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This past week's Bulls & Bears: Gary B. Smith, Exemplar Capital managing partner; Pat Dorsey, Morningstar.com director of stock research; Eric Bolling, FOX Business Network; Tobin Smith, ChangeWave Research editor; Matthew McCall, Penn Financial Group president, and Larry Winget, author of "People Are Idiots and I Can Prove It."
Dow Soars Nearly 500 Points on Obama's Treasury Pick
A money man rally? Stocks soaring on news that President-elect Obama's picked Timothy Geithner to lead the treasury. Is he the best guy for free markets?
Tobin Smith: The choice of Timothy Geithner for treasury secretary shows Obama is a free trader. Geithner was the guy who put the people in the room at Bear Stearns and said "fix it." He has solved problems, he's a free trader, and he surfs! Geithner has been in the fire many times before. He is calm and he has the right demeanor for the job. The cost of capital is about two to three times more expensive than six months ago. The big gorilla Geithner will have to deal with is the high cost of capital.
Gary B. Smith: I think the Geithner pick is a bad one. I'd like to see someone that isn't some "brainiac" that has never worked a day in his life. He's book smart, not street smart. I'd rather have Joe the Plumber or his ilk in charge. This guy will meddle with the markets and screw things up. Friday's rally was really just a bear market rally.
Pat Dorsey: Geithner was heavily involved in the Asian financial crisis of 1997, and he has been involved in bailouts before. He's a solid pick, except for the fact that he miscalculated and was instrumental in letting Lehman Brothers fail. But on balance, he's a good pick and a free trader.
Eric Bolling: Financial stocks largely did not rally on the Geithner news. A lot of it is because Citigroup can't find its way out of the forest. It's unclear how much of a role he had in letting Lehman fail. The only major criticism of him would be he let Lehman fail, and then supported the $700 billion bailout. He changed the rules in the middle of the game.
Matt McCall: The market was looking for a reason to rally; Obama gave it to them. It's a short-term fix against uncertainty, but longer term I don't think he (Geithner) is into the concept of free markets, and it'll hurt.
Bailout Tab Costing Each American Household $15,000
$15,000… That's how much it costs each household for $1.7 trillion in corporate bailouts so far this year. Would we better off getting that money ourselves instead?
Matt McCall: The corporations are idiots. Give this bailout money to Americans and let them spend. The money will trickle into the economy and create its own stimulus instead of giving it to fat cats.
Gary B. Smith: Just handing out money to Americans isn't a good idea. A much better solution is cutting taxes. It creates greater incentive to work more, earn more, and the government can pump those greater tax revenues back into the economy.
Larry Winget: Giving the bailout money straight to the American people is a great idea. Consumer confidence is down, and we've lost confidence in our government. Give the people back their money, and with that $15,000 they'll have more confidence and feel in control of their tax dollars. Retail will do better, credit card companies will get payments, and people will pay their mortgages or even save a little. If we have to choose between giving the money to corporations or the people, I'd give it to the people.
Tobin Smith: Right now, consumer prices are deflationary. The smart idea is to hold onto cash, not spend it.
Eric Bolling: We are in the depression stage of grief. Anything that comes out now makes the market go down. When main street and Wall Street throw in the towel, then you can step in and start buying. Until then stay out.
Pat Dorsey: Didn't we try an economic stimulus six months ago? The statistics show around ¾ of the money was saved or used to pay down debt, not to spend and stimulate the economy. If you want to stimulate the economy, this is not the way to do it.
Is Holiday Shopping Your Patriotic Duty?
Matt McCall: Go out and spend some money. It gets cash back into the economy. The money trickles down to manufacturers. I heard they're going to have a 50-inch TV for $700. The world is not coming to an end, go out and spend.
Larry Winget: Going out and spending frivolously is the dumbest idea I've heard. People are strapped. Most haven't paid for last year's Christmas shopping. They have no money for this year's. They have no money set aside for an emergency, no savings. People don't have the extra money to do a lot of holiday shopping. It was reckless spending that got people in trouble. Show you have the ability to save money—hang on to cash.
