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CNN IN THE MONEY
More Common Sense On Immigration Reform; Massachusetts Heading Toward Medical Insurance For Almost Everyone In State; Gold Hits 25- Year High; High Phone Bills; Internet Makes Real Estate Brokers Less Valuable; Podcasting Changes Higher Education
Aired April 8, 2006 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Jack. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta.
The weather takes another swipe at Tennessee. The state was hit by more strong storms today. One day after tornadoes there killed at least 12 people and damaged or destroyed several homes. In fact 36 people have been killed in weather-related incidents in Tennessee this week alone.
Storm damage also reported today elsewhere in the south. A band of severe weather swept the region. This is the damage in the Atlanta area. Trees and power lines are down. Cleanup is getting under way right now.
The weather is proving to be a crucial contender at the Augusta National today. It is a soggy day at the Masters Tournament and it is day three there. We're bringing you live reports through out the day from there and other areas affected by the weather.
Stay tuned to CNN, your severe weather headquarters. More news in 30 minutes. IN THE MONEY begins right now.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to the program. I'm Jack Cafferty. Coming up on today's edition of IN THE MONEY, why Boston's doing what Washington either won't or can't or both. Massachusetts heading toward medical insurance for almost everyone in the state. We'll see if it's an idea that might work where you live.
Plus, don't get blinded by the glitter. A lot of talk these days about gold prices going skyward $600.00 an ounce and still headed up. Found out whether ordinary investors should be thinking about getting on board.
And talk fast the meter is running. Telecom's like Alcatel are pairing off as extras push our phone bills ever higher. Learn why we pay so much and whether it is going to get worse.
Joining me today a couple of IN THE MONEY veterans: "Headline News" correspondent Jennifer Westhoven; and "Fortune" magazine editor at large Andy Serwer.
At the end of the day after all of the dialog, all of the posturing, all of the photo ops, all of the demonstrations we have nothing on immigration. The bill fell apart in the Senate on Friday, they are going on vacation for two weeks and it is doubtful now there will be any sort of immigration reform happening certainly before the end of this year.
ANDY SEWER, EDITOR AT LARGE, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE": A lot of sound and fury signifying nothing maybe. What did we learn? We learned you probably can't boot out 10 million people and we also learned that amnesty, out right amnesty is probably a bad idea. What about a bar bell approach which is increasing the legal quotas, letting more people in this country legally and at the same time trying to cut back on illegal immigration? Can't we get some common sense in the debate?
JENNIFER WESTHOVEN, "HEADLINE NEWS": Well you have so little common ground in this debate. You have so many people, there is a real sharp divide here and nobody is standing in the middle in terms of are we going to throw these people out or are we going to just really welcome them in? When you have such a sharp divide like that, I'm not surprised they can't get anything done.
CAFFERTY: I love the provision in the Senate bill where they were going to try to figure out who had been in the country long enough to qualify for various parts of this program. If you've been here more than five years you could qualify for citizenship but if you had been less here than two years you had to go back.
Now there are 11 million of these people in the country. You think they'll come forward and say, here I am or how long have you been here? I've been here 25 years, so where do I -- come on. The politicians are amazing at time, their naivete. Anyway, it's over for now.
You want to see a bunch of politicians agree on something, try this. Mention that the U.S. healthcare system and insurance system is a mess. They'll agree. If you want to see them disagree then start asking them how to fix it. For even one state to work up a plan to insuring nearly all of its residents is just shy of a miracle, Massachusetts is that state.
In this past week its lawmakers passed the plan that will require all of its citizens to have health insurance. All it's waiting for now is the signature of the Republican Governor Mitt Romney and he joins us on IN THE MONEY from Boston. Governor, it is great to have you with us. Before we get into the particulars, you will sign this thing, yes?
GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Of course. This is a bill, which I proposed over a year ago. It has come back with a few Christmas tree ornaments on it that I'll try to strip out. But basically this is the bill I proposed, it's a way to get all of our citizens health insurance as you point out and that's vital.
CAFFERTY: But it's not universal health healthcare, rather it is mandatory health insurance. Tell our viewers the difference.
ROMNEY: Universal healthcare for most people sounds like Hillary care if you will, which is the government takeover the healthcare system with employer mandates and higher taxes. That it does not have. Instead, what we're doing is reforming our insurance system to allow people to afford insurance for the first time, people that haven't had it and then saying as long as you can afford it and particularly given the fact that we'll help subsidize those of very low income to purchase their insurance, we now have no excuse not to have every single citizen insured.
