DISCLAIMER: THE FOLLOWING "Cost of Freedom Recap" CONTAINS STRONG OPINIONS WHICH ARE NOT A REFLECTION OF THE OPINIONS OF FOX NEWS AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON AS INVESTMENT ADVICE WHEN MAKING PERSONAL INVESTMENT DECISIONS. IT IS FOX NEWS' POLICY THAT CONTRIBUTORS DISCLOSE POSITIONS THEY HOLD IN STOCKS THEY DISCUSS, THOUGH POSITIONS MAY CHANGE. READERS OF "Cost of Freedom Recap" MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN INVESTMENT DECISIONS.
This week, Brenda Buttner was joined by Gary B. Smith of TheChartman.com, Tobin Smith of ChangeWave Research, Eric Bolling of the FOX Business Network, and Democratic strategist Mary Ann Marsh.
New $856 Billion Health Care Bill: Tax Hikes Coming to Pay for It?
Gary B. Smith, TheChartman.com: This new bill doesn't have tax hikes -- it has tax gouges. If a person is mandated by the government to buy health insurance, they're going to effectively be handing a major chunk of their paycheck over to the government to purchase coverage. If you're a family of four for example, and take in $54,000 a year, you're going to have 18 percent of your income go to the purchase of government health insurance. This would in effect be a massive tax increase for Americans without health insurance.
Mary Ann Marsh, Democratic strategist: There is nothing in this bill to suggest the middle class is going to see any tax increases. Even if it did, what Congressional member would actually vote for a bill like that? It would be political suicide. The Congressional Budget Office says that 94 percent of legal residents will be covered in this bill will be covered and will lessen the deficit over time.
Tobin Smith, ChangeWave Research: If you get your health care through your employer, you have a very small co-pay, and you've never seen your health care bill. This bill is saying there are no more free lunches. If everybody has to participate in health coverage, everybody has to pay. Originally, the government was going to go after the top 1 percent of earners, but they looked at tax receipts and realized there was no way they'd be able to squeeze enough money out of them. So now the government has to look to lower income brackets. People are quickly going to realize how much health care reform is going to cost them.
Eric Bolling, FOX Business Network: If you look beneath the $856 billion price tag of this bill, you'll see that $507 billion of it is supposed to come through spending cuts. Of that $507 billion, $406 billion of it is going to come from cuts to Medicare. This means that seniors on Medicare right now are going to see their benefits reduced or taxed more. These cuts will have to be approved by Congress, and what Congressional member in this world is going to cut Medicare benefits to seniors?
Rob Stein, Astor Financial: There will certainly be a tax on the so-called high dollar health care plans. But I don't see this hitting the middle class. These tax increases on health care coverage will go to people who are receiving great benefits from their insurance. What we're really talking about now is how we're going to allocate the expenses of health care. We're not going to suddenly see tens of millions of people receiving health coverage -- they already get it in some form, but it's paid for by people with coverage.
63 Percent of American Say U.S. Could Go Bankrupt: What Happens If They're Right?
Tobin Smith: If you can't pay your bills, you're bankrupt. Our income is down 25 percent. We continue to add on massive amounts of debt. Inflation could easily sky rocket, with the dollar plunging. If oil goes up, along with precious metals, you'll see an ever-spiraling downward economic loop. Unfortunately, I think we're coming all too close to potentially reaching that point.
Gary B. Smith: The dollar would be worthless. A lot of countries eventually get out of bad economic cycles if they manufacture something and have something to sell in the global economy. We've evolved I think to mostly a service-based economy. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, if the country spirals downward economically, it'd be much harder to have any chance of recovering over the long term.
Mary Ann Marsh: I don't think this is going to happen. If it ever did, the country you have to watch out for is China. They can out-manufacture and out-sell us and call in our debts. If that occurred, the last year of economic turmoil we've seen would look like a walk in the park. It'd be an utter disaster for this country.
Eric Bolling: The definition of bankruptcy is being financially insolvent. What does $11.8 trillion and exploding debt sound like to you? China holds $1.5 trillion of our currency and $850 billion of treasuries. If China pulls the plug, the lights go out. China really holds the cards right now.
