While a vote on health care reform legislation appears to be imminent, should it pass it could have broader economic implications, even if the bill itself won't take effect for some time.
As CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer predicted - if it passes, get ready to see a sell-off on Wall Street. Cramer appeared on CNBC's March 18 "The Kudlow Report," with his former broadcast partner Larry Kudlow. Kudlow asked Cramer to elaborate on his theory ObamaCare could send the financial markets reeling or "topple the stock market," as Kudlow described it.
"First, it is the single biggest impediment to the stock market going higher," Cramer said. "And a lot of this has to do with what's not being talked about enough with how it's going to be paid and also about what it will do to small business formation. This bill is a disaster for both."
Back on Christmas Eve of 2009, Obama's Treasury Dept. said it would lift the limits on what the federal government could provide in "emergency aid" to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - without seeking Congressional permission.
Very few reporters noticed, except for The Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb who reported the story on Christmas Day and CNBC CME Group reporter and tea party inspiration Rick Santelli, who later pleaded for the public to take notice. With that occurrence in mind, Santelli scoffed at Sen. Chris Dodd's, D-Conn., legislative proposal of financial system reform that did not include reforms on both Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE).
"You know, I can't believe, first of all - you said, may not be included. They are not going to be included," Santelli said on "Fast Money" March 12. "And I think to put a moniker of reform on something that doesn't include Freddie and Fannie is very disingenuous. And I think that to pass something - what I heard Mr. Dodd say, Sen. Dodd, was, you know, it's the 101st senator. In other words, you know, we'll pass anything we have to show that we're doing something, no matter if it's the right thing or not, you know, I'm not buying that again."
"The Washington Post covers government agencies as closely as any daily newspaper. Yet an investor would have had to scroll through the Washington Post Co.'s (WPO) 10-K filing last week to see news of a Department of Education inquiry into its important education unit," Michael Santoli and Bill Alpert wrote for Barron's. "The Post's education business, anchored by the Kaplan for-profit college and test-prep businesses, contributed 58% of 2009's revenue and all of its $195 million of operating income."
It's been proven time and again in over two hundred years of recorded American history, but some people still don't get it - the government is not the most efficient spender of money.
On CNBC's March 4 "Squawk Box," in the midst of reporting jobless claims and productivity data, the network's senior economics reporter Steve Liesman offered the suggestion that since some banks were increasing their stock dividend, more lending might be on the way. That could be a sign the economy is coming around, but "Squawk Box" co-host warned it could also mean banks want to pay out dividends before the taxes went up on them:
LIESMAN: Isn't right before the banks start to lend, they're going to increase their dividends first. That's the way they're most likely - KERNEN: They better increase their dividends because when the dividend tax goes back up - when does that go back up? WILBUR ROSS (Chairman and CEO of WL Ross & Co LLC): Next year. KERNEN: Next year, after taxes, they won't have the same after-tax return. If you like the wealth effect of stocks rising, it would be nice not to have to just match your after-tax returns --
Oliver Stone's latest attack on American capitalism - "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" is finally hitting theaters April 2010, twenty-three years after its predecessor. According to Michael Lewis, who interviewed the moviemaker for his latest Vanity Fair piece, Stone's biggest problem with the sequel was making a movie based on helplessly diabolical bankers, actually watchable.
Lewis wrote that Stone - an ardent left-wing ideologue, friendly acquaintance to Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, a moral relativist concerning Hitler and Stalin, and director of "W" and "Platoon" - felt an obligation to reverse the societal damage and unintended consequences of the first installment.
"As a vehicle of change ... the movie was a catastrophe," Lewis wrote. It apparently inspired, rather than deterred, a generation of young men to enter the field and become the next Gordon Gekko (the "diabolical money manager" played by Michael Douglas).
Just one day after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the U.S. wouldn't lose its "top-notch" credit rating, one CNBC guest said that ‘"all governments" will default - it's only a matter of time.
When asked by "Power Lunch" co-anchor Sue Herera if he would buy Greek debt, Marc Faber said: "No, I'm not interested in government or sovereign debts because I think that all governments will eventually default, including the U.S."