WESTHOVEN: What kind of provisions are you taking to make sure though that these people are going to get a decent healthcare plan? Because here they are forced into buying this kind of program. Great, they get a discount. But sometimes you can get plans that really don't give you a lot when you don't pay a lot.
ROMNEY: That's true. So what we've done is we've insisted that the plans are all comprehensive healthcare plans. They include primary care, preventive care, hospital care as well as mental health visits. It is the same plans that are available through out our state right now but they will have higher deductibles, higher co-pays and they will have directed networks meaning that you will go to the appropriate care at the appropriate setting at the appropriate time. That is probably clinics and primary care physicians.
Before you go to the hospital. All of that means lower costs in terms of the policy. Most importantly, you can buy that policy and take it with you throughout your life whether a part-timer, unemployed, whether you are a sole proprietorship. You don't have to wait for your company to buy your insurance. You can get yourself at a reasonable price.
SERWER: Governor, let me ask you about various constituencies involved here starting off with the consumers. How consumer groups responded, then businesses and then healthcare companies? Maybe you can sort of tick through that.
ROMNEY: Well the consumer groups recognize that for most people that are already insured, it has no impact at all or at least they don't see the impact. For the people who are uninsured they're finally going to have a product they can afford and if they can't afford to pay very much, we'll help subsidize their purchase. So they're very, very happy.
By the way, because we are not going to have people going into hospitals insisting on free care anymore, the cost shifting that has gone on in the past will be over. And there fore that's good for everybody, even those that have insurance.
Businesses look at this and say this is by and large a very positive response because businesses say again we're tired of paying the cost of people who don't have insurance. Now everybody is going to be insured. And the insurance companies and hospitals also say good job. We've got everybody together because there is such a positive momentum towards getting everybody insured.
The hard thing was figuring out where the money was going to come from. What we found out was we were spending a billion dollars a year giving free care to people that didn't have insurance. We've taken that billion dollars and we are using that to help people buy insurance that otherwise couldn't afford it.
CAFFERTY: But who is going to pay the bill? Because the costs don't simply disappear. They're being shifted from one place to another. Whose ox gets gored because someone's always does?
ROMNEY: Well there is no real ox gets gored here because what we found is with all the money we've been spending to give free care to people who don't have insurance, that is roughly a billion a year, if we took that money that we've been spending and instead of just doling it out to pay hospitals for giving out free care, we instead use it to help people pay the premiums on health insurance we're not having to add more money to the system. We're instead using the money we've been spending to buy the insurance.
It's a much better way of getting people to participate and to be owners of their own health insurance plan. People, by the way, who can afford to buy insurance, we're now insisting, no more free ride. You buy insurance that you can afford or you pay your own way in the hospital but you're not just showing up at the hospital and saying, I can't afford my care, somebody else ought to pay for me.
WESTHOVEN: There has certainly been a lot of I almost want to say amazement across the country that you were able to get so many groups to agree to this, that the vote was so overwhelmingly for it. The question is, is this the kink of thing that could possibly work on a national scale and can it make the jump or are there things specific about Massachusetts that make it work really well for the state but maybe not for the country?
ROMNEY: We have some real advantages here. One, the percentage of our population that's uninsured is small relative to some states like Texas. The second thing of course is we have great hospitals. This is a center of medical technology and learning. So those are big features. But the basic structure is really transformational in some respects.
It says, look, instead of paying for a lot of free care, let's use the money that's been going in that direction and help people buy insurance, a product that's portable. They don't have to worry about losing their insurance if they change their job because they've got it directly themselves. It's a great way to get everybody in the system instead of having people wondering if they're going to get covered in the future.
CAFFERTY: You know according to all of the polls that I look at and I look at a lot of them, the members of your political party, the Republicans, are fighting a pretty strong head wind right now for a lot of reasons. This is the kind of thing, if it works, could be beneficial should someone decide to take a run at the White House in 2008.
And your name keeps coming up. Are you going to run for president? And is this the kind of an issue that you with some fine- tuning might be able to transfer to a national debate and use it to perhaps overcome some of the head winds that are out there? ROMNEY: Well, I think each state and each individual is going to have to look at what's best for him or her. I think there will be a lot of principles that are part of our system that will be picked up by other states. But I frankly think that the key measure that's been accomplished here is that Republicans and Democrats sat down and solved a problem together. I was very pleased that after two years of working on this program, we got together with leadership on the Democratic side of the building and we said look, we've got a way to solve an intractable problem.