Rob Stein: I think we're unnecessarily scarring people with this scenario. You know who the U.S. owes the most debt to? Itself. Americans own the most of government debt, through pension and retirement funds, the social security system, etc. If the U.S. were to default on its debt, we'd default on ourselves. It would certainly be a major problem for us economically, but sometimes bankruptcy isn't a bad thing.
Bailed-Out GM Launches 60-Day Money Back Guarantee: Taxing Taxpayers for a Ride?
Eric Bolling: If the government hadn't given GM $50 billion, this idea would be laughable. GM says it's putting its money where its mouth is. But it's our money! These guys are idiots. We're never going to see a penny of this money back.
Gary B. Smith: I don't think people would have a problem with this program if this were a car company that hadn't been bailed out. I actually think this is pretty good marketing. They lose money if people return the car after 60 days. I think there's a small chance of this backfiring. Basic inertia and the complexity of buying a car are going to keep most people from taking any real advantage of the program. I applaud GM for this deal--it's new and will hopefully give incentive for people to purchase a car that they otherwise might not have.
Tobin Smith: We're in a situation now where the taxpayer isn't going to see their money back from the GM bailout. The only way a dent could be made in this debt is getting enough money from taxes on GM employee and business income and sales taxes on car purchases. This program could work, and keeping GM in business is now in the interest of the taxpayer.
Rob Stein: I think anything GM is doing is a bad idea. They've proven they can't run an auto company. I'd like taxpayers to just get their money back and for GM to go away.
Gary B. Smith: Dow stalls at 10K! "DXD" up 20 percent by 2010
Rob Stein: Copy that! Health care bill sends "FDX" up 10 percent by 2010
Tobin Smith: Prevent running mascara! "AVP" extends 30 percent in 1 year
Eric Bolling: No "pimp" in our house: "XHB" building 50 percent in 1 year
Host Charles Payne was in for Neil Cavuto. Charles was joined by Ben Stein, author of "How To Ruin The USA"; Dagen McDowell, FOX Business Network host; Adam Lashinsky, Fortune magazine; Matt McCall of Penn Financial Group.
Can Dems Pay for $856 Billion Health Plan With "Savings"?
Matt McCall, Penn Financial Group: This just doesn't make sense to me. In an ideal world, we might be able to cut all the pork out of this bill and really be able to pay for it. This bill talks about cutting $500 billion from Medicare which already has very significant problems. It's shifting from one area to another. There's no way they're going to save enough money to stop the deficit from increasing.
Ben Stein, author, "How to Ruin the USA": The government never saves money. It's the sign of an amateur politician who says they're going to take out waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare. It'll never happen. These Medicare cutbacks will affect old people's health and welfare. The patient-doctor relationship will worsen, all in the name of giving relatively small percentage of Americans a health insurance plan.
Adam Lashinsky, editor-at-large, Fortune Magazine: When did we all become such pessimists? What happened to Reagan-style optimism? What makes us think that just because we haven't done something before means we can't accomplish it now? If we can get bipartisan support for legislation, then both sides of Congress will be invested in this bill and can actually do their job of enforcing Medicare cost cuts.
Dagen McDowell, FOX Business Network: Politicians do not cut spending. They just don't. They can't say no to anybody. Take a look at Medicare--nobody wants it to be touched. We have a $37 trillion hole with Medicare. The way this legislation is laid out, you need a PhD in mathematics to understand it. And the reform plan only goes out ten years. The tax increases would cover only about 6.5 to 7 years of spending. If you look at the raw spending costs of the bill, it comes out to about $1.5 trillion. These are the sorts of numbers people aren't seeing.
More Government Power to Control Bank Pay: Is Your Pay Next?
Dagen McDowell: This is worrying because it's particularly targeting one industry. Who's going to be next? If any business industry that does a lot of work with the government, they could potentially see salary caps? If this works to the government's advantage, you can be sure it won't just stop with the financial industry.
Ben Stein: The financial industry brought this on itself. Financial companies have been paying employees way too much for a long time. However, I don't think this has been true at the smaller non-money center banks. I'm not sure what the Fed is doing poking its big nose into how they compensate employees. It's very scary to think of the federal government regulating salaries, especially without legislation.
