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Bulls & Bears

This week, Brenda Buttner was joined by Gary B. Smith, Tobin Smith, Eric Bolling, Jonas Max Ferris and Caroline Heldman.

Battle Raging Over Tax Hikes as Job Worries Mount

Eric Bolling, Fox Business Network: Congress has to extend the tax cuts. If they don't, we'd see the total destruction of the job market. The Bush tax cuts were tremendously beneficial to small businesses. If you're a small business, be it under or over $250,000, it looks like you're going to see your taxes going up. If that happens, and businesses lose that money, do you think they're going to hire people? Instead of looking to expand your business or make new investments, you're looking at how much your taxes are going to get hiked. There's just no incentive to take on new hires or invest more in your business.

Caroline Heldman, Ph.D., Occidental College Professor: Letting the Bush tax cuts expire for income over $250,000 a year only affects two percent of small businesses. And President Obama is planning to provide relief to those small businesses to ease the burden. The number of actual number of Americans who'll be affected by letting the tax cuts expire for the wealthy is an extremely small number of people. It's not like we've seen an incredible expansion of jobs and economic growth as a result of these Bush tax cuts. Letting them expire, at least for the wealthy, is essential if we plan to get our deficits under control.

Tobin Smith, NBT Media: Of the total number of small businesses in the United States, about 70 percent of them are owned by people who report their income tax as a sub-S corporation. Those small businesses, depending on how much money they make, could be faced with a considerably higher tax burden. Let's not forget that about 5-8 percent of Americans pay 70 percent of the taxes. So these tax hikes would provide disproportionate levels of pain. But what'll be even worse for the economy is the hike in the capital gains rate. I think we'll see a lot of companies selling off stocks as they try to take in gains before the hike goes into effect.

Jonas Max Ferris, Maxfunds.com: This will be one of the biggest tax hikes in history because it's one of the biggest tax cuts getting reversed. I think we're mixing up the debate here though. There's the argument that tax cuts for the wealthy should expire, and then there's the increasing likelihood that the Bush tax cuts that benefited a lot of people earning less than $250,000 will expire too. This will affect a large percentage of taxpayers. Though there could be a benefit to this. The country is going down a long path to ruin because of our inability to cut spending. This makes foreign investors and other markets nervous. But raising taxes shows we're willing to get our fiscal house in order, and in turn, brings stronger confidence in our economy long-term.

Gary B. Smith, TheChartman.com: This administration seems to be tone deaf on what people really want and think. And it seems incapable of looking back in history to see what has happened when we raised taxes versus when we lowered taxes. We have evidence of this almost in reverse. The Reagan tax cuts took effect in January 1983. Up until then, economic activity was at a standstill. When the tax cuts were announced, GDP growth took off at over 5 percent and 7.5 percent in 1984. And of course in the fifteen years after those tax cuts were enacted, we saw the greatest period of economic growth our economy has ever seen. If we let the Bush tax cuts expire, there'll be hell to pay economically.

Financial Reform Giving Unions More Power in Boardrooms

Gary B. Smith: Unions are effectively a cartel. Unions control labor supply in order to jack up prices. They're extremely effective at that, and union employees make, on average, roughly 5 percent to 10 percent more than non-union workers. But look at, for example, union jobs in the manufacturing sector. They've obviously gone down considerably. And they've destroyed the auto industry, airline industry, etc. Employing union workers is like having a big tax on business, and it's something we just don't need.

Caroline Heldman, Ph.D.: Corporations play a larger role in our everyday lives than they ever have. I'm happy to see that these organizations with a great track record of actually representing employees, safety, wages, etc. getting a spot at the table. And they deserve a spot on the board of companies they're invested in. I don't think the founding fathers every could have imagined giving corporations personhood or the right to free speech. Now, more than ever, we need actual citizens represented on the board of these companies.

Eric Bolling: The unions have priced themselves out of every job market. They did so with the auto industry, airline industry, etc. Now they seem focused on the teaching market. You want free markets, you want free flowing capitalism, you want to have a corporate boardroom that's making the best decisions to keep the company in business, then the last people you want in there are union representatives. It would be a terrible idea.

