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IN FOCUS: Will lawmakers' calls to abandon banks hiking fees make a recovery in that sector longer and harder?
STEVE FORBES: In essence he was, and the Washington you thought would be in the business of not encouraging runs on banks, that is what 2008 was all about, and Jamie Dimon, chairman of JP Morgan, got it right. If you don't allow somebody to charge for soda in the restaurant they are going to charge more for the burger. So banks are raising fees because with all these regulations, they have taken out $15 billion of bank revenue. They have to make it up somewhere or they contract. Neither one is good for the economy.
MARK TATGE: You are absolutely right. The problem here, I think, is very simple. Earnings here are up at the banks but revenues are down. Banks are trying to recapture that revenue, but they are doing it in the wrong way. They are basically raising fees on consumers who can least afford it. There is a really big problem here David, in that the system is a federally insured deposits, banks are encouraged to take risks with these deposits, pay big bonuses to their CEOs and then when they get in trouble the tax payer and the consumer are who pay for this. So the system is broken here and something needs to be done about it.
DENNIS KNEALE: You know Democrats and Republicans both are bashing the banks over this. I just want to say this is the worst, most cynical kind of attack on any business. You know when the government comes along and wallops your revenue in this one line of business by 50 percent you owe it to your shareholders to go out and make up that revenue. Now if the politicians who did this, I think this is a bipartisan effort, decided they could do it without fees being raised elsewhere, they are both fibbing or they are even worse and lamer on economic policy then we ever feared.
KYM MCNICHOLAS: Oh seriously, I mean these banks can certainly afford these fees. I mean take Citibank for example, $20.6 billion in revenues it raked in in the latest quarter. Now BofA a little bit of a different story, yes it did report a loss in the latest quarter due to some ancillary costs related to its legacy mortgage issues, but core business $5.6 billion in revenues. These banks can certainly afford a few regulations. Overall in corporate America, I mean they are all whining about these regulations, they raked in $940 billion since the credit crisis. So, let's not feel sorry for corporate America, they can afford a few regulations.
MORGAN BRENNAN: I have to disagree with Kym on this one. I think government involvement is just keeping this sector down and the economy as a whole. As the boss Steve mentioned before, I think it is really irresponsible to be calling the runs on banks, especially Bank of America. It is a perfect example. They have been forced by these regulations to liquidate their assets. They are laying-off tens of thousands of people and now they have had revenue cut from another end from the same regulations. It is bad for business, it is bad for the economy, and at the end of the day the people who are hurt the worst by this are you and me, the consumers, because now we have checking accounts that are costing money. Worse than that, we have just given the banks another incentive not to lend to prospective home buyers and not to lend to small businesses. It is bad.
ELIZABETH MACDONALD: It is really alarming that Dick Durbin did this, and you are right, I agree. The irony is the Democrats, like Dick Durbin, are calling for boycotts of banks due to swipe card price control fee increases that they pass themselves, that the banks are reacting to and the banks telegraph they were going to hike debit fees a couple of years ago. But I am not saying banks are not gouging. They are gouging customers with this. The irony is those swipe price control fees on credit cards would not stop the next financial meltdown. That is the intent of Dodd Frank. Would not stop too big to fail, that was the intent of Dodd Frank. Instead we have a Dodd Frank bill that nobody really has read in its entirety in congress that could hurt the banks even more.
FLIPSIDE: Ben Bernanke is wrong! We need to cut lots of spending, now!
ELIZABETH MACDONALD: If Ben Bernanke was right, the Soviet Union would still exist today and it would be a ‘AAA' rated country given all of the spending that went on there. What is going on with the job creators in this country is they have faced a juggernaut of reforms of three huge sectors of the U.S. economy; finance, energy and health. I am not saying they shouldn't of been reformed, but they should have been reformed in a targeted more limited way and a more extended way, not in one foul swoop that terrified job creators and made them feel like they were stranded in the middle of the highway with what is coming out of Washington. Instead, do what Reagan did, strong dollar policy, tax cuts, cuts in regulations, cute in non defense spending and you will see the economy boom.
DENNIS KNEALE: Here is the thing guys, we are making what the economists call ‘the mistake of 1937.' Back then we were recovering from the recession really well and then suddenly, boom. GNP falls 9 percent, industrial production plunges 30 percent, stock market looses half of its value. Why? A study later showed government started talking about cuts and deficit worries and the need to raise interest rates way too early. We have done it again. It is not the cuts themselves; it is the Debbie-downer of it. It makes us feel bad and how we feel is important.
