Swag Out, Risky Energy Loans Still In?


IN FOCUS: President Obama signing an executive order to eliminate government "swag"

STEVE FORBES: Penny wise one hundred dollars foolish. The fact of the matter is it is a small part of the federal budget and in terms of things like Solyndra, if President Obama wants to be a venture capitalist let him resign in 2012 and see what he can do on Wall Street instead of wasting taxpayers' money.

RICK UNGAR: Well, I have to disagree a little I am afraid with the bosses characterization there. First of all there is never anything wrong with cutting waste in government. I do not care how much the amount is. With respect to Solyndra it is not the president who is playing venture capitalist. The Department of Energy has been making these kind of investments for years and years and years, in fact Solyndra is only 1.3 percent of the total investments the Department of Energy has in these kinds of efforts, and by the way it's the loan that appears to have gone wrong, which means over 98 percent of the loans are actually performing well.

VICTORIA BARRET: Well yea and Steve mentioned the term venture capital and a lot of folks in the pro-Solyndra camp will say it is the role of government to take some capital and turn it into risk capital, and the nature of the venture capital business is you don't have all Googles and Facebooks, you do have some duds. But he difference is no one is on the hook, it is taxpayer money. There is no venture capital firm here that isn't going to be able to raise another fund in five years. Instead they are going to take more taxpayer money and fund companies that often have ties to folks in high places. So it isn't a very efficient way to allocate risk capital.

BILL BALDWIN: I think they are worthy efforts. Listen, maybe it is small. Okay, so the IRS is not going to be handing out coffee mugs with smiley faces and FEMA is not going to reimburse employees for downloading porn at work. It is small, but it is a step in the right direction. I think if we gave the poor, beleaguered president a little positive reinforcement, maybe a little respect he would build some momentum we would cut bigger things. He would start butting departments, whole departments. He would cut so many departments that Rick Perry could remember his name.

ELIZABETH MACDONALD: Yea I agree with Bill to some extent but still, this is straining at a gnat, while swallowing camels when you bring up and compare to what happened to Solyndra. I don't care if it is a dollar wasted in taxpayer money that is a problem. Also Solyndra was only going to create 15 permanent jobs where as the Keystone pipe line project which would not cost any taxpayer money would create 7,000-20,000 jobs so why are we stopping that project and giving out taxpayer money to boondoggles that belly flop within a fraction of the time it takes to get great energy projects up and going.

RICH KARLGAARD: Where I stand is the president has added $1 trillion per year of deficit over George W. Bush who was considered the deficit kind. Now he is talking about cutting $1 billion, that is 1/1,000 of what he has added per year. As for energy, it is all screwed up. When you start with a energy czar Steven Chu, who says there is going to be no need for fossil fuels within 5 or 10 years then you are just way off into the deep weeds.

Union forcing Michigan family to pay dues

RICH KARLGAARD: Look this is what the Mafia does when they demand protection money. Here you have a stark reminder of why Michigan has the worst employment of all the states, the worst economy of all the states when you have the unions acting like Mafiosos demanding their share for doing nothing.

RICK UNGAR: I think what is first the most terrible thing I am seeing is how this story is being mischaracterized. Let me just take a minute to tell you what has really happened there. Number one, this money is not coming out of payments from Medicaid to take care of these kids. This money is coming from a program that has existed in Michigan for over 25 years that provides home health care to kids over 18-years-old who have permanent disabilities and the elderly. Now the state recognized some time ago that the best possible situation would e to have parents there to take care of them. Parents have to make a living. If they were not getting this paycheck from the state, they would have to go get a job and guess what? The kinds would either end up in a far more expensive institution or outside home care people would come in. Now, the health care workers were unionized 12 years ago. Since that time, they have experienced a 45 percent increase in their paychecks. These people get all the benefits of belonging to the union. They get training, they get all of that. This is not being fairly characterized.

MIKE OZANIAN: David, I just think this tells the whole story why union membership in the private sector has been declining for almost four decades. It has become clear to the people in the private sector that the unions don't care about the workers, the so called middle class. They care about the union bosses. It gets government support through laws, mostly by democrats because the money union bosses take in they use to funnel to the democrats to win election. This is how Obama got elected. They don't care about the kids, they care about lining their own damn pocket.

VICTORIA BARRET: These people don't want to be unionized. Why are we forcing it? You know it is interesting, two years ago the same thing happened in Michigan with child care workers, so folks who are running child care for low income families. The union tried to, behind their back, force them into a union. After two years of a lot of legal costs, it no longer exists. The child care workers are no longer part of the union, they fought back. It is just a shame that this has to happen again. It is a huge waste.

STEVE FORBES: Well this is the United States of America, not the Soviet Union. These types of programs are simply a consolation prize for union bosses because they didn't get card check so they are ripping off everybody else. This is about as popular as taking Christmas trees eventually it is going to go when Republicans get full control of Michigan and we get some sanity back.

KYM MCNICHOLAS: I think in this case they need to realize, that unions do have their benefits. Yes, they do have a bad rep, but 57 million Americans, according to a recent poll, do want to join unions but only 1 in 5 are actually successful. I think that is because of their bad reputation and we need to get more of the facts out there.

Fannie and Freddie: More losses And now big bonuses

ELIZABETH MACDONALD: Yea, stop the nonsense. By the way, FHA is saying this when they are also deep in the red. I mean I'm sorry it reminds me what Will Rodgers said, 'It is so easy to be a comedian when you have the government writing the material for you.' FHA's oversight has not been so state of the art. And here is the deal. Ken Feinberg, remember him the pay czar. He got to do claw backs on bonuses for Wall Street. He was not allowed to do claw backs on bonuses for Fannie and Freddie bonuses because they thought the government could do a better job. Clearly that did not work.

MIKE OZANIAN: I am not against bonuses provided the executives are delivering better performance. But in this case they are actually delivering a worse performance. By 2014 we are actually expected to see losses of $50 billion on Fannie and Freddie so they are making things worse. This is going to shock you David, but I agree with Congressman Barney Frank who said two years there should not be retention bonuses paid to Fannie and Freddie executives.

STEVE FORBES: We have gone from cash for clunkers to cash for clunker executives. The only bonuses these people should get is the privatizing of Fannie and Freddie and severing all ties from the government, otherwise nothing!

DENNIS KNEALE: I do not think they deserve a bonus, but in terms of tying government's hands by saying that we shall ban all bonuses for everything, I think that goes too far and it shows we are unable to stick to our word and go on a case by case basis. There are still, I am told, a couple of hundred small banks that still have TARP money and government has a stake in them I am not sure we should ban bonuses across hundreds and hundreds of banks that haven't paid back TARP yet.

KYM MCNICHOLAS: Well I think the Babylonians has it right 4,000 years ago. Remember Hammurabi's code? Well, it states that if a builder builds a home and it is not constructed firm, and that house collapses killing the owner, then the builder is put to death. Now I am not saying that is appropriate today, you don't go putting these people to death. But I do think they should be held accountable not rewarded.

INFORMER: CEOs buying their company's stock