Tobin Smith: These unions aren't going to own enough shares to make a difference in the overall governance of a company. Maybe, just maybe, they'd actually see how a real business runs. I'm on the board of multiple companies. When you're involved in a board and making decisions, you have to make imperfect calls on imperfect information. Maybe these union reps would see how many times their goals are frequently bad for the outcome of a company and its profitability.

Jonas Max Ferris: Owning shares is a good way to get into the boardroom. A lot of people on the board are put there by other members of management looking for a pay raise or more influence. So it's not like the current boardroom system is all that wonderful. But unions have been dying for a long time, and haven't been useful like they were 70 years ago when there were major labor issues. At the end of the day, it's the corporation that makes the decision for what direction to take the company. And I don't think we'll see some undue influence by union reps making those calls.

Oil Companies Moving Rigs Out of U.S. Over Drilling Moratorium

Eric Bolling: After the Obama administration said we're going to put the moratorium back on these 33 offshore drills, the Justice Department said "no" you can't do that. Now, the administration is trying another avenue, and trying to halt the drilling of 33 new wells. Oil companies and offshore operators and saying "forget it," packing up shop and moving outside of waters under U.S. jurisdiction. They're going to go to other parts of the Gulf, off the coast of Brazil, etc. This will kill jobs, and to keep them, you need more drilling.

Caroline Heldman, Ph.D.: Another spill of this magnitude could happen tomorrow. We learned this quickly when the oil executives testified in front of Congress. This is something we need to take seriously. The Obama administration is doing that. The 33 rigs affected by this decision hit 3 percent of rigs in the Gulf. I think that's a temporary loss we can take to make sure another disaster like this does not happen. There's no reason to believe the White House and Interior Department would extend this moratorium past the pre-designated 6 months.

Gary B. Smith: This moratorium is very significant. Not only is it giving huge incentive for oil companies to take offshore drilling to other waters, but if the moratorium became permanent, that would affect 120,000 jobs in Louisiana alone. The energy sector accounts for 16 percent of Louisiana's economy, not to mention the significant role fishing plays for the state's economy, about 5 percent. This moratorium is cutting your nose to spite your face.

Jonas Max Ferris: We have to stop acting like the drilling business was all hunky dory, and if it wasn't for this moratorium, everything would be fine. BP screwed up offshore drilling. Just give notice to the math on this. BP is looking at a $20 billion liability for this spill. Outside of the big oil players, this spill would bankrupt a company. The math just doesn't work out; the risk isn't worth the reward. It doesn't matter if you were pumping 100,000 barrels a day out of a well. It's too costly. So I actually think we'll see a lot of the smaller scale oil companies avoiding offshore drilling from now on, despite any moratoriums.

Tobin Smith: We have drilled 45,000 wells in the Gulf. Some of them have been profitable, others haven't been. So it's not like all offshore drilling makes money and employs people. That said, banning offshore drilling would be like banning all aircraft from flying after one plane crash. This spill is an anomaly. We have to stop trying to save everybody from risk, but unfortunately this administration is bent on doing that.

Predictions

Tobin Smith: Apple shrugs off iPhone glitch! "AAPL" hits $300 by year end

Gary B. Smith: Goldman laughs at financial reform! "GS" settles 30 percent higher by '11

Jonas Max Ferris: Insure yourself! "KIE" claims 25 percent gains in 1 year

Eric Bolling: Save the trees... no more bills! "IP" prints up 30 percent profits in 1 year

Cavuto on Business

This week, Neil Cavuto was joined by Charles Payne, Charlie Gasparino, Dagen McDowell and Adam Lashinsky.

Debate Raging Over How Many Jobs Stimulus Has "Created"

Charles Payne, WStreet.com: The White House should go for broke and say if it wasn't for stimulus, unemployment would be at 100 percent. Let's just go for it right now because the numbers they're making up, it's disingenuous and assaulting the intelligence.

Charlie Gasparino, Fox Business Network: It's savvy PR. It's impossible to disprove, isn't it? The notion that we've saved jobs, how do you disprove that? I think that's why this is obviously a cooked up political gambit. One of the things we can prove is that this administration said that if we did the stimulus package, if we blew 800 billion dollars, we would stop unemployment at 8.5 percent and this time, and by now, unemployment would be at around 7.5 percent and they were completely wrong on that. So, if you can't believe those numbers why would you believe these?