Predictions: Stocks on Sale
Tobin Smith: Citigroup (C)
Pat Dorsey: US Bancorp (USB)
Matt McCall: Petrobras (PBR)
Eric Bolling: Apple (AAPL)
Gary B Smith: General Electric (GE)
This past week's guests: Ben Stein, author, "How To Ruin The United States"; Charles Payne, wstreet.com; Adam Lashinsky, Fortune Magazine; Gary Kaltbaum, Kaltbaum & Associates; Dagen McDowell, Fox Business Network, and Patricia Powell, Powell Financial.
Dow Plunges Nearly 35 Percent Since Bailout Binge Began In March: Would We Be Better Off Without Them?
Gary Kaltbaum, Kaltbaum & Associates: The economy would be much better off without the bailouts. When the market talks, I listen. The markets are begging for the government to leave them alone. This market turmoil is what happens when the markets are interfered with.
Adam Lashinsky, editor-at-large, Fortune Magazine: The bailout was designed to stop a run on the banks. It was done to reduce people's fear that their money in money market accounts was going to go away.
Dagen McDowell, FOX Business Network: I want someone who was against the bailout to tell me what would have happened if it hadn't been done. No one knows. But the five major banks could have gone under in a few weeks. If that had happened, what do you think would be the market's reaction to that?
Ben Stein, co-author, "How to Ruin the United States of America": In reality, the government has only spent about $300 billion thus far for the bailout. You cannot factually assess the specific causes for the stock market drop. You could say because there's a World Series, the market dropped 4,000 points. The federal government has to stabilize the economy. If it doesn't, we fall into a great depression. A new federal stimulus can keep us out of a great depression. It will get our economy off of life support.
Charles Payne, WStreet.com: If we keep spending our money, and devaluing our currency by continuing to print money, we are going to have major long term economic problems. We can't keep this up. We've opened up Pandora's Box.
Dem Leaders Give Big Three One More Chance for Bailout
Ben Stein: I would demand the resignations of the big three car company CEOs if they want a bailout. The idea they went in front of congress and asked for $25 billion without a plan was comical. The car companies need drastic surgery, but it's worth it to bail them out to stabilize the economy.
Charles Payne: The big three car companies could get financing to keep operating if they declared bankruptcy. They'd get rid of legacy obligations like unions, and receive debtor in possession financing. They could get rid of inhibiting financial obligations. The reason the car company CEOs looked so smug in front of congress was the result of this welfare society we're creating. They're looking for corporate welfare.
Pat Powell, Powell Financial Group: The car companies are not above bankruptcy. There is a good argument that people will not spend tens of thousands of dollars on a car is they can't be assured of a warranty. When you go into bankruptcy, all contracts are repudiated including warranties. So customers will head off and buy more foreign cars. The American car companies have a business model that doesn't work and can't work. They have too many legacy costs.
Congress Uses Secret Ballots; Proof Workers Should Too?
Ben Stein: Unions getting rid of the secret ballot is a bad idea. The secret ballot is the cornerstone of American life, and to lose it in the workplace would be disastrous. You'd have union representatives looking over your shoulder making sure you check off the box that says you want to be in the union. Unions are in a rocky state right now, but getting rid of the secret ballot is not the way to save them.
Adam Lashinsky: The idea here is to make it easier for workers to unionize. Secret ballots give a company and management more time to lobby against it and give them more control over the situation.
Dagen McDowell: Open ballots bring on coercion and intimidation. Secret ballots are the bedrock of the nation and it is disgraceful that people want to take that right away. You'll be forced to join a union without hearing the side of the company.
More for Your Money: Stocks to Be Thankful For
Pat Powell: Kroger (KR)
Charles Payne: California Water (CWT)
Adam Lashinsky: Diana Shipping (DSX)
Ben Stein: S&P Sprds (SPY)
On Saturday, Nov 22, 2008, David Asman was joined by Steve Forbes, Bill Baldwin, Neil Weinberg, Mike Ozanian, Jack Gage, Quentin Hardy, Victoria Barret, John Rutledge, Mike Maiello, and Elizabeth MacDonald.
David Asman: This week -- investors seeing red as people beg for green -- bailouts! First -- the companies. Now? The cities. But, someone here says enough is enough! Uncle Sam needs to slam his money door shut -- even if it means city governments shut down.
Steve Forbes: The private sector has gone on a severe diet. The public sector needs to do the same. You'll notice in good times and bad, the public sector seems to get bigger and bigger. They have got to go through the same kind of productivity gains and restructuring that all of us are going through. Otherwise, their piggishness will destroy us.