And we all worked together and got a bill completed that's not 100 percent of what I wanted. It's more like 95 percent. But we're able to tackle tough problems and make progress. That's what people around the country want to see, whether their Republicans or Democrats. They're tired of the partisan bickering. You mentioned the immigration bill. We needed a comprehensive bill. I hope we can finally get one.
CAFFERTY: Well I do too. Very quickly there's no time but we'll give you an opportunity to use IN THE MONEY to announce your candidacy if you would be so inclined.
ROMNEY: You guys are way too kind.
CAFFERTY: Just trying to help you.
ROMNEY: At this time I'm really trying to promote the idea that it's somewhat transformative. We hope people recognize we really can move to a system that can get everybody better health care with insurance so they get preventive care and they have a policy to goes with them.
CAFFERTY: Governor it is nice to have you on the program. Thank you.
CAFFERTY: We'll get you back here again and do some more of this. Good stuff. Governor Mitt Romney of Republican in Massachusetts.
When we come back on IN THE MONEY, heavy metal gold prices going through a 25 year high this week. If that's a message from the market we'll see if you ought to be listening, maybe buy some of that glitter.
Also forget the Ferrari. The property boom didn't necessarily mean big bucks for the real estate agents. We will look at why they fell short and how the business is changing.
And investing in bonds. Not James Bonds. Barry Bonds. Allegations of steroid use are trailing baseball star Barry Bonds everywhere he goes. Find out whether a hint of scandal can make a player less marketable. Here's a hint. Yes.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WESTHOVEN: Just when you thought gold wasn't good for anything but bling, it goes and hits a 25-year high. Gold has shot up to $600 bucks an ounce this week and silver is at the highest in 22 years it is at $12 an ounce. If precious metals are such a money-spinner, are you thinking about how to tap that? Let's run that idea past Ned Riley, he is the chief investment strategist with Riley Asset Management. Ned, look at you.
SERWER: He brought a lot of gold.
WESTHOVEN: Thank you for joining us from the golf course.
NED RILEY, CHIEF INVESTMENT STRATEGIST, RILEY ASSET MANAGEMENT: I'm actually looking for Rumpelstiltskin and the golden goose. I think I saw the both run by just a minute ago.
CAFFERTY: You're at Augusta.
WESTHOVEN: All right. Well Ned, first of all, what does this tell us about the world economy right now? It used to be that gold was suppose to a fear factor and supposed to tell you there was trouble out there.
RILEY: I think it tells us nothing right now about the world economy. I think what it does tell us is that there's a bunch of greedy hedge fund managers out there with excess liquidity that are clearly creating the price of gold and silver and all of the other commodities. When you start looking at the numbers out there, I believe some of the issues around political instability within countries, and central banks using some diversification, like China. China has 1.3 percent of its reserves in gold.
But the bottom line here, if you start looking at the numbers it's been $100 billion worth of ETS in commodities over the last two years that's been driving the prices up. It's been the fact that traders now account for a larger volume of jewelry purchases for gold where last year 73 percent of the jewelers -- purchasers were there. So the bottom line is it's liquidity, it's speculation and, in my judgment, this is another bubble developing at the hands of those that have too much money to fool around with.
SERWER: All right, Ned, because, you know, as Jennifer was suggesting usually the price of gold goes up when interest rates are very high and there's tremendous anxiety. We do have some anxiety in the world obviously with the war in Iraq. And I know another reason why is apparently Arab investors have taken money out of U.S. Treasuries because they're concerned about the Patriot Act. Some hedge fund managers explained this to me; maybe that's another reason.
Chinese and Indian retail customers buying a lot of gold as their economies expand. So you have all kinds of little things like that. Now, is it too late to get into this, though, as a U.S. investor?
RILEY: I would say like I said in natural gas and technology stocks and I think oil as well, once the paper traders get out of our way, the prices are going to come down. For the individual, if they really want to play this market, they can buy exchange-traded funds, there are two gold funds that actually buy the metal itself. You can play the metal at least you'll get what you pay for.
If you buy a gold fund, you're going to get a bunch of companies. Some of them have political problems. If you really want to go out and buy it on your own, I'd hate to take delivery of a ton of gold. Well, maybe not. I'll take delivery.
Bottom line, it's 50 percent more volatile than common stocks. Clearly, it's a one-product issue and the bottom line is the public has been so confused of alternative asset collecting for 401(k) plans. Can you imagine the amount of things they have to analyze geopolitical issues and everything else to figure out where the price of gold is going?
