aid (RAD)
Bill Baldwin: Marathon Oil (MRO)
Walmart's New Rx Plan: Proof Free Market Can Fix Health Care?
Jonathan Hoening, CapitalistPig Asset Management: Absolutely. There are already estimates that Wal-Mart saves the average family $2,500 a year. That was before their push into prescription drugs. Whenever you see Wal-Mart or capitalism, for that matter, you always see massive wealth creation, employment, and lower prices. So what we need for health care is more private profit-seeking business, not bigger government spending and an even larger entitlement stake.
Steve Leser, Op-Ed.com: This is more smoke and mirrors from the private health insurance industry and big pharmacies. The reality behind this, there is 300 generic drugs being offered here for $10 a piece. If you have ever gotten prescription drugs in the past, you know there is not a whole lot of generic drugs that cost much more than $10 a piece. This is smoke and mirrors. It really doesn't add a whole lot to helping with health care.
Tracy Byrnes, FOX Business Network: I think if nothing else, it's getting people in the door. It's helping people. It's making them feel like somebody is looking out for them. Look, all we hear about is how the pharmaceutical companies are robbing us left and right. Wal-Mart comes out and offers this plan. At the end of the day you do save money. They did have prior to this the generic pay $4. Wal-Mart has been trying all along to help people out. I actually think to Jonathan's point, they are doing a pretty good job at it.
Wayne Rogers, Wayne Rogers & Co: I don't think it's a question of Wal-Mart versus the White House or anything like that. I think it's a question, I'm saying that the free market competition is better than regulation. In other words, if you have competition in the marketplace, prices will come down. Consumers will get the best deal. If you have it dominated by one entity, in this case the federal government, you're going to have price fixing in a way that you can't -- there is no control over it. Competition will control it. Regulation will get rid of it. Let the competition do it. For example, TEVA pharmaceuticals, a great worldwide, if you will, pharmaceutical company that does all of these generic drugs. They do very well.
Jonas Max Ferris, MaxFunds.com: There is certainly a component of keeping costs down both in regular items and in health care. This is an example. They don't do shoulder surgery at Wal-Mart. To some extent there are limitations to what they can do. I will say it's actually a case of where a large single payer could drive down prices. At Wal-Mart, one of the reasons stuff is so cheap at Wal-Mart, not the union busting so much. It's actually they are so big that they dictate prices to say a paper towel company. So in theory, if the government was one of the world's Wal-Mart, that's in theory, they could dictate and get low prices. I'm not saying it is happening because the government doesn't run Wal-Mart, but it does show the power of being a single payer in the system.
Will Climate Bill 'Jack Up' Food Prices Again?
Tracy Byrnes: It's another case of the government micromanaging the environment again, like thinking they can control how much carbon dioxide we breathe. They don't see the forest behind the so-called trees because all they are thinking about is right now. If these farmers use their farmland for forests instead and they are looking for about 18 million acres worth of forests, that will dramatically increase the price of our food because, well, there will be less of it out there.
Wayne Rogers: No way. Let me tell you, the biggest determinant in food pricing from a farmer's point of view is weather. Weather and the availability of land. There is tons of land out there to plant. Farmers are smart guys. They do not go out and plant trees where they are going to have crop land. Those trees will be in other places. It's not going to affect the price of food. Distribution, weather, and those things affect food prices much more.
Jonas Max Ferris: There could be some issues. There have been times in history where farmers over-farmed lands and we had problems in shortages as well. The global warming issue in theory could lead to major food shortages because it affects
weather to Wayne's point. This might rise prices up in the short run. We're worried about the 50 to 100-year weather and food.
Jonathan Hoenig: This has nothing to do with global warming. This has nothing to do with farmers. This has everything to do with the environmental movement. They are against once again any use of the earth. Any man wants to use the earth, whether it's corn or oil, they are against that. They pass carbon tax limits or cap and trade or simply limit supply. The last time the government got involved in micromanaging our culture, there was riots for rice. The more they get involved, the more expensive it's going to ultimately cost mankind.
Steve Leser: Managing the amount of food that's produced is nothing new in the United States. About 8 percent of farmable land in the United States is already set aside to be idle by government programs. It's just something that has to be managed properly. I don't think it's going to affect food prices. If supplies start to get short, you can cut back on the amount of land that's being left idle. 8 percent Of the farm land is an amount the size of New York state. That's how much is currently left idle. There is plenty of land left to produce.
Community Organizers May Come Into Your Home to Monitor Your Diet: Waistline Police: Waste of Taxpayer Money?
Jonathan Hoenig: When you make health public, all of a sudden your body, your health really becomes public property. So yes, whether you eat the turkey leg or the alfalfa sprouts. Do you smoke? Do you get high? Do you exercise? All of a sudden this becomes the public interest. Essentially you're no longer free to live your own life. Every move you make is either influenced or controlled by the state. It's the road to serfdom.
Steve Leser: Regardless of health care reform, we're all paying. Who has health care or who pay taxes, we're all paying for people who are overweight to the tune of the cost of having diabetes. The cost of heart disease is over $500 billion a year. We're all paying that now. I think that's something that should be looked at. That's even forgetting having compassion for people who have a horrible quality of life.
Jonas Max Ferris: About one in $10 spent in health care is straight up obesity related. Whether you have any government health care or not, it's passed on to the private sector health care. This is exactly why they need the fat police. If you could charge extra if you're overweight like you're a bad driver, which is exactly what they should do. Unfortunately they have all these problems with doing that. That would be great. You need the government. Because you can't sue the government for discrimination. That is why these people need to pay their way.
Tracy Byrnes: The point is there is a productivity issue as well. That affects the entire economy, if people are obese. They tend to get sick more. That means they can't get to work, things don't get made. To the point that there should be some sort of surcharge. I don't think that's out of the realm of craziness.
Wayne Rogers: The problem with this particular bill is it is allocating certain dollars to community-related organizations. There is no definition of how they are going to get these grants. There is no definition of their powers to go in to measure you and weigh you and do all of that. The whole bill is collective stupidity. This is another example of where the congress hatched something in a broad generality and the details are not to be spelled out, so nobody knows that. They even asked Kennedy about that. He refused to answer. They asked Chris Dodd about it. He said I can't explain it. It's the congress who legislates this, can't explain it.
What I Need to Know for Next Week
Tracy Byrnes: Shortcuts.Com, service by AOL, they did a survey and it showed 57 percent of the people surveyed would rather save $50 a week rather than have more sex or lose weight. One, people are afraid of the economy. Two, a lot of cranky people are walking around if they choose to save money instead of entertain themselves.
Syeve Leser: For next year you need to know unemployment will be below 7.5 percent. If not, in honor of Wayne, I will come in dressed as Klinger from "MASH."
Wayne Rogers: AARP lost 60,000 members recently because of their position on health care reform. It's their opposition to people who are opposed to the health plan because they didn't realize stuff about the death clause. They're going to continue to lose people because the people running it are out of touch with their constituents.
Jonas Max Ferris: "Cash for clunkers" ends at midnight on Monday. But "cash for appliances" is kicking in and that's good for Sears. They barely made it through this recession. Everyone goes out and buys dishwasher and Americans will do this. If you give them money they will buy something. It will work.
Jonathan Hoenig: September is usually a bad month for stocks. If you worry about the market, check out AOK. It's 75 percent bonds, 20 percent stocks. I think this is a good choice for retired or income oriented people.