David Asman: If you downsize the private sector you have to downsize the public sector?
Mike Maiello: I have been told we have to give public aid to the private sector.
David Asman: Not by me!
Mike Maiello: We need to give aid to civilization. That's what the local governments are. I'm worried about growing urban blight and that's something I can't live with.
Elizabeth MacDonald: We have mismanaged banks, automakers, and cities. What's next? Coffee chains like Starbucks? Detroit and Atlanta are stepping up on the federal tin cup line, but 34 cities are bigger than they are and they aren't on the federal tin cup line. Atlanta spending money on Oracle software for bureaucrats? That's an overpayment. A lot of padding on the local and city levels… don't give them more money!
Neil Weinberg: Yes, there is a lot of feather bedding, but we're facing a financial crisis! And if the cities can't pay the bills, the municipal market is going to hell. So, this is not the time for Uncle Sam to get stingy.
Victoria Barret: But, we are in the environment where every city and state can make the claim that they need money from the government. Their tax revenues are going to be down this year and probably next year, too. So, the purse better be pretty big because every will get in line. These cities can cut. Look at what the state of California is doing. Schwarzenegger is proposing $4.4 billion in annual cuts. Everyone should follow that lead! Consumers are being told to cut back -- so should cities and states.
David Asman: So if you downsize the private sector, the public sector has to do it too?
Quentin Hardy: Well, I think it can be balanced by saying this crisis touches everyone! And if one sector gets aid, we have to think about another. Bear in mind, the cities and states are in big trouble in part because the Feds put a lot of responsibility on their shoulders without telling them how to pay for it for many years. Throughout the Republican administration, we have seen all these unfunded mandates go to the people. And also, in the housing situation, the cities sunk the sewer lines, hired cops and teachers, all the infrastructure you needed for the build up. Now, they're on the hook and the housing people are getting bailed out? Give me a break! There has to be a quid pro quo. Cities have to give back. Maybe fewer regulations. But, they need aid.
David Asman: Steve, could you balance more federal money with less regulation?
Steve Forbes: I think the key is that the cities have to go to the restructuring that Detroit will go through, what we in the media industry are going through, and they have to do it! But, they won't unless they are forced to do it, so Uncle Sam has to say no. The federal government has to say "Show us what you have done and come back." Give us deeds before words.
David Asman: Mike, if you wait, might we not have cities go bankrupt?
Mike Maiello: We might, which would be terrible because of the municipal bond defaults Neil was talking about… but I'm also a little worried about the Treasury interfering with local decision-makers' and people's ability to decide how to run cities.
David Asman: If you are going to get a cash infusion, you have to expect strings.
Elizabeth MacDonald: We have been here before. History does repeat itself. New York City almost went bankrupt in the early 1970s and now it is doing what it can to balance the budget. I think taxpayers are tired of always being the capital cushion for the entire industry. Enough is enough. These cities have to get a grip! Steve Forbes is right. These bureaucrats have mismanaged the cities into the ground. It's time they stop.
David Asman: Remember what Gerry Ford said to the City of New York? He said "Drop Dead." Well, he didn't actually say that… but that's what the papers said he said. Is it time for the Fed to say "drop dead" to the cities?
Neil Weinberg: We didn't say "drop dead" to the financial system and it doesn't make sense to say it to the cities!
David Asman: But, where do you end it? If you say yes to everybody… you don't have the money.
Neil Weinberg: You do the same thing you do with Detroit. If we are going to give you the money, we need to see drastic restructuring and you need to have firm strings attached. This not just a quid pro quo.
Steve Forbes: Maybe it takes a city to go under for other cities and municipalities to realize they need to get their act in order. Deeds before words. If they come in with a plan of action, if they have done the cut, done the restructuring, then they can step up to the plate.
David Asman: Victoria, we have to wait until we see some progress before we throw cash in?
Victoria Barret: Exactly. You are saying let's have one bureaucrat in a bloated system tell another one that they should cut back?! It's unrealistic. I think the cities need to get to the point where they have to cut and what we saw in Orange County, CA is that the county went bankrupt. But, they didn't sell off parks, they cut back, they put their creditors in line, and the place was fine.