Shocked, Herera replied, "What! Whoa, whoa, whoa." Co-anchor Dennis Kneale asked for clarification, "All governments?"
"Mhmm. All governments," Faber, editor of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report, explained. "Some like Singapore that have basically no government debt and have huge reserves ... in general the problem is the emerging economies today are financially much sounder in terms of debt to GDP than the developed world, including the U.S., Western Europe, the U.K. and so forth.
As the old cliché goes, you don't use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but according to Rick Santelli, that's exactly what it appears the Obama administration is doing terms of financial regulation and fiscal discipline.
On CNBC's Feb. 2 broadcast of "Fast Money," host Melissa Lee proposed that taxing the wealthy is not the path to "economic prosperity and fiscal stability." Santelli, the network's CME Group floor reporter, agreed.
"Well, you're right," Santelli said. "But I also think you're going to see when the Bush tax cuts expire, a lot of middle class write-offs and exemptions and various tax benefits will also fall by the wayside. Not the least of which to mention, I have so many friends that work for the financial industry. And they've learned from the government, even if you only make $25,000 to $125,000 a year, one firm says if you leave to go into another job or whatever, anything outside retirement, they're going to keep 10-to-20 percent of the stock they took from you following the government's directives."
Update - 2/4, 11:46 AM | Lachlan Markay: CBS News President Sean McManus has denied that the network will cut Couric's pay. Details below.
Katie Couric may be getting a taste of her own populist medicine. When the Dow hit 10,000 last October, she (and other network news personalities) used the opportunity to bemoan massive payments to Wall Street bankers. But now the populist sentiment has turned on her. She faces dramatic pay cuts as CBS News downsizes.
Couric, shown in a, er, file photo at right, "makes enough to pay 200 news reporters $75,000 a year! It's complete insanity," one CBS News insider told the Drudge Report. "We report with great enthusiasm how much bankers are making, how it is out of step with reality during a recession. Well look at Katie!"
The employee was referring to Couric's roughly $14 million annual salary, the highest in network news. That salary may be cut dramatically in the face of massive layoffs at CBS News branches in Washington, San Francisco, Miami, London, Los Angeles and Moscow.
The government's traditionally enforced safety standards on automobiles sold in the United States. But the government didn't always own a car company. So you'd expect the media to take a hard look when the government's roles as regulator and competitor converge.
"We've got a fabulous Toyota engine plant in Alabama," Sessions replied. "They've been doing very well. It seems that they've recognized they're going to fix this problem and it's going to take some effort."
It was initially thought the election of President Barack Obama was just going to hit your pocketbook in the form of higher taxes. But if the past several days are any indication, the president has found another way to hit it - by attacking your stock portfolio.
On CNBC's Jan. 25 "Mad Money," host Jim Cramer advised his viewers to be aware of this and to strategically position their stock portfolio with an eye on Obama and Washington's expanded role in the private economy.
"In the last week the world of investing has been turned upside down by Washington," Cramer said. "We can no longer afford to look at stocks the same way we did before the GOP upset in Massachusetts. With the Obama administration now on an anti-shareholder rampage, we now have to factor in political risk when we evaluate different sectors. And the risk may be higher than anytime since Jimmy Carter, who truly hated profits, especially if they were big. In the midst of earnings season, suddenly politics has become just as important as revenue growth or market share gains or earnings' beats. So we need a new prism for valuing stocks."
Is the luster finally wearing off the love affair between the White House press corps and President Barack Obama? It is, if CBS White House correspondent Chip Reid's analysis of President Barack Obama's latest Wall Street proposals is anything to go by.
"Well, you know, it's really the same as it's all been," Reid said. "That there's some unease about both of them, but the President has been satisfied with the jobs they've done. Behind the scenes, they both still have a lot of control. They lost this battle to Volcker, but now they're on board on this new plan for Wall Street, although it really sounds more like politics than a real plan because it's hard to believe it would get through."
Rush Limbaugh is so reviled by the left, that even when he agrees with liberals and issues facts supporting their arguments, they criticize him and demand an apology.