Dagen McDowell, Fox Business Network: Another fallacy from is that now more people want more of the same. They want to extend unemployment benefits, they want hundreds of billions of dollars in exactly what we spent money on last February.

Adam Lashinsky, Fox Business contributor: We in the media, on television in particular, are experts at repeating numbers over and over again until people start to believe them. The 2.5 million loss since the stimulus began: how relevant is that compared to how many jobs were lost before the stimulus began.

Sen. Chris Dodd: We Won't See Results of Bill Until Next Crisis

Charlie Gasparino: The bottom line is this: The notion that a bank could be bailed out, which I believe caused the crisis… because if you think you're going to be bailed out you could take more risk is still in this bill. It's even worse because it's codified into law.

Charles Payne: Listen, they name these things one thing but they always mean something else. I don't think it was ever designed to do the all the things that they tout now. It was always designed to punish the banks, put them into their place and to show them who's boss. The fact is, we don't know what the heck this thing is going to do, but we wanted to show the banks who are boss and we did that.

Adam Lashinsky: Obvious another crisis is not only possible, but likely. Senator Dodd is just stating the obvious. I just want to point out that we had a mechanism for taking over banks all along and it worked fairly well. The ability to control other financial institutions is what this legislation, I hope, is going to get us and that's going to be extremely helpful.

Dagen McDowell: Uncertainty hasn't been cleared up at all. Economist Bob Shiller called this a plan for a plan. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce there are going to be more than 500 new rules created, made by all these different regulators. Compare that to 16 for Sarbanes Oxley. So, if anybody tells you they know how this is going to impact everybody in the country, every financial institution, they have no idea and we don't even know whose hands this really winds up in.

Report: Driver Error Was Cause of Some Toyota Crashes

Dagen McDowell: I'm not above going I told you so: I told you so. All along there had to be some element of driver error and this report does not completely exonerate Toyota. Nevertheless, let it be a warning to the people in Washington that they better shut up and do something because these hearings don't do any good for anybody except foment possibly hysteria like the straw berg dancing hysteria where everybody was caught up in this. Did they make it worse? They need to look in the mirror and ask themselves that question.

Charles Payne: Were they over the top in part because they voted to take or, the majority of them or part of taking over Chrysler, General Motors? Certainly, if people aren't buying Toyota, maybe that helps these guys out. Overall, all of these congressional hearings have been embarrassment.

Charlie Gasparino: As journalists we should take a lot of what comes out of Washington with a grain of salt. Particularly this, congress and the president had a huge conflict of interest. They were owners, the federal government was owners of the big U.S. auto companies bailing them out and owning shares and essentially attacking a competitor. So, I guess the lesson you learn is look for those conflicts of interest and there was a huge one here.

Adam Lashinsky: I suppose that they'll be able to get their good name back, but not quickly and by the way, they didn't get their good name quickly. It took them decades to become Toyota as we knew and he respected them. Congress will never get its good name back. They act like buffoons all the time. It's their job to ask the questions and our job to question what they say. I think that everyone did their job, at least as you could have expected everyone to do their job.

Financial Reform Stock Winners

Charles Payne: EZCORP (EZPW)

Adam Lashinsky: Royal Bank of Canada (RY)

Forbes on Fox

On Saturday, July 17, 2010, David Asman was joined by Steve Forbes, Rich Karlgaard, Stephane Fitch, Mike Ozanian, Quentin Hardy, Victoria Barret, and Elizabeth MacDonald.

In Focus: D.C. Tells Companies to Get Off Their Cash; But Are D.C.'s Policies the Reason They're Not?

David Asman: To the scene right now in Washington and the fight over its prize nut, only this nut is $1.8 trillion in cash and counting. Companies are stashing it. Democrats are demanding they spend it. So which side just doesn't get it?

Steve Forbes: It's typical of Washington that, if you want to conserve cash in a time of uncertainty, they go berserk. They think cash is for spending and wasting. Companies are being hit by higher taxes, numerous new regulations, and a lot of uncertainty about the healthcare bill and now the financial reform bill. So they're just being cautious because they don't know what the rules of the game are. If Washington stopped the binge spending, didn't raise taxes and stabilized the dollar, they'd put the capital to work.