CAFFERTY: Can you address the inflation component of this a little bit though? We have oil at almost $70 a barrel. We have got a Fed that keeps hiking rates. There is some inflation in the pipeline when you look at CPI and PPI. So how much of it is the paper traders and how much is inflation perhaps a factor? Not suggesting it's driving the whole engine, but --
RILEY: No. I think there maybe a small element there about inflation. But go back to that old commercial, remember those two ladies buying the beef? Where's the beef. Right now global inflation is running at two percent. United states we're running "x" -- I know food and fuel we're running at two percent. The bottom line and you know, Jack, the bottom line is that in 1980, inflation was 12 percent. The prime rate was running 21.5 percent.
Henry Cochran said 30 percent on the prime rate and bonds were yielding 14 percent. This is not a replication of that, if anything, I would be afraid of deflation in the next couple of years. As the central banks overseas start tightening up and as we have to deal with our own bubble in the real estate market. This is going to be an interesting environment, I think once these paper traders go to this particular product, they'll go somewhere else and blow it up as well.
But I wouldn't touch it, just like I wouldn't touch natural gas. No one is asking the question, what happened to the $30 per million BTUS that was supposed to come out there. It's $7 right now. I think this is going away, too.
CAFFERTY: One more question. What's your handicap?
RILEY: Yes, Jack. Aha -- well, you know what it is Jack its golf.
CAFFERTY: I hear you. My back swing. Good to see you. Thanks for joining us, appreciate it. Ned Riley, chairman, chief investment strategist, Riley Asset Management from the links in Florida.
It is time now for this weeks a look ahead. Former Enron chief Jeff Skilling expected to testify next week in his fraud and conspiracy trial. The Enron founder Ken Lay is also on trial with him. This thing has been going on for ten weeks. Let's hope the jury convicts them both soon and sends them off to prison where they belong.
Retail sales numbers coming out Thursday. The report is one of the most important measures of consumer spending.
On Friday, the New York International Auto Show. Andy will be down there checking out new Bentleys. Kicks off here in New York City. More than a million people expected to attend this thing.
Coming up after the break here on IN THE MONEY, getting your mind off Wall Street, we'll tell you about an overseas exchange traded fund that is hotter than any of its U.S. counterparts.
Also ahead why your phone bill reads like the gross national product of a small third world country. We will see what is pushing telecom costs so high.
And leisure class. See how the iPod is taking college education outside the classroom. Stick around.
SERWER: Looks like a mutual fund, trades like a stock. Exchange traded funds or ETFS are a basket of stocks that trade as a single entity and often mirror indexes, sectors or countries. One that's taken off lately, the I-shares Japan index. And look at here with the Nikkei hovering around a 5 1/2 year high, the stock is soaring. I- shares Japan Index is our stock of the week.
These ETFS, exchanged traded funds are very hot, they are easy to get into. If you're opening your newspapers and seeing stories about the stock market in Japan and India being very hot, how do I get into it? There is a very easy way and you can buy one from your broker or just go online if you have an online account and buy it that way.
WESTHOVEN: This is amazing to me that Japan is finally moving somewhere. I have a friend saying he was going to live in Japan for one business cycle. He was there 12 years. He could not get out. Finally a big nudge here for the Nikkei and a big one, it's still really, a lot of the analysts say not overvalued yet.
CAFFERTY: Like you say, trying to pick Japanese companies individually to invest in. You can buy the trend. The trend being your friend if you buy these. What about India Andy, is India as good a story as Japan?
SERWER: Well India actually is a little scarier because one year it was up 80 percent, I think it was '04; it is up about 30 percent this year. I would think that's maybe a little overblown shall we say. But getting back to your point Jennifer about Japan, of course the Nikkei peaked at around 40,000 in 1990, went all the way down to 7600 a couple of years ago and now it's back up to 1700.
The real news is the economy is finally really starting to grow and people are taking notice. The Nikkei is starting to move. So I would think that's more of a sustainable thing. I mean if you want to take a flier, I got the ticker on that Indian thing it is IFN, which is the exchange-traded fund on that. But other Asian markets are moving, too.
WESTHOVEN: In Japan they might have an interest rate. They've got 0 percent interest.
CAFFERTY: Actually negative interest rates.
WESTHOVEN: They couldn't give the money away.
SERWER: Because the government is talking about raising rates, which is just an amazing thing in Japan.
CAFFERTY: Who would have thunk it.