The latest such group to deride Limbaugh for supposedly offensive comments that they themselves have supported is the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL has called on Limbaugh to apologize for suggesting that the Obama Administration's anti-banker populism has troubling anti-Semitic undertones. He did not suggest that Obama is an anti-Semite, nor that is policies specifically single out or target Jews. He did suggest that Jews who voted for Obama may be feeling "buyer's remorse" now that the administration is using language that has so often--historically--been used to demean and discriminate against the Jewish community.
Here is the quote in question: "To some people, banker is a code word for Jewish; and guess who Obama is assaulting? He's assaulting bankers. He's assaulting money people. And a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish. So I wonder if there's - if there's starting to be some buyer's remorse there."
The news media have often taken President Barack Obama's side against banks, portraying bankers as the villains. But that was not the case on "American Morning" Jan. 22.
Business correspondent Christine Romans surprisingly blamed the previous day's stock market slide on "tough new rules" proposed by Obama the same day. According to CNN, Obama wants to limit the size of banks, separate commercial and investment banks, implement trading restrictions and "curb risk-taking."
"That's why the Dow is down 213 points," Romans concluded before supplying the perspective from Wall Street:
"But there's a feeling among many who work on Wall Street, many people who analyze and study Wall Street that this might be going a little bit too far," Romans said. "And remember, it might not do anything to help the banks start lending more, which is the whole problem."
Former Barack Obama supporter Jim Cramer on Friday said the stock market would have a huge rally if Scott Brown defeats Martha Coakley in Tuesday's special senatorial election in Massachusetts.
"I think investors who are nervous about the dictatorship of the Pelosi proletariat will feel at ease, and we could have a gigantic rally off a Coakley loss and a Brown win," said Cramer on Friday's "Mad Money."
"It will be a signal that a more pro-business, less pro-labor government could be in front of us."
The often outspoken CNBCer marvelously declared it a "Pelosi politburo emasculation" (video embedded below the fold with partial transcript):
Just in time for what they call "bonus season," ABC's "World News" treated its viewers to a little anti-Wall Street populism Sunday night.
On "World News" Jan. 10, weekend anchor Dan Harris explained there was "backlash" against Wall Street for bonuses that haven't even been paid out yet. But the ABC report made no mention of bonuses paid to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives.
"This week on Wall Street, it's the start of the bonus season, when the big banks dish out big bonuses," Harris said. "This is happening despite all the taxpayer bailouts and all the economic pain on Wall Street. The backlash has already begun."
If you believe polls, current Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke favorability has been slipping. A recent Rasmussen Reports poll indicates that only 21 percent of Americans favor his reappointment as the Fed chair.
And this hasn't gone unnoticed by some members of the Senate, where Bernanke's fate lies. Bernanke's reconfirmation passed through the Senate Banking Committee by a 16-to-7 vote on Dec. 17. But that margin calls into question how his reconfirmation vote on the Senate floor could go. And as CNBC "The Kudlow Report" host Larry Kudlow warned, that puts his reconfirmation in question.
"Look, ‘Helicopter' Ben passed the Senate Banking Committee vote on his reconfirmation," Kudlow said on his Dec. 17 program. "He got 16-to-7, but he lost seven votes. I think all the Republicans except Sen. Bob Corker voted against Bernanke, and they were joined by one Democrat, Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Now the reconfirmation goes to the floor of the Senate. So, I think Bernanke's reconfirmation could be in some trouble when that Senate vote occurs. I'm going to bet that most, if not all, of the 40 Republicans are going to vote against Bernanke and that they are going to be joined by a number of Democrats."
It's often said markets function better when there is gridlock in Washington, D.C. because there's less of a chance for government will interfere in the private sector, creating a sense of security. But in this day and time, that theory applies to the U.S. dollar as well.
On CNBC's Dec. 17 "Squawk Box," CNBC Chicago Mercantile Exchange reporter Rick Santelli debated what was causing the recent rise in the U.S. dollar. Santelli, the original inspiration for the tea party movement, squared off with Jim Iuorio, CNBC "OptionsAction" regular and CME trader, about the cause - a weakened European economy or the place in the calendar year.