Quentin Hardy: I'd like to see the evidence that Democrats are calling on companies to spend so much. It seems to me that the real problem here, and the companies know it, is the banks. The companies are holding on to money because they still remember 2008. They don't trust the banking system with good reason, because the banks aren't lending and are still trying to earn back by borrowing money for basically nothing and buying treasuries. They're trying to earn their way back to health. When they are healthy, they can lend again. Then businesses might let go of the cash. It doesn't really have a lot to do with hiring or growing. It's about protecting themselves against other bank failures.

Rich Karlgaard: There's a psychological element here caused by this distrust. The economist Keynes talked about the animal spirits. We're seeing a lack of animal spirits right now. When people control $1.8 trillion in cash and they're feeling that way, that's when you get this blocked-up capital strike.

Stephane Fitch: Companies are scared and nervous. That's really the problem here. Big companies are terrified. They've just come through a difficult period. They may have some beef with Washington. But their central problem is they're just afraid. It's a lot like what we had in the 1930's. Fortunately, though, Washington can do something smart at this moment to get these companies spending that money. What they ought to do is offer any company willing to pay 90 percent of its net income out to shareholders a total walk from the corporate income tax. That's how we tax Real Estate Investment Trusts, and that would work for big companies. That was Jimmy Carter's idea. He wasn't smart enough to actually implement it in the '70s, but he should have.

Elizabeth MacDonald: I agree with Stephane that companies are terrified about what they're going to be hearing out of DC. I talk to them. I talk to bank executives, I talk to small businesses, and they're scared. It's about as scary as hearing Mel Gibson is on the phone. The reason why the banks are sitting on capital and not lending, according to Vikram Pandit who runs Citigroup, is the new capital standards—they have to sit on it. They're being required to sit on capital and they're being required to do all sorts of things with financial reform. Everybody wanted Wall Street to be reformed, that's not the question. But was it this kind of reform, with 12 or 13 new agencies, with regulations still being written by these agencies, and with nobody knowing what's coming down the road?

Flipside: Extending Unemployment Benefits Is Best Stimulus

Asman: Congress again getting ready to extend jobless benefits for the third time just this year. The extension will cost nearly $34 billion, plunging us further into debt. But Stephane, you say that the debt will actually stimulate the economy. Now explain your Flipside to your boss, who is listening very carefully.

Fitch: Look, they're a fine way to stimulate the economy right now. By the way, Steve and I both know, we've sent coworkers packing around here, and we wouldn't want to cut them off. That's not what the debate is about. The question is, at this moment, right now, is it a good idea to send unemployment checks out? The answer is yes. There are lots of people on the unemployment lines but there just aren't the jobs. You have to keep people spending. Don't put a hit on this economy by taking all those millions of folks and saying "Oh, you're totally broke now. You can't spend." Bad idea.

Forbes: By that logic, if we had triple the unemployment rate, my gosh, what great stimulus that would be for the economy! These things are absurd. If you want to make the argument that we need unemployment benefits to get people over a tough time, I can buy that. But if you want to really stimulate the economy, reduce tax rates, suspend healthcare, stabilize the dollar—we've been through it time and again. They refuse to do it. They just want to gin up the spending and more regulation and taxation. That stuff doesn't work. Stephane, it doesn't work.

Hardy: These people are not some kind of welfare parasites. You don't stop working and immediately become a parasite on society on your 91st day of unemployment. You are looking for work. Extending these benefits enables people to search farther in a field for scarce jobs. It enables them to feel a little bit better about whether their kids are going eat next week. It helps their animal spirits, so that they can go out and send out that next resume, get that next job, get that retraining, and look good in the interview. These are positive things we need to do. By the way, they cost 5 percent to 10 percent as much as the cost of extending the disastrous Bush tax cuts.

Karlgaard: Quentin makes a powerful moral argument and I can hear it in his voice. I believe it, but it's not stimulus. Stimulus permanently changes behavior, creating long-term incentives. The way you do that is streamline the regulation, lower taxes, make everything simpler. Yes, have a President who is not hostile to business. All of these things would be real stimulus. Let's debate unemployment insurance on its own merits. Maybe Quentin wins that argument, but it's not stimulus.

Ozanian: If we are going to increase unemployment benefits, I'd rather that instead of taxing people more and taking more of their money, we end the farm subsidiaries for the rich farmers and stop paying people to make the solar panels they can't make money selling. In that case, we're not punishing taxpayers more.