STEVE FORBES: Yes, sure the real reason it went down David is because the government did substantially raise taxes, put in anti-business regulations, including pro-union legislation to cripple much of industry. That is what 1937 was. And today the thing to ask about government spending is, where does the money come from? It comes from us, either from borrowing, taxing or printing money which is another form of taxation. So you take resources from the people and put in the government sausage factory, spray it out and that is supposed to be stimulus? Give me a break.
MORGAN BRENNAN: I actually think he is not necessarily that wrong right now. Sure we need to look at cuts. I mean we can start with those $16 muffins at the Justice Department, but I think where jobs are concerned; I think we need to proceed with caution. A recent report just came out that showed that announced firings in September were up over 200 percent from this time last year and a big chunk of those are government jobs with more government jobs expected to be cut in the coming months. Jobs are a huge part of us having an economic recovery and wherever those jobs are concerned whether they are government or not, I think we need to proceed with caution.
MIKE OZANIAN: Our nation's debt is not at $15 trillion which is roughly equivalent to the value of all the goods and services our country produces. Inflation is running at a 3.8 percent annual rate and in October, earnings estimates for the companies in the S&P 500 were cut to their lowest levels since April. So things are getting worse not better and Washington is the reason why.
MARK TATGE: Well I do not know if that is the tact I would take, but what I think is look things are actually a lot better than they were a couple of years ago and this is attributable to Ben Bernanke. Now there are certain risks that have risen, but look at what has happened to the auto industry. They are hiring again, they are producing better cars, their costs are lower and this has come with government help. I know you don't think government does anything right on this show, but come on you have to give the government some credit for what they did to help the auto industry and for every manufacturing job we get several other manufacturing jobs.
Car sales are finally rising. But will new union contracts bring the autos down again?
KYM MCNICHOLAS: How quickly we forget what led up to the auto bailout. Let's take a journey back to 2007 when the big three had a loss of about $15 billion. Why? Massive pensions, ridiculous salaries, I mean do you realize that Detroit has the highest paid manufacturing workers in the world. These automakers cannot stay competitive if they maintain that.
MIKE OZANIAN: Oh David, I am not nearly quite as worried as Kym is. I think compared to past deals this is a pretty good deal for shareholders. Most of the costs are frontloaded, we know what they are. If you look at Ford's autoworkers they are the most productive in the world in terms of sales per employees, $786 thousand in sales per employee, highest operating income per employee, twice General Motors, twice Toyota. I think this is a pretty good deal. What does bother me is it doesn't address their defined pension obligations which are very underfunded.
DENNIS KNEALE: If this hurts at all, blame management not the unions. Let's admit it the UAW is doing what it should do, get as much money as it can. What I want to know though is why is Ford getting cocky? First we have the YouTube style ad where the Ford owner said ‘Oh, I would buy some bailout car,' but also the bailout companies are doing this as well David. General Motors paying a $5,000 bonus to all of its thousands of employees, a company that got a government bailout. How come the protestors that occupy Wall Street are so upset about the banks, the top twenty paid back to a profit, but they are not upset about GM paying a $5,000 bonus to workers. After the government bailed GM out it was still $50 billion in the hole.
ELIZABETH MACDONALD: I'm not worried about the signing bonuses; I hear what you are saying about the profit sharing but I think Mike is right. It looks like a relatively good deal for taxpayers because GM is essentially still very much on the government dole. These are four year pay deals; there is no increase in basic pay. New hires get half the pay of veterans and GM is hiring again. And the issues is, the broad resume issues is you kind of want to have solid economic policies before you go bailing out any company like the carmakers to get them to grow again. If we could go into a double dip because of bad economic policies, car sales will plummet again to $10 million. GM will be back in the government's emergency room.
STEVE FORBES: Well the contract isn't too bad David for once because it is frontloaded so it is just a onetime cost. But the thing that all of the automakers have to realize, especially GM and Chrysler is this: If there is a downturn there is going to be no more auto bailouts. The house republicans are going to block it. So guys, you are going to have to live with this. I hope you did a good deal. I am sure Ford did because they never took the bailout in the first place, but no more candy for Uncle Sam.
INFORMER: Safety Funds
MORGAN BRENNAN: Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU) **ETF**
DENNIS KNEALE: Rydex S&P 500 Equal Weight (RSP) **ETF**
KYM MCNICHOLAS: Hennessy Balanced Fund (HBFBX) **MUTUAL FUND**