All right, coming up on IN THE MONEY, looks like talk isn't cheap after all. We're going to take your phone bill apart and see why it's so high.
Plus a house divided. When real estate got high, all sorts of people moved in for the cut. See if the agents' slice in the pie shrunk it.
Also ahead, crackers and cheese, your kitsch fix is coming up next on our "Fun Site of the Week."
CAFFERTY: The proposed $14.1 billion merger between Alcatel and Lucent is just the latest marriage in the telecom business. The two equipment makers, the customers, and the phone companies they have been hooking up a lot lately.
Remember a few years ago the idea was to break up the phone company? That idea is out of window. So what does this mean for your phone bill? We're going to find out more about this now from Sam Simon, who is the chairman of the Telecommunications Research and Action Center. Welcome.
Why are we seeing consolidation in the phone business? I thought when the government said they wanted to break up Bell Tell, it was the idea that less is more and more competition is better. Now we are seeing these huge deals and all of this consolidation. What's going on?
SAM SIMON, CHAIRMAN, TELECOMMUNICATION RESEARCH AND ACTION CENTER: It certainly feels like we're putting it back together but in fact it's a whole new world. In some ways, I'm more concerned about Alcatel-Lucent back-end mergers than I am about the big companies sort of getting back together. There's some argument that on the retail side, consumers are going to have a lot more choice and are through technology. Things like Skype and things we can talk about.
I'm more concerned in the back end where these companies have produced software and the equipment; they're merging in part because they have fewer people to buy from them. And where we do need to watch out is on innovation and creativity. You know, when AT&T was one company, they actually owned Western electric and Bell Labs.
They controlled the pace of innovation and invention. When they broke up, some argued all we needed to do was separate Western Electric. We did it differently. I think the market is reorienting. But what's really happening is this explosion in the digital age where everything is different out there.
SERWER: Well, Sam, I might take issue with you a little bit on that point of there not being enough innovation in the technology business in the hardware and software businesses of the telco industries because it seems like you have a lot of players trying to come up with a lot of solutions there. But I want to shift gears a little bit and talk more about a mundane topic and that is my phone bill. Because I can't understand what the hell is going on. What are all those fees? What is that?
SIMON: That's exactly the problem. By the which, I think the cat is probably out of the bag on innovation but I want to keep my eye on it. You're right. That bill is -- you're getting charged to get your long distance bill. You're getting charged for rights-of-way.
You're getting charged for property tax that the companies pay. It is out of control, yet the phone companies might brag. They argue that their rates are going down. But your bill for most people is going up, because they're being overloaded with these kinds of fees. Unfortunately, for many, many people, they're getting away with it.
WESTHOVEN: My favorite one of course because I just think it's a great example for people, is the tax that is on there that was originally put in to fund the Spanish-American War back when -- it would be the version of the yuck tax. Only for the really, really rich people had phones back then. I get really angry when I read my phone bill. My question is what can you do? I can't exactly call up and scream I'm going to another company. The other companies have the same things. What can we do about that?
SIMON: Well first of all, let Congress know. There is a movement to try to reform this taxing. So you can call your Congressmen. Two, there are -- it isn't the same for everything. Track first of all recommends drop something. You get those fees often duplicated if you have more than one phone. You're paying that 3 percent federal excise tax on each phone.
You might find that you could not even have a long distance company and long distance companies charge you monthly long distance recurring charges, universal service fees. So you can actually look at what you're doing, drop something and probably save a lot of money and not lose any real service. Most people today are buying too much, more than they need and use.
CAFFERTY: What about the idea that the Internet is offering these plans where, what is it, $29.95, I can call anywhere in the United States for a flat monthly fee. What kind of pressure is the Internet technology, telephony over the Internet putting on the traditional telephone companies and is that going to ultimately help the consumers?
SIMON: Ultimately. It's putting a lot of pressure. That is what is scaring these companies a lot.
CAFFERTY: All right Sam it is good to have you with us. Thank you for enlightening us on why we are paying so much and maybe where there is some light at the end of tunnel. Sam Simon, Chairman of Telecommunication Research and Action Center.
More to come on IN THE MONEY as we move forward. Coming up next should of, would of, and could of. You would think the housing boom would have been a gold mine for real estate agents. We are going to see why it didn't really work out that way for a lot of them.
Plus the road not taken. Meet a guy who turned a cramming into a real trip. "Life after Work" is ahead.