Barret: Quentin is right. These aren't lazy people for the most part and they deserve a break. The problem is that this administration isn't giving them one. It's all about "Washington is the answer and we're going to hold your hand." It's not about stoking confidence and energy in the business community, which is where jobs have to come from. We have seen many months of government stimulus that simply aren't working. It's time for this administration to start doing things for businesses so that they will actually hire. The people need jobs, not more checks and not another job search that doesn't go anywhere.

Is D.C. Putting Its Political Agenda Above Concerns of Taxpayers, And Using Taxpayer Dollars to Do It?

Asman: To Phoenix, Arizona, where a hearing is set for Thursday. The Obama is administration is lawyering-up and hitting you with the bill, even though most of you are on this side of this pricy political fight. Most Americans support Arizona's new law to cut down on illegal immigration, but the Obama administration is pulling out all the stops, suing Arizona and sticking you with the bill. How will this blow back on them Steve?

Forbes: They did it for political reasons. They thought they'd demagogue the issue. If they'd been serious about reform they would have worked with Republicans and others a year-and-a-half ago to try to craft a bill or a series of bills. They see this is an election thing—they can get up a Latino vote and help themselves out. By the way, it's not the first time Obama has done this. When he was a Senator, he helped sabotage John McCain's efforts to craft a bipartisan reform bill. This is politics pure and simple. The taxpayers are paying for it in cash and not dealing with the real problem.

Hardy: Governing by polls is politically dangerous long term, too. This is as American as a super-sized slice of subsidized, fructose apple pie. This is just the old federal-state argument. California had marijuana laws that Bush and Clinton didn't like and fought. You sort out where the federal begins and the state ends and vice versa. That's all that is going on.

MacDonald: You can't turn this into a philosophical Jesuitical argument. This is serious. People are getting killed in Arizona by drug lords. The casualties of the drug war are more than the casualties of Afghanistan and Iraq combined, according to some estimates. A federal lawsuit is not immigration reform. The President promised immigration reform before the end of this year. Harry Reid promised it too, and it's not happening. Instead they're filing a lawsuit.

Fitch: Liz is right to lecture the administration. They've let us down on immigration. I agree with Quentin 100 percent here. This is just one of the ugly little things you have to do—you have to sort this stuff out. This is what you call the "Cost of Freedom." I'll take this system over the Chinese deal any day.

Barret: I kind of disagree with Steve that this is purely political, because this administration isn't very good at listening to polls. A poll came out recently saying that only 13 percent of Americans think this administration is helping them. Instead, Obama is following his deep-rooted beliefs and not necessarily listening to those who put him in office or to taxpayers. It will eventually hurt him. He is not dealing with the fundamental question of what we need to do with our immigration policies, which need major reform. This is a short-cut, just political theater.

Informer: Stocks That Will Soar When Companies' Earnings Are Reported

Ozanian: Annaly Capital Management (NLY)

Fitch: Bemis (BMS)

Barret: EMC (EMC)

Cashin' In

Forcing Private Companies to Give Employees an IRA: Jobs Killer?

Tracy Byrnes, Fox Business Network: Money to offer benefits, and why are we constantly being told what to do? Administration fees, I.R.S. Filings if you don't hire outside firm to administer the plans and that costs money. There are costs that come up in the course of business. They need to back out.

Christian Dorsey, director at the Economy Policy Institute: Let's put facts on this. If you are a company that offers direct deposit or a payroll service that does the payroll or you have the payroll software, this is going to cause you no change to what you are doing right now. It will add zero costs. If you are one of the 20 percent of the companies out there that don't do that and you have less than 10 employees, you are exempted from the requirement. The costs are born by the business holder.

Jonathan Hoenig, www.capitalistpig.com: There is a requirement, Christian, to offer it, no? The government is forcing companies to offer that. I have to tell you, that bothers me. Can't employers just be employers? Must they be tools of the nanny states offering all benefits -- I mean, I love it. The administration only thinks about the benefits. They never seem to think about the cost. Tracy is right. You know, maybe if you're Microsoft who has thousands of employees, it's a line item. If you are the small business, no wonder people find excuses not to hire a full-time employee. Hire people on a freelance basis. The cost, liability is too much.