Matt McCall: All this started with the bigwigs and nobody really cared. It's now moving down to middle management at financial companies. Loan officers could come under the oversight of the government. They're going after risk, and wanting to try and prevent bad loans from going out. That makes some sense, but what's next? Do we go after surgeons who do risky surgeries? Is that all about risk? What industry will come next?
Adam Lashinsky: We can create this sinister tone about what industry is next, or talk about the facts. The Fed is going to look at banks with over a billion dollars in assets -- so that's about 700 of them. The Fed is going to regulate systemic risk in the financial system -- that's all they're looking at. What'll happen is that if a loan officer has the power to make loans in say, the $20 billion range that could cause significant damage to the financial system, the Fed could step is and ensure that person isn't taking undue risk and making a ridiculous amount of money while doing it. If a bank makes a loan to a small business down the street, the Fed couldn't care less.
CBO Gives Better Score on Health Bill After White House Meeting: Coincidence?
Ben Stein: This isn't a coincidence. Presidents try to browbeat bureaucrats all the time to give cost estimates in line with a President's agenda. What's unusual is having the CBO be in on it. If the CBO is caving into the demands of the White House, that is very worrisome, with a complete disregard for the Constitution.
Matt McCall: I'd be behind this change is they made a change to a plan that would actually be effective. Suddenly these numbers changed overnight. It seems like the CBO Director moved over and pushed those numbers down.
Dagen McDowell: These new savings the CBO is estimating really don't amount to a whole lot compared to the overall costs of the legislation if it passes. But the danger here is believing in the purity of government, and that government officials can't be persuaded by individuals of greater power.
Adam Lashinsky: I guess my nose isn't picking up the same scent here. There are checks and balances in place between the branches of government. It's insulting to say the CBO Director changed his mind because President Obama told him to. People are subject to persuasion, but if you sat down for a one-on-one with the president who walked you through his plan, you might change your position a bit.
Matt McCall: Rackspace Holdings (RAX)
Adam Lashinsky: Ford (F)
Ben Stein: iShares MSCI (EFA)
Forbes on FOX
On Saturday, September 19, 2009, David Asman was joined by Steve Forbes, Bill Baldwin, Neil Weinberg, Mike Ozanian, Quentin Hardy, Mike Maiello, Jack Gage, Evelyn Rusli, and Elizabeth MacDonald.
In Focus: Senate Health Care Bill Winners: Lawyers!
David Asman: The one winner in the Senate's new health care bill: lawyers! The loser: everyone else! That's the word from Steve Forbes.
Steve Forbes: Personal injury lawyers are to health care reform what viruses are to health care. They add $100-$300 billion to the cost of health care. They poison doctor patient relationships. Doctors know that everything they say and do can be held against them – what's it going to look like in a courtroom and the worst thing is the system doesn't bring justice to people who have been wronged. Only a fraction of them get those big awards we read about. So why not create health care panels and get the lawyers out so if something is wrong you get compensated no questions asked.
Quentin Hardy: Life is such a mystery. We're always looking for one cause to explain something. To me the relationship (between doctors and lawyers) would be poisoned because who is going to be inside which insurance bureaucracy. Is your doctor inside your plan? That poisons the relationship. And yes can we just kind of admit that it's a little more complex than that. Look, Obama said we should see about arbitration and new ways of deciding this. Same as Bush did. In his speech to Congress last week he talked about trying new models. The Republicans are interested in that. He is interested in that. I think we can work something out here.
Elizabeth MacDonald: By the way, the president said maybe defensive medicine. He wasn't definitive about it. He talked about one pilot project so he's just paying lip service in his speech last week to the joint session of congress about whether or not defensive medicine and tort costs do add to the bill. My point is why should taxpayers continue to be abused by lawyers profiting off the system? Taxpayers have been abused enough. Defensive medicine costs $230 billion. $30 billion in malpractice costs. Malpractice insurance premiums are coming down a bit but still not enough to help the taxpayers.
Neil Weinberg: Let's face it, the lawyers are one of the Democrats biggest contributors. They are not the ones that are going to go and bite that dog. But what I can tell you is you've got to keep this in perspective. Although these malpractice costs have been rising at about 12 percent a year since 1975, the fact of the matter is that they are a rounding error when you look at the $2.1 trillion we spend every year on medical costs. It's just not a real core problem.