And part man, part myth. We are selling a sports hero like Barry Bonds. Image counts lots. See if the allegations of steroid use are affecting his market ability. Here is a hit yes.
SERWER: Remember when you had to call a travel agent to book a trip, or a stockbroker to make an investment. Well those days are gone. We live in a high tech do it yourself world and that is having an impact on a bunch of professions like real estate agents. Even with the recent boom there days maybe numbered. Here to explain why is Steven Dubner a columnist at "New York Times" and co-author of that really cool book "Freakonomics." Welcome back, Steven.
So how is it possible that with this real estate boom the real estate agents didn't make out like bandits?
STEVEN DUBNER, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well some of them did. But if you think of it a little bit like a gold rush. The folks who went out to California in the late 1840s you know the ones who the average person who went out there looking to pan for gold, did very poorly on average.
The people who actually did pretty well were selling the blue jeans and the mining supplies and so on and similarly, what happens in a real estate boom, which we've had a long one here, is that the market gets flooded with realtors. So the number of realtors who have come into the market in the past several years is huge.
It's almost doubled in the past ten years or so. What that means, even with the boom and with the rising price in home sales and with the commissions not declining very much at all, the median income for realtors actually declined during the boom, during the last few years of the boom, because there's so many of them chasing that commission pool.
CAFFERTY: Well you also have the Internet. Talk a little bit about the impact of the Internet on the real estate business.
DUBNER: You know when you talked about a moment ago about travel agents and stockbrokers, that's exactly the right analogy. Those are businesses or services really, where the Internet greatly impacted the market and changed occupations. Real estate is different for a few reasons. One, it's a lot more complicated to buy or sell a home then it is to buy or sell a stock or an airline ticket.
The other one is that the real estate industry, the brokerage industry has done a much better job of protecting itself against the information onslaught of the Internet. Consumers, this isn't a very good thing for consumers. For brokers and the National Association of Realtors, it's been pretty good for them. They upheld their advantage.
But it's really changing now, all over the Internet there are all different kinds of sites where homeowners can get a fix on how much their home is worth, look at comparable sales, all different kinds of information that now is going to make the real estate broker less valuable for the average consumer.
WESTHOVEN: And you've argued that for the most part those very high commissions that they charge are not worth the kind of -- about why they're still able to charge that and also what people can try to do to get around that.
DUBNER: Well I wouldn't say it's never worth it. I'm sure for some people who don't want to do anything, they don't want to be involved at all in the sale of their home, and they may feel fine about paying 6 percent. I wouldn't. Because it doesn't seem 6 percent or 5 percent doesn't seem commensurate with the amount of work that a real estate agent or broker puts into selling homes?
SERWER: What about Zillow? I think that's one of the Web sites you were talking about. We have discussed on this program. Do you like that site?
DUBNER: It's a great idea. It's only in beta form now. I wouldn't call them bugs. There are a lot of imperfections in it. That's a site where you can kind of get a feel for what the price of your home should be. If you think about it the pricing set by real estate agents is a little bit random or arbitrary. An agent will come in, once when I sold a home, I brought in five different agents to interview them to see what they thought the home was worth.
Between the low and the high, there was a gap of $400,000, which tells me it is not much of a science. So I'm the one who is selling it I want to find the price. Most markets are pretty good at finding a price, because what most markets do is match sellers and buyers. Real estate brokers are different they are selling it and they're setting the price. If I'm the one getting the money from the sale, I want to be more involved in how that price is set.
CAFFERTY: But if you go on the Internet, you can find out. I've done this, I can go on and find out not just what my house is worth but I can find out what every house in my neighborhood has sold for, what it has been priced at. I can get the story on the entire neighborhood and the history of the prices. That would seem to me to put a lot of pressure on the traditional real estate office and what they can do to compete against this stuff. It's-like the cat is out of the bag.
DUBNER: It would indeed, I mean again there are some things that brokers will do for some people and those people will be very grateful. I think we'll see a lot more of is what is called fee for service brokerage, which is I might hire someone to -- an agent or a broker to list my house for sale on the MLS, the multiple listing service, for which they will charge a flat fee, let's say $750.
Then I might hire them additionally or someone else even to show the house at a fee of $50 or $100 an hour. If you buy these services on an a la carte basis as opposed to a prefixed 6 percent, most people are going to do much better.
WESTHOVEN: Thank you so much to Steven Dubner who of course "New York Times" columnist and the co-author of "Freakonomics." A very enjoyable and eye opening book.