David Asman: And in New York City in the 1970s, after they were told to drop dead essentially by the Feds, they issued a mac bond. New York came out of it. Can other cities?
Quentin Hardy: You people have forgotten history. We Ford said nothing to the cities, Felix Rohatyn, who was in charge of the cities finances, was overjoyed because he knew that at that point they would embarrass themselves and have to bailout NYC. You couldn't let NYC drop dead! By the way, New York was on fire, literally. There was arson all over town… crime in the streets… it went to hell before the Feds jumped in.
David Asman: Hold on. Money didn't solve that! That was solved by Mayor Giuliani in the mid 1990s. You have to remember history as well.
Elizabeth MacDonald: You are wrong that the 1977 Blackout was when the looting occurred. We are talking about a fiscal crisis in the early 1970s. Warren Buffet said what we learn from history is that people don't learn! Enough is enough. Taxpayers are sick of it.
David Asman: Democrats are just two Senate seats away from a supermajority, with two Senate seats still up for grabs. Neil Weinberg says we should all hope the Dems with both because that would be super good for the free markets. That IS a Forbes Flipside!
Neil Weinberg: I can't say gridlock has done us good over the last eight years, and maybe if we have one Party that can make decisions, we will go to the root of our problems, which is falling housing prices, and we'll also deal with some long-term problem like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid… things that have been malignantly neglected over the past eight years.
David Asman: Steve, gridlock was good when Clinton was president… why not now?
Steve Forbes: Good point. When the Democrats get in charge, it's like giving a kid free booze and the car keys. It's a disaster! More spending, more regulation, no more union elections so workers are coerced into joining unions… nationalized healthcare…
David Asman: isn't the point that when either political party has all the cards in their deck, it's not good for the country?
Quentin Hardy: You certainly do need to watch out for it. I have NO idea what Neil is talking about in terms of gridlock. In 2004, the Republicans had an effective supermajority and the Democrats rolled over on the Iraq War, on spying on Americans. I can see why he would be worried about the Democrats having the same, but look at reality. Right now, they will have an effective supermajority because the Republican Party is intellectually bankrupt and has to find its way back. They will roll over and won't have a majority to fight the Democrats. But, so far, the Democrats are saying no the auto companies and no, to the unions getting everything they want.
David Asman: John, it was the spending that caused the deficits, but what do you say about a supermajority? Good or bad for markets?
John Rutledge: Bad! I have to remind Quentin that they intellectually bankrupt on both sides of the aisle. When a mugger is chasing you, you want him to chase you as slowly as possible. Not efficiently! That is what is happening now. Pelosi, Reed, and Obama in charge with a supermajority?! My God – they'll drive the capital offshore and knock the market down even more. This is a recipe for pushing capital into China.
Bill Baldwin: No, the supermajority would be good. I'm an optimist and I see a lot of good stuff here. If the socialists and Pelosians take over, they will quickly wreck the economy and then in 2010 we will get a new crew, and in 2012 we may get another new crew.
Elizabeth MacDonald: All this forward thinking is making my head spin! I think I have to take a Dramamine. Here's what is going on. I think it mistakes coincidence for cause to say a gridlock is good for the government because it brings down spending. What we are talking about is a lag effect from tax cuts in prior years and interest rate cuts. There is a lag effect. There is no historical evidence that gridlock really is good for the government. What we are talking about is whether a supermajority will rein in spending. It won't. It just creates a super-sized government.
Homes v$ Stocks: Better Investment?
David Asman: You know it better than anyone -- stocks have fallen nearly 40 percent this past year and home prices have tanked nearly 16 percent. So, when things turnaround -- which one will end up being the best investment for you right now?
Victoria Barret: Right now, I think homes are a great investment in certain areas because you get paid to own a home! Here's how it works. I have been talking to investors in San Diego who are getting a 9 percent cash-on-cash yields. That's three times what you can get with the S&P dividend yields. What's happening is people are often renting out to the very people who got foreclosed on! This takes a lot of work, and you have to know the local market very well. But, you are going to see an immediate return that you are not going to see in stocks.
David Asman: Like Monopoly! If you have enough houses -- you can make money.