Mike Ozanian: Five out of 6 doctors also say that they have to order more referrals, more procedures, and more tests because they don't want to get sued. I don't think it's just a rounding error because you have to figure you look at neurosurgeons – malpractice insurance costs them over $200,000 a year. Those costs get passed onto their patients.
Bill Baldwin: The tort outrage makes great copy and here's my favorite one. Two sisters were abused by their half brother - who is responsible? Well according to a recent jury verdict, the person responsible is the pediatrician who has to pay $11 million. Great news copy, but I think it's a small part of the big problem. If you want to save on medical costs look at another proposal from Steve Forbes. He wants to have patients with skin in the game with high deductible savings accounts for health. That is much more powerful than getting rid of the lawyers.
Flipside: The Economy Needs More 'Czars'
David Asman: To the "czar" wars! Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle now taking on the president telling him to cool it with the "czars," but Neil Weinberg says our economy needs even more of them?
Neil Weinberg: There is nothing wrong with "czars." It's really just a bureaucrat. The only thing we really don't like about czars is that it sounds sort of Russian which is almost as bad as sounding French. The fact of the matter is that it's not that we have too many "czars"… it's that we have the wrong kind of "czars." Why don't we have a "czar" against corruption? A "czar" against tax increases? Why not a "czar" who would look over cost benefit and make sure that we're not implementing all kinds of stupid policy which does not benefit us as much as the cost?
Jack Gage: We need fewer "czars." You've got upwards of 30-35 different "czars" running various policy making divisions of the executive branch of government. These people have not been elected. They have not been confirmed or vetted by Congress and it's bad news. Obama has gotten a very slow start with his "czars." They are not making a lot of progress. That's the only good news to come out of these appointees.
Mike Maiello: Smart people who are experts in their field doing work in the public service. That is totally American. What I like about it is that it's out there and it's public. I'd rather have a "czar" that I know about working than a bunch of energy CEOs meeting with the last administration to design energy policy in secret.
Elizabeth MacDonald: How public is it when there is no Senate confirmation hearing? There are no FBI background checks on the "czars." What troubles me about this debate is that both sides of the aisle have appointed "czars." We don't know if they are lobbyists in government uniforms.
Quentin Hardy: George Bush had 30 "czars" – AIDS, abstinence, bird flu, birth control, drugs, budget, health, homeless, religious studies. They come from the outside. They're actually private sector guys. They are not bureaucrats. To me bureaucrat means "go through, come up the ladder" to get confirmed. These guys are from the private sector and have a different perspective. There can be a lot of value in that.
Steve Forbes: They ("czars") don't have congressional oversight. This whole thing is "bizarre" you might say. That's why you have Cabinet secretaries. That's why you have White House assistants. If you want to bring people in, pay them a dollar a year. But to give people online responsibility and not have them accountable to Congress -- that's why Congress is up in arms. Unlike a Cabinet secretary who knows where the budget comes from -- these guys treat the chairman like peasants and treat taxpayers like serfs.
White House Plan to Takeover Student Loans: Backdoor Plan to Pay for Everyone's College Education?
David Asman: First it was financial companies. Then it was auto companies. Now it's college loans? The White House is pushing to takeover the nation's entire student loan program. Private banks out, Uncle Sam in. Steve Forbes says "Read between the lines. The government's planning a cradle-to-college welfare state."
Steve Forbes: Sure it is. Over 10 years this will add another trillion dollars to government liabilities. They say the banking sector is making money off this with the guarantees and all of that but the idea that the government can do anything more efficiently than the private sector even if its subsidized – just look at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Amtrak. So we have to say no. This is part of Obama's plan to make college education another entitlement – a freebie – in the next few years. Very nice but unaffordable.
Quentin Hardy: Look we value higher education and think poor people should have access to it. So what did we do? We gave a whole lot of money to the private sector to make student loans. They then bundled them and leveraged them and traded them from Chicago to Warsaw and made a mess of it. We're talking about cutting them out of it and giving loans directly to the students. To me that's admitting that cutting out a few layers of waste and fraud and bureaucracy is good.