Now the story of a man who set out to ride his bike across the country. Well, an accident cut his trip short but retired engineer Gary Couse unstoppable. He's going to give the big trip another try this year and his story is this week's "Life after Work" segment.
GARY COUSE, RETIREE: I have my tent, my sleeping bag, ground sheet and air mattress in here. I have my clothes over here.
WESTHOVEN (voice over): These small bags are all that Gary Couse is taking with him. Starting at the Pacific Ocean near San Diego, Gary and his fellow riders are headed cross-country to Florida.
COUSE: We're going to St. Augustine. So it will be about two months to get there. We'll average about 60 miles a day. So it will be six or eight hours a day.
WESTHOVEN: Gary started biking near his home in Georgia after he retired as an engineer. This is his second try riding across the USA.
COUSE: I went down a hill too fast and couldn't make a curve at the bottom of the hill and ran off the road and ended up breaking bones in my face when I went off the bike. That was the end of that trip. I definitely decided I wanted to do it again.
WESTHOVEN: He uses special maps from the Adventure Cycling Association to plan each day's route showing the sites and where to stop for the night.
COUSE: You do see a lot that you normally wouldn't see when you're riding a bike because of the slower speed. Last year I saw an illegal sneaking across the road one day with a jug of water. Things like that you wouldn't otherwise see in a car or in a plane. During your working life you can't afford the time. Now that I'm retired, it's a great thing to be able to do it.
WESTHOVEN: Coming up, a college student student's dream. How to go to class without actually going to class. The iPod is changing the way that students go to college.
And tell us what you think about the show, about the news. Whatever is on your mind. It is easy to remember this address, INTHEMONEY@CNN.com.
SERWER: The first week in April is a very important time for seniors in high school. Letters from colleges and universities across the country begin to arrive and students learn where they will be for the next four years. Regardless of where you or your kid end up, you may be surprised to find out that a new technology called podcasting is changing the way professors teach and students learn.
SERWER (voice over): On a nice spring afternoon, you'd probably guess that college students strolling across campus with iPods are listening to the latest chart-topper. But there's a good chance that they're actually listening to this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just depends on which theory allows to you predict what.
SERWER: That's right. They may actually be studying. A relatively new technology called podcasting allows audio information to be transmitted over the Internet and downloaded to a computer. Professors at universities across the country are incorporating audio podcasts into their curricula to broadcast study aids to students. They send recorded class lectures, answers to frequently asked questions and extra course materials with the click of a mouse.
KENNETH GREEN, CAMPUS COMPUTING PROJECT: It's growing at universities the same way it is growing in the consumer market. It's a technology that is very attractive, it's inexpensive, and it's a great resource for college students.
SERWER: And Corporate America is getting involved, too. Apple Computer recently launched iTunes U in conjunction with universities of Missouri, Michigan and Wisconsin at Madison as well as Stanford, Brown and Duke. This free program enables students at participating schools to receive class material in the same way they download music on iTunes.
Once a podcast is downloaded, students can play it right from their desktop computer or laptop. They do not need an iPod or MP3 player to listen. But many students on the go transfer podcasts to portable devices so they can turn down time into study time.
RICHARD LUCIC, DUKE UNIVERSITY: They like the ability to be able to transfer it to their iPod and listen to the material where they want, when they want and how they want, so they aren't really just constrained to the class lecture time.
SERWER: As a result, students are learning outside the boundaries of the classroom and are even putting in extra hours.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's kind of like -- it's a great way the professors are getting us to do more work. You think about our classes more outside of the classroom.
SERWER: Critics say that giving students lecture materials via podcasts may result in fewer students showing up to classes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Due by the 17th.
SERWER: However, Professor Lucic has not had this problem and feels that podcasts can greatly improve course content.
LUCIC: One of the things that I've done is find materials of the leaders in certain fields and make that audio material available to my students. So it's giving them an opportunity to have a once in a lifetime experience to hear somebody like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or somebody who we could never get to come here and be in the classroom. They can hear them just as if they were in the classroom.
SERWER: Individual universities have control over who can access its podcasts. If schools choose to share podcasts with one another on a large scale, these broadcasts have the potential to spread top of the line information far beyond the gates of elite universities.
GREEN: If I'm a student at a college that's not a very affluent college, might have a small library or small faculty, now all of a sudden, I've got access and, if you will, I can be in the lecture hall of a distinguished scientist, a distinguished writer, a Nobel laureate whose material is available as a podcast from his or her institution.