Bill Baldwin: I think the record should show that Victoria lives in a state with house loonies -- they do crazy stuff! They speculate like 20 condos… Houses are still 15 percent overpriced. They have more to fall. Stocks are 15 percent under-priced! Buffet was right when he said "let's start buying!" I can't promise stocks will go up next week, next month, or next year -- but buy and hold for 5 years…
David Asman: Quentin, don't housing prices have a lot more room to fall?
Quentin Hardy: No, they probably don't. And if they do, it won't be as bad as what you're about to see in stocks. We are in strange territory in the stock market. The bear markets you saw in 1920, 1933, when the market falls this far from fair value, it falls further. This market could go to 5,500!
Mike Ozanian: I think what this has proved is it's ridiculous to sit there and try to prove homes or stocks. I think there are plenty of good values in both if you pick carefully. You have to look at them very individually. Where Vickie lives, there may be good values, but you have to be selective. Don't make a broad-based decision.
Steve Forbes: Absolutely. You have to do your homework! Until they get rid of the mark-to-market accounting which destroyed Wall Street and is now destroying insurance, I'd hold back.
Informer: Back in Black Stocks!
David Asman: Black Friday's just a few days away and our "Informers" say that could help you get back in the black if you buy the right stocks!
Jack Gage: Children's Place Retail Stores (PLCE)
Mike Ozanian: Citigroup (C)
John Rutledge: Pfizer (PFE)
Dems' New Auto Bailout Plan: Is It Really a "Union" Bailout?
John Bradshaw Layfield, Layfield Energy: No, it is not a legitimate bailout. You can't call it legitimate on any means. Unions and bad management have ruined this great American institution. Unions are the reason that you have $1,400 per car than Toyota and Honda pay. They support the democrats. They know for sure they have this huge voting block that will spend a ton of money. This is payback. Best thing auto makers can do is go bankrupt and get out of the union contracts.
Jonathan Hoenig, CapitalistPig Asset Management: Well, if a company goes bust with or without a union it should go bust. I hate to see people in this industry lose jobs but the auto makers have no more rights than TV hosts or restaurant operators or professional clowns. They don't have the right to something because they have not earned it. I agree with John, I don't think they are on track to achieve success and the tree market is shuttering them. Let them fail.
Julian Epstein, Democratic strategist: No, particular is a pretty single-mined analysis. I think that you have a lot of experts on the political left and right saying that if the auto industry goes bust you could send a recession into a depression. You could threaten millions of jobs potentially and you could just bring really literally economic ruin but the democrats -- and nobody likes the bailouts, nobody liked the financial bailout. What the democrats are saying is no blank checks. Show us some plans so you can get ahead of the curb, global curb on going green, get the cost structure together, get a plan going forward. Show it before we give you help. But if you sit on your hand like the two first guests suggest you will make it worse.
Tracy Byrnes, FOX Business Network: The problem is that you have a timing issue here. You have bailing out and we will have the same conversation anywhere from now to 10 months from now. The economy is in dire straits so you give them money, they will burn through it, that means they burn through taxpayer dollars and come back for more. The only way to fix this is to go chapter 11. I don't know why this is such a taboo. They don't shut the lights off. They still make cars under chapter 11.
Wayne Rogers, Rogers & Co: I don't know that it will give back. I think the problem is much too big for that. I agree that you have to go through some sort of reorganization. Whether you do it under the aegis of the court in chapter 11 or whether you do it outside of chapter 11 with a plan, a very specific plan, just like anybody else has a business plan, these guys can't come up like that moron who runs the treasury and asks for a blank check two pages and give me the money. That is crazy. And it was crazy when they did it the first time. He panicked the congress into it who are not the brightest people and they voted for it. It is the same with the auto workers. They have to have a plan. That plan must include both workers and management.
Jonas Max Ferris, MaxFunds.com: I don't think it is so much for the unions just the workers directly or indirectly, a lot of them voted for democrats. You vote for politicians to give you back is essentially the way people think of government. That's what they get. It is hard to make a case against them given everybody else is getting money and nobody deserves any bailout but hopefully they are looking out for the economy's best interest and don't want to start a domino death spiral and they will operate in bankruptcy but I don't think I trust the warranty without the company being solvent.
France Plans New Anti-American Capitalism Summit: Did We Ask For It?
Jonathan Hoenig: He and Paulson, the treasury secretary, have really killed capitalism because since they bailed out Bear Stearns we have been trying to fix capitalism with social inch and we are becoming the European bureaucracies.