"So Rick, is the bigger deal right now on the dollar move - the risk-aversion trade because of the end of the year or because of the problems in Europe?" Iuorio said. "Or is it a combination of both? Which is the bigger thing, do you think?"
In his 1981 inaugural address, former President Ronald Reagan said, "Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem." Nearly 29 years later, that still holds true according to CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.
Both Cramer and Greenspan were guests on NBC's Dec. 13 "Meet the Press" and although neither was making a vain effort to be nostalgic, but instead explained that Congress' deliberations over an "agenda" was creating uncertainty for business.
"I think the priority ought to be get rid of the agenda," Cramer said. "I hear the agenda over and over again from business people. In other words, Congress is stalled on health care. I favor universal health care, everyone does in this country. But Washington is killing job growth, not - and then trying to stimulate it small scale? How much does it cost to bring a new employee in? We don't know. We don't know what the health care will be. We don't know what the tax scheme will be."
"You had me convinced - yes, he was. But you had me convinced that Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers and some of these people are all going to be in the Cabinet. We'd be better off if they were," Imus said.
But it is also something that some in the financial media are reluctant to support, especially judging from the tone of CNBC "The Call" co-host Trish Regan and comments CNBC senior economics reporter Steve Liesman. On the Nov. 20 broadcast of "The Call," CME Group reporter Rick Santelli made the case that Federal Reserve should be audited. He cited opposition to the Fed audit proposal from Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., which was based on Congress' inability to be fiscally responsible.
"He said, ‘You know, there independence is important to protect the soundness of the dollar,'" Santelli said. "Has he read any papers lately or looked at any charts? Come on. Amen, amen that this process is happening. They're not taking away their independence to make a decision on interest rates. We need to know where the money is going. I remember when Ben Bernanke faced committees of elected officials and said, ‘We can't audit the Fed because then you might look unfavorably on some of the counterparties we deal with. That's like finding paraphernalia under your kids bed and then not asking where he got it."
We've come to expect intellectual dishonesty from the media elite, and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, a columnist for the New York Times, never disappoints.
Krugman, in a Nov. 11 post on his NYTimes.com blog titled "The agony of Fox Business," made it clear he was a subscriber to the left-wing fairy tale that Fox News, and by extension the Fox Business Channel, are not pro-business. Instead - they're "pro-Republican."
"Clearly, the Fox Business crew is having a very hard time," Krugman wrote. "They bill themselves as being truly pro-business - not like those leftists at CNBC. But they aren't really pro-business; they're pro-Republican. They'd like you to believe that it's the same thing; but there's this awkward fact that markets have, you know, gone up under Obama."
"[I] think we're building a stairway to heaven in Dow prices on the back of paper and I think that, you know it seems kind of dire to me that 8 percent - 8,000, 9 percent - 9,000, 10.2 - 10,000," Santelli said. "I shudder to think where the unemployment rate is going to be at 11 and 12,000 in the Dow."
There's a lot of uncertainty with the U.S. economy and a lot of its recovery hinges on some key policy decisions due from the federal government.
On CNBC's Nov. 2 "The Kudlow Report," CNBC host Maria Bartiromo discussed her interview with former Chairman of the Federal Reserve and Obama adviser Paul Volcker from the Global Financial Leadership Conference in Naples, Fla. One of the topics Bartiromo reported on from the conference was the possibility the Bush tax cuts would be allowed to expire, which she insisted is unlikely.
Now that the Obama administration is attempting to take a victory lap on the U.S. economic recovery, claiming the $787-billion stimulus passed earlier this year was what did the trick, despite a cost of $160,000 per 'stimulus' job, as ABC's Jake Tapper pointed out, it has come at the cost of the U.S. dollar.
Since then, the stock market has rebounded nicely. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is off a March low of 6,547 points, even topping the 10,000-mark recently. But what has caused this nearly 50-percent jump? According to CNBC's Larry Kudlow - loose monetary policy by the Federal Reserve, with low interest rates, has made it possible for the markets to rise, with the 'loose' money going into the market.