SERWER: Most educators agree that podcasted material cannot and should not replace traditional classroom experiences. Still, many feel that podcasts are useful as a means for review and as a way to complement courses.
Coming up next on IN THE MONEY, the holiday delicacy that will sing for your supper. Even if you don't observe Passover, you can still try the Matza on our "Fun Site the Week."
And it's time to hear from you as we read some of your e-mails from the past week. Send us one right now to. We're at INTHEMONEY@CNN.com.
CAFFERTY: The 2006 major league baseball season not even a week old. Controversy swirling around who else, Barry Bonds and his quest for the all-time home run record. Corporate sponsors starting to get nervous about the Bonds brand and what's celebrating it could do to theirs. Allen Wastler has a look at this in this week's "Inside Out."
ALLEN WASTLER, MONEY.COM: In the terms of business of sports it's a big topic of discussion. Barry Bonds, damaged goods, will anyone want to use him as an advertising vehicle and he is approaching the all-time home run. That's perfect for advertising but the advertisers want to stay away. I have three things that argue the Barry Bonds thing is not going to affect baseball at all. Number one, advertisers didn't like him to begin with.
SERWER: He's surly.
WASTLER: He is surly. He's a grouch. Go, honey, get the autograph.
SERWER: Get away.
CAFFERTY: My kind of guy.
WASTLER: Also defending Barry Bonds.
CAFFERTY: Just my kind of guy.
SERWER: I know.
WASTLER: Also, he's pretty old for baseball and there is some question with the recent injury whether or not he's ever going to reach the 755 mark. Why get excited about something that ain't going to happen. Two, discussed this with our sports business columnist, Chris Isidore, who pointed out in baseball, it's actually getting to be better as a business without the stars, because baseball is actually getting back to the fundamentals, working supply and demand, ticket price.
So the star factor is getting to be less and less of an issue. And then, finally, this investigation that says this is going to clean it up. George Mitchell in there and everything like that. Impeccable credentials. Well George Mitchell happens to be chairman of Disney. Disney which owns ESPN, ESPN which gets a lot of -- from baseball.
WESTHOVEN: Who wants to take their kids to a game to worship, have hero's people who are shooting up stuff?
WASTLER: That is right and who wants a sport where you get a lot of revenue from that has bad things. What better than to appoint somebody with a financial interest and welfare of baseball than to clean it up and make sure its name isn't dragged through the mud especially as some speculate George Mitchell wants to be the new commissioner.
CAFFERTY: It should be pointed out that all the controversy aside Bonds looked pretty good in the dress and wig the other day.
SERWER: Just turn him into a drag queen and leave it at that.
CAFFERTY: See if he can hit wearing that outfit and they might fill up a few more seats in the ballpark. What is the "Fun Site of the Week?"
WASTLER: "Fun Site." We have Passover coming up soon. We thought it would be nice to have a little sort of celebration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kosher, kosher talking about checking out it's kosher every year I want to be a Matzo, Matzo man.
CAFFERTY: Matzo man, it's a feast
CAFFERTY: All right. That's enough. That's enough.
Time now to read your answers to our question about what the U.S. government can do to encourage more American corporations to hire Americans.
Lynn wrote, "This is not hard. Healthcare coverage is an albatross around the neck of every potential U.S. employer. If the government gave basic healthcare coverage to everyone with a Social Security card, employers would hire a lot more Americans."
Renford from Lancaster, Pennsylvania wrote, "The government can push for a worldwide minimum wage. That would reduce outsourcing and also give more people enough cash to buy U.S. corporate products."
And Richard in Alabama writes, "You're dreaming if you think the U.S. government will do anything to help American workers. But while we're dreaming, why not make it a felony to hire an illegal immigrant and send corporate law breakers to a real prison with Charles Manson as a cellmate?"
SERWER: Nice! There's an image.
CAFFERTY: Here is next week's e-mail question of the week. It is as follows, "Would the U.S. enjoy an economic boom if more states granted healthcare coverage?" Send your answers to INTHEMONEY@CNN.com, you should also visit our show page at CNN.Com/in the money, which is where you'll find the dancing Matza's our "Fun Site of the Week."
Thank you for joining us for this week's edition of a broadcast. My thanks to "Headline News" correspondent, Jennifer Westhoven, "Fortune" Magazine editor at large Andy Serwer and Money.com managing editor Allen Wastler.
Hope to see you back here next week Saturday at 1:00; Sunday at 3:00 that is Eastern daylight time. Until then enjoy the rest of your weekend.
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