Bill Baldwin: I've got a message for Quentin. The trouble with you and your "socialist" friends is that whenever you see something big you want to nationalize it. Now the whole theory that the government can make it cheaper because it doesn't have to make a profit is absurd. Look at the Postal Service. Somehow the Postal Service can't compete with FedEx even though they have billions of our taxpayer dollars ladled into it.
Evelyn Rusli: The government is going to be involved regardless. They are the lender of last resort currently for college loans. Now when we look at the current system there is a lot of waste. When we give these subsidies to lenders that is a huge amount of waste right there. This reform will actually cut that out and create $87 billion in savings that will actually go to paying loans for other students who are low income for example. That's actually helpful for the system.
Mike Ozanian: I don't think this poll matters to the president. I think in the president's heart he believes in socialism. But the problem with taxpayer subsidies is they always cause the price to go up. Look what happened when we subsidized ethanol. The price of corn and other farm products shot through the roof. That's the main problem and a lot of the money is wasted. Over then last 20 years enrollment in colleges and universities went up 40 percent but guess what full time staffers increased 100 percent. They have environmental protection people. What does that have to do with teaching people?
Informer: "Rude" Stocks Making Outrageous Money!
David Asman: They're more "rude" than Kanye West, Serena Williams ,and Joe Wilson's bad behaviors all rolled up into one but they'll make you a good deal of money.
Mike Maiello: Viacom (VIA.B)
Bill Baldwin: Altria (MO)
Jack Gage: Nucor (NUE)
Evelyn Rusli: Diageo (DEO)
Clunkers & Home Bailouts Prove $856 Billion Health Plan Will Cost More?
Jonathan Hoenig, CapitalistPig Asset Management: Well, we'll end up like our existing entitlement programs, broke. You have to be on mushrooms to believe that a government-run healthcare program is going to end up on time, efficient or under budget. Look at Medicare. It started out as $60 million in the '60's and it's hundreds of billions today. If you total up all these programs we're on the hook for non-funded liabilities in the trillions. In promoting healthcare, the president is killing the last parts of the private market and enslaving Americans for generations to come.
Julian Epstein, Democratic strategist: The Democrats are proposing a pay as you go proposal which Republicans never did. These are crocodile tears from conservatives who never paid for the Iraq War or tax cuts. If Democrats want to pay for it, you have the CBO able to enforce it to look at what is happening with TARP. All the conservatives said it would be a waste. Now we have 32 banks on the mark for paying -- repaying at least $130 billion worth of TARP funds it depends on how you manage it. If you manage it well and cut the waste, which the Democrats want to do, in the health care system, 30 percent is wasted on overhead on a government-run Medicaid and Medicare only 4 percent are on overhead. The government programs are more efficient.
Tracy Byrnes, FOX Business Network: Half the banks were forced to take TARP money. TARP is not a good comparison. You have health care that will be pushed through regardless. We are all going to get burned in the end because it is going to cost more. They're going to pile on crap we don't need and you're going to be nickeled and dimed. Already we're talking about slicing off your flexible spending account, penalties on pulling money out of your medical savings account, all this to cover the cost and they will do it without letting anybody know and you will feel it in your pocket. The American consumer is going to pay the price of this medical bill, which we don't need in the first place.
Jonas Max Ferris, MaxFunds.com: That would only be the tip of the iceberg. The thing to compare it to is not the Mickey Mouse things. It is the Medicare drug bill passed under the Bush administration that was supposed to be a few hundred billion and is up to a trillion because. That's what happens when you don't pay for things and use government estimates. I wish it was just nickel and dime stuff. It should be dimes and quarters and dollars because that's how you have to pay for it. There is no efficiency game to save trillions from the system without cutting existing benefits in Medicare to pay for it.
Wayne Rogers, Wayne Rogers & Co: Well, I think the proof of the fact is that there is no government program, in spite of what you say about TARP, you're wrong, but there is no government program that has ever not exceeded whatever estimates they have made. If this was so easy to fix, why don't they fix Medicare? Just start with that. Fix that first, then you can have some kind of plan. They can't fix that.
John Layfield, www.layfieldenergy.com: Government has never done anything right! They're talking about paying for stuff? They're not paying for the Iraq war! I hate to tell you that, they're still not paying for it. They're extending the Afghanistan war. Somebody, a Republican, who is going to run against him next election will have it in the bag because these guys are not paying for anything!