"The funny thing is, Steven, it has gone into stocks - I mean the stock market guys ... there's no real multiplier for the economy, right?" Kudlow said on his Oct. 30 CNBC program. "But it has gone into stocks and the stock market crowd wants to see the Fed to keep pouring the money in no matter what happens to the U.S. dollar."
Worried about a potential slippery slope with the Obama administration dictating what people are paid in the private sector - TARP bailout or no TARP bailout? Message from CNBC's Jim Cramer: Get over it.
On CNBC's Oct. 21 "Street Signs," the "Mad Money" host ripped into Wall Street executives that objected to the government dictating the rules of compensation. Opponents argue these pay restrictions inhibit Wall Street firms ability to retain the best employees possible - an argument Cramer says doesn't matter.
"Hey, there's no God-given right to work at those companies," Cramer said. "These people can go off if they want to. I know that [Citigroup Inc. Chief Executive] Vikram Pandit has kept 23 of the top 25 people with very severe pay restrictions. If you believe in your institution, you stay. See, a lot of Americans are looking at those pay cuts and thinking, ‘How do I get in on the action?' So I don't really care."
Want to make a big splash to bolster your chances in a political campaign? A tried and true strategy for some attorneys general has been to champion a populist position by exploiting the legal system for publicity. Just look at the lead up to the launch of former New York AG Eliot Spitzer gubernatorial campaign with his attacks on Wall Street.
And that appears to be the playbook California Attorney General Jerry Brown is using in a lawsuit accusing State Street (NYSE:STT) of cheating the state's two largest pension funds, the California Public Employees' Retirement System and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, of at least $56.6 million.
However, CNBC's Michele Caruso-Cabrera wasn't afraid to ask Brown if that was indeed the case in an Oct. 20 interview on CNBC's "Power Lunch."
You might think that the three major networks would look favorably upon the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) breaking through the symbolic 10,000 mark. After all, it they could use it as an opportunity to spin the news as a victory for Barack Obama and his economic policies.
But that wasn't the case. Instead ABC, CBS and NBC used the occasion to point out that the rich on Wall Street are getting bonuses for the performance of the stock market, while others across the country are suffering.
"Now, if an economic recovery is under way, not everyone is sharing in it equally," "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric said. "Pick up today's Wall Street Journal and you'll read banks and securities firms are on track to pay their employees record amounts this year. And, you pick up The New York Times and you'll see some workers are being forced to take huge pay cuts."
Quite a few, if anyone is keeping track. Now the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) has broken through the 10,000-point barrier. But that begs the question given the inevitable credit Obama will get from the media and other supporters for this rally, should former President George W. Bush get some of the credit if Obama is so willing to blame him for the collapse?
It's a question Neil Cavuto put to the test on his Oct. 14 Fox News "Your World" program speaking to Macro Portfolio Advisors Vice President Jim Lacamp.
It isn't often that one can see two decades of history re-written in under ten minutes. But such was the occasion on this morning's episode of Morning Joe. Max Blumenthal, author of "Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party," spent his time on the show demonstrating the combined power of cognitive dissonance, wanton ignorance, and a willingness to re-write historical fact.
Let's take it in chronological order, shall we?
First, Blumenthal is asked to present the major thesis of his book:
No, that's not a made-up headline. The foreclosed and/or evicted homeowners that have played such a role in the current economic meltdown - are they irresponsible borrowers that lived beyond their means or are victims that got swindled? Michael Moore is clear on where he thinks they fall.
Moore matched up with Fox News and conservative talk radio host Sean Hannity on Hannity's Oct. 6 program and Hannity attempted to have Moore explain why he didn't think there was a personal responsibility angle to the home foreclosure crisis.
Here's how it unfolded (emphasis added):
HANNITY: If you put your name on the dotted line in a legal document, don't you bear responsibility? MOORE: These people have been deceived and they've been exploited. You know, this is like - this is like ... HANNITY: No responsibility at all for them? MOORE: No, this is like asking a woman how short was your skirt after she's been raped.