Wayne Rogers: Part of problem is the fundamentals of this is this theory of too big to fail. Competition is the opposite of regulation. If we had competition you wouldn't need regulation. If you didn't have people too big to fail including the automobile and financial people you wouldn't have this problem. That is the attack on what we think of or what they think of as American capitalism. If we had competition we wouldn't have to have any of this. It is the failure of our country not to be competitive with each other.
Tracy Byrnes: I think we are walking a slippery slope. The world looks to us for guidance and right now we are kind of looking like a bunch of kids at a high school table trying to make decisions. Therefore they are taking it upon themselves. That is the last thing we want. G-20 was a perfect opportunity for us to flex our muscles and show them who we are. We didn't. I think now this is what we are seeing. We may see more unless we come to the table with some answers that make sense as opposed to handing out money.
John Bradshaw Layfield: I don't think so. We are still the world power, the world financial leader, and that upsets a lot of policeman who are former world powers like France and the UK. I don't think they have gotten over anything. The French look down on everybody and they want to be relevant. That is the whole thing they are fighting for is relevancy.
Jonas Max Ferris: That is part of the problem. They want to partially blame their trouble like we started it. The French, I think, like the bailouts. That is the part that is more French in some ways. I think what they are criticizing is the business cycle that are steep and deep we you have that and that under attack globally that we would be better off with a system that has no crashes because it would be no peaks like a heavy government stable system. That is the danger that we move toward that where you have governments so scared of a recession you take away booms. That could be the result.
Dems' New House Energy Chairman Henry Waxman: Will He Kill Drilling and Low Gas?
John Bradshaw Layfield: This was an unprecedented kicking out of John Dingall who has been there for years. Waxman voted against federal drug testing for federal employees but he brought all of the baseball players. I don't care in Barry Bonds is on the gas. I hope the TSA worker guiding my airplane at the airport is not on acid. Get ready for the dog and pony show of all of these CEO's from the major companies to Capitol Hill and nothing will get done under Waxman. This could kill offshore drilling.
Tracy Byrnes: It is interesting based on what Obama has wanted in the past. He supported Reagan's clean air bill. He has had some environmental support behind him. But it just seems a little bit to me more of a dichotomy of what Obama wants to do.
Julian Epstein: I have worked with both of them. They are both really superb members of Congress. I think the reason that Henry Waxman was chosen by the caucus is because he will pursue more environmentally aggressive agenda. I don't think it means the end of offshore drilling. Pelosi has said we ought to look at it but I think it will mean we are doing more of ushering in a green economy with hybrids and fuel cells. What Toyota and some of the international manufacturers have been doing and there's a huge international market for it. There is a belief that we could get five to 6 million jobs out of that and a lot of growth so you could see a more aggressive green agenda.
Jonathan Hoenig: Isn't it a little bewildering they appoint the guy who hates whatever the committee is about, right? Barney Frank hates capitalism. Waxman is a swell guy but he has introduced bill after bill about global warm willing an carbon emissions curtailment. I don't know if it means higher prices but it higher costs for consumers.
Wayne Rogers: Putting aside the personality attacks on Henry Waxman, which I don't know about him one way or the other but that is immaterial. I think that I buy into Tom Friedman's argument that possibly hire gas prices should be good ultimately for us because it will cause us to have to go green. We will have to find alternative fuel sources and I'm a believer in that. I think that is the future of the country is alternative fuels and it is also the most patriotic thing you can do. For us to be in the hands of Chavez and the middle east from a national security point of view is absolutely suicide.
Jonas Max Ferris: They can give the job to the CEO of Exxon and we won't get a big drilling thing. But gas is going to $1.50 and that will end offshore drilling. Don't let the energy bubble drive the policy. It was over. It won't be $140 for 10 years. Goldman doesn't put out recommendations on oil any more.
Best Bets: Bailout Stocks
Lots of our viewers have lost lots of money in the market recently! What are some stocks that'll help bail them out:
John Bradshaw Layfield: LDK Solar (LDK)
Jonathan Hoenig: iPath JPY/USD Exchange Rate ETN (JYN)
Jonas Max Ferris: eBay (EBAY)
Wayne Rogers: Johnson and Johnson (JNJ)