Cut Off Government Funding for All Acorn Type Organizations?
John Layfield: I'm saying cut them all off, especially the ones with ties back to the government. You have a lot of community organizations that do well, but these community organizers, unless they're going to run for President are useless out there, except if they're going to be corrupt. Giving money to ACORN and they're giving you back votes, that's where corruption starts.
Wayne Rogers: The devil is in the details again. I mean, would you cut out the United Way, for example? No. That's the well-run one. You have to regulate it in the proper way. If they had to make audits and have an audited statement and go before the Congress every year or before the IRS to get their 501c3 qualification, if they had to do those kinds of things, that would be fine. Then you could have legitimate organizations running quite well. And if you allow those organizations that are well run to prove themselves, then that's fine. Just don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Jonathan Hoenig: Wayne, if you want to support United Way, then write a check? I support diabetes, and a lot of organizations. But why is the government writing any of these people a check in the first place? The role of government, why do we have it? It is not to fund community organizations not to protect me in a community organization.
Julian Epstein: There are restrictions on the use of federal money for lobbying. What we need is more accountability and more audits. There are tons of religious-based organizations that are doing an enormous amount of work in communities and there is a bipartisan agreement that they do good work and more effectively than the government can do it. We need more accountability. Wayne is exactly right.
Tracy Byrnes: The current audit system is weak and I say that as someone who has been here. When you do the audits on non-profits, unfortunately, somehow or another, we get governmental involvement and the next thing we know things slip through. We need transparency and stricter rules.
President Tells Labor Group He'll Work to Create Union Jobs
Tracy Byrnes: Unions are not needed. Our labor conditions have improved. Now all they do is promote excessive costs to America. What we're doing to China is awful. We're killing free trade. You find me a union that is actually working. The teachers union, government unions all have under-funded pension liabilities. None are making money. What is the point these days? I don't know.
Julian Epstein: It was actually the health care costs killing people more than the union costs. One of the biggest reasons we have the economic problems is real wages didn't rise under the Bush years. Finally we have a president sticking up for working people. The Chinese instance wasn't a question about fair trade practices. They were stealing jobs through unfair trade practices. Finally we have a President that is standing up for working people, not just on health care but on unfair trade practices as the Bush administration only sometimes did.
Jonathan Hoenig: I'm sick of the Marxist finesse. His job is as President to all the citizens, not people who work with their hands.
Wayne Rogers: I think that's a separate question, really, the question is if you're trying to create jobs in this country in a time of stress, like we are, economic stress, the majority of the jobs in the United States are created by small businesses, not by big business, and Tracy was right to say big business, big labor came as a result of big business and big everything is not good. It destroys competition. It is a question of how to solve this is really not a union question at all. It is a question of getting tremendous entrepreneurship and taxes to small businesses to create job.
Jonas Max Ferris: Unions don't serve the purpose of country. There are gains to the workers. They are stealing the gains. Unions are allowed to be there but they're not serving a purpose. Tariffs are a bad way to solve a problem with another country.
What Do I Need to Know?
Jonas Max Ferris: Another Internet company got bought for hundreds of millions, not 1999 money but the Internet boom is back. This will last, because money isn't piled into internet stocks like commodities. So I'm recommending the Dow Jones internet index. This is not an area of speculation with the masses. That's ok that did is up a lot at this point. Buy FDN.
Jonathan Hoenig: Well, Yu-Gi-Oh! is the highest bought card game at the moment. It is one stock that I own in my fund and it could do very well. Buy KNM.
John Layfield: I was wrong about Federer winning the U.S. Open last week, but I wont be wrong about Tiger Woods will win the FedEx cup and bet on FedEx once the economy comes back.
Tracy Byrnes: Oprah Winfrey's viewership is down, under 7 million. Look, she alienated a lot of women when she chose Obama over Hillary and alienated Republicans when she chose Obama over the right. Now she's starting to feel it. Keep your political views to yourself if you're trying to sell a product.
Wayne Rogers: Well, you're going to get a health care bill whether you like it or not. It will be terrible. It will be a mish mash but you will get one. Congress is determined to do something. I would suggest you get some of your money, put it in biotech if you need it and by the way, John Layfield, you're right. Tiger is going to win.