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More American CEOs Feeling the Pain from Global Slowdown
MIKE OZANIAN: I think the United States is already in a recession as are many major European countries-all for the same reason, too much government debt. It sucked money out of the private sector, which is why businesses aren't expanding, entrepreneurs aren't starting new businesses, and unemployment is very high.
VICTORIA BARRET: I agree with Mike that we've got issues here, but I don't think Europe is going to put us further deeper into the hole immediately. Exports to Europe make up only two percent of Americas GDP-not a huge number. The larger risk is financial contagion. If you see U.S. banks start to pull back on lending, that's when we're going to have a real recession, that's when we'll have real big problems. But, we're not really seeing that yet.
RICH KARLGAARD: You're absolutely right in raw numbers, they matter more. But you know what, I think that we were so burned by the 2008 meltdown, which many people didn't see, that now we overrate every threat that comes over the horizon. So, Victoria's right. This takes just a couple points off our potential GDP. We are perilously close to a recession already, that's true, but I don't think this is a big event.
RICK UNGAR: I think we have to be careful. Look, we hear all this bad news going on over there and it makes us all very nervous, but Victoria did hit this fact right on the nose. She said, "two percent of our GDP comes from our sales over there." This slowdown, yes; recession, highly unlikely. But I will tell you what does worry me. I think that our U.S. banks have far more exposure in the European front than maybe we're being told. This does trouble me because we could see a credit-crunch that we could certainly do without.
BILL BALDWIN: I think Mike hasn't heard the news yet. U.S. housing market bottomed on Tuesday. There's more good news. I think that because costs are low now in the U.S. relative to abroad, we're bringing manufacturing back onshore. Witness that Chilean plant which is being dismantled and being moved to Louisiana. And, there's one more good thing on the horizon-there's a 50/50 chance that we'll repeal Obamacare.
MARK TATGE: I think who's going to be elected president is going to matter a lot. What's going to happen in Congress in January in terms of tax situation is a big wildcard. But Europe, I'm not as worried about Europe. I'm not worried about China. I agree with Bill, I think we're out of the woods. I think the economy is slow, but actually improving. I think China is the bigger question. I think if China goes into the tank, or Chinese inflation-that could hurt our economy.
Flipside: Declaring bankruptcy is the best way for municipalities to deal with their financial problems
BILL BALDWIN: I happen to like bankruptcy. Dying cities go through 5 stages; they go through denial, then there's anger and then at the end there's acceptance. I think we should go right to acceptance. Everybody should take a hit, just like they did when New York City defaulted in 1975. I think in a bankruptcy you would see bondholders taking a hit, the unions taking a hit, and maybe even the property tax holders having to pay more property tax, so make that rapacious unions and greedy bondholders, whatever it is, everyone should take a hit
RICK KARLGAARD: The legal fees are huge and I don't know why everybody should have to take a hit. Should some retired couple who have invested in tax free municipals take a hit because the politicians lied about the sustainability of the pensions payments to the public employees retiring at 55. That isn't right, I'm all for working it out before you get to bankruptcy.
JOHN TAMNY: I want to see the bankruptcy and I want to see them on mass. I think it's important for investors to finally realize that investments are not always a one way street where you always make money. If there are a few bankruptcies investors will realize that maybe they should reorient their money away from profit governments and if so, some of them might reach the private sector where it will actually do some good. I think bankruptcy would be very healthy right now and I hope we let a lot of cities do it.
RICK UNGAR: I don't think that bankruptcy galore is the greatest thing to see. Let's remember what New York City did when they faced a bankruptcy back in the 70s. They didn't start screaming shouting and fighting and putting the city into bankruptcy. They brought together the politicians, they brought together the bondholders and they brought together the banks and the unions. You know where the money came from that saved this city? The unions loaned the city money from their pension funds. Why can't we be looking at solutions like this in cities that are experiencing tough times?
VICTORIA BARRET: I don't think San Bernardino has a choice. They are facing $2 million in pension costs this year. The city has $150,000 left in the bank. The math does not work. Even if you could get 2 sides at the table, I don't think you could get out of a bankruptcy given those numbers. Looking forward, what do we do to hold politicians accountable? Do we fire them? Otherwise, this just happens again in 10 years. We fix up the mess now and 5 years from now politicians strike nice agreements with pensions and with the unions and we have the same problem again. Maybe we do fire them.
MIKE OZANIAN: The problem with bankruptcy is that it makes it more difficult in the future for municipalities or states to borrow money. I would prefer what they did in Pennsylvania or what Scott Walker did in Wisconsin where he made a case to middle class working families and said look, we can't afford to give free health care and free pensions forever for public employees, he backed them, he withstood the recall and that's the way most cities or states have to go.
TIME TO CUT OFF FUNDING TO THE UN?
JOHN TAMNY: Absolutely it's time to do it. The UN I think was created to foster a peaceful exchange among nations, but it's become largely a U.S. funded forum in which our enemies can come in and bash the United States. I think the answer here is very basic. If we want peace with other nations we can do it costless and (it will be) great for our economy; lower all barriers to foreign goods; free trade with all nations and we will very soon have peace with them.
RICK UNGAR: This is the latest tempest in a tea pot and this is sillier than voting 33 times on a bill that you know can't pass the senate. This is all about the NRA getting upset that the UN might do something that is going to hurt gun owners in the US. It's preposterous. This is a treaty that has been under discussion, the Obama administration agreed to participate; the Obama administration has veto power over it and guess what? If by some amazing fact, this treaty gets through, it's got to pass through the senate by a two thirds vote. Does anybody here think the NRA is going to allow the senate to approve a treaty that does anything to threaten any kind of arms ownership? This is a waste of our time and can we move onto serious issues please?
MIKE OZANIAN: I agree with John, but I think John is being way too kind. I think the UN is basically filled with terrorists, murderers, rapists and people that basically destroy the world and I think it's time the U.S. stopped funding it.
BILL BALDWIN: Yeah and Libya was put in charge of human rights. Listen, there are a lot of despots, terrorists, cooks and sworn enemies of the U.S. in the UN and the whole point of this though, let's not forget, the whole point of this, the whole point of diplomacy, is to sit down at a table with your enemies and maybe even pick up some of the costs of sitting down at a table with your enemies and if we don't do that through the UN, if we walk away because we don't talk to enemies, well than what do we have? We have diplomacy conducted only by the Department of Defense and you know what? Their solutions can be expensive.
MARK TATGE: It is silly, you're right, and there are problems with the UN, but it's the best we have. It's much better than its precursor which was the League of Nations. This is not the first silly thing that has happened in the UN. We do have other ways to trade blockades, tariffs, things that we can use that are at our disposal other than withdrawing all support for the UN and running away. We should be supporting the UN.
INFORMER: STOCKS TO HELP YOU RETIRE EARLY
BILL BALDWIN: VALERO (VLO)
52-WEEK HIGH: $28.68
52-WEEK LOW: $16.40
JOHN TAMNY: GOOGLE (GOOG)
52-WEEK HIGH: $670.25
52-WEEK LOW: $480.60