Wayne Rogers, Wayne Rogers & Co: If somebody is qualified for a job and they're good for that job, you will hire them regardless. It doesn't matter. This is not a make-or-break situation. The fundamental one is one that Jonathan alluded to, the fact that the federal government is again telling you how you must do something and interfering in the business as opposed to saying hey, the way you do it now -- by the way, most small companies have 401(k) plans. In the 401(k) plan, small company is contributing part of that in many cases to the health and benefit of the employer. In the case of an IRA, that's on your burden yourself. So, you as an employer or employee, I mean, can set up your own IRA. You can do it at any time. Why should you be forced to do it? That's what is wrong.

Uncle Sam Made Over $20 Billion From Sin Taxes in 2009

Jonathan Hoenig: The first thing Obama did was triple the tobacco tax. Some smoke and make more than $50,000 a year and some people like to, I don't know, maybe have a beer now and then. I don't consider this a sin. This is a choice. Everyone has a choice on their own accord. They got to come in and bless this behavior or diss the behavior is overstepping of the role.

Christian Dorsey: Seriously, I know people are concerned where the government is making a moral judgment, but there is a societal cost to all of this. A beer is artificially cheap. You know, sugary sodas are artificially cheap. Cigarettes cause health problems for the wider society. We add the taxes to the products so that they can help -- Tax on can of beer is 10 cents. The cost to society from alcohol consumption is $1 a bottle.

Tracy Byrnes: The big picture story here is we are broke and they have to figure out how to come up with money. I know the beloved pack of gum I buy every day is next on the list and they will tax that, too, because we'll stay under the umbrella of we're not raising taxes on the middle class. We're not going to do it directly.

Wayne Rogers: I think you are missing the point here. Yes, obviously, the government, the federal, state and local will tax whatever there is you can call it stealth tax, that nobody is outraged by the fact that you are taxing something that other people view as sinful. You are absolutely right. To impose that on the citizens to say oh, we can get away with this. We the federal government or we the government can get away with this. Because we'll tell you how to run your life. You can't smoke or do these things because these are bad for your health. We are going to manage health and everything about you. We no longer will let you have freedoms. You can't do what you need to do because we need cash to do that. The fact of the matter is at the state level, the plan at the level, states will go broke. They will use every possibility and everything they can to tax. If they get away with a sales tax, they will do it. They'll tax the clothes and your underwear before they're through.

$20 Million Spent on Stimulus Signs; Waste of Taxpayer Money?

Tracy Byrnes: First, why do I need a sign to tell me my road is being fixed? When it's not. Potholes everywhere. When the stimulus money is gone, do the signs stay? What are they telling us? They're telling us they are wasting our money on signs. And shovel-ready projects going nowhere and are going to disappear.

Christian Dorsey: You all have been, you all have been having for the better part of a year-and-a-half, where are the jobs? I don't see the jobs? What can be more obvious than a huge sign on the roadway or project showing you where the jobs are. How can you fault the administration?

Jonathan Hoenig: We heard from day one that the way to get the economy moving again was to have the government spend money. Put money back in the economy. What do they say get the money out there. Jumpstart the economy. We spend a heck of a lot of money, Christian. Where are the jobs? Unemployment is near 10 percent. The philosophy was flawed from the start. The notion that government spending creates wealth. Give me the private sector to do that. If it's $10,000 for a sign, believe me, it's hundreds of billions wasted on green energy and the other progressive programs.

Wayne Rogers: This is not creating jobs. In Michigan, they are getting money to create 800 jobs but it's to a Korean company to make batteries. Not a US company – a Korean company. I read a book about "Start up nation" about Israel where the government collaborates with people to create jobs and real businesses in the country. Not to create foreign businesses who get jobs or not. Immaterial. You're not creating a real job to help the nation.

What Do I Need to Know?

Tracy Byrnes: People have a credit score below 599 so you can't get a car loan or house loan or a credit card. At the end of the day, this is good for the economy. Clean up your own personal financial household and it helps us in the end.

Wayne Rogers: You won't get a double-dip recessions for sure. Earnings are up by Citigroup and GE this week. Ford motor company (F) is a solid company. You can get to accumulate those stocks.

Jonathan Hoenig: With apologies to Whoopi, Mel Gibson is trashed and send him back to Australia! While he's there, he should pick up shares of BNZ, the New Zealand dollar.