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Unemployment Rate Falls; Central Banks Coordinate Internationally to Provide Liquidity; Analysts Examine U.S. Economy; Newt Gingrich Plan; The Global Economy: On The Brink; Is Occupy For Real?; Unemployed in America
Aired December 4, 2011 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It's beginning to feel like 2008. Welcome to YOUR MONEY. I'm Christine Romans. Ali Velshi is off.
Central banks around the world are taking coordinated actions to avoid a legitimate threat of another global credit freeze the likes of which we haven't seen since after the days of Lehman's collapse in 2008. We all remember what happened then. The credit freeze closed businesses, factories, wipes out millions of jobs around the world.
Diane Swonk is chief economist at Mesirow Financial, Mohamed El-Erian is CEO of Pimco, and Alexis Glint has experience working on Wall Street and covering it. Diane, let me start with you. Bottom line, are there lessons from 2008 that can be applied today to avert another global financial crisis?
DIANE SWONK, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MESIROW FINANCIAL: Well, we're already seeing them applied. The fact that central bankers are not really talking to each other before the financial crisis actually emerged in August of 2007 or July of 2007 was a major detriment to them dealing with it know. It became a shock in August of 2007 and they really didn't have the communication going. They've been planning different scenarios, trying to figure out what they do. The problem is they have fewer tools today than they once did.
But I think the coordinated move this week shows that they actually are trying to learn from the lessons to continue to provide liquidity in a place where it has completely dried up in Europe.
ROMANS: Alexis, does it show it is the central banks trying to speak with one voice not politicians?
ALEXIS GLICK, CEO, GEN YOUTH FOUNDATION: You know, it looks like they're the big ones in the sandbox right now because in essence what they're doing, if you look at it right now as a lot of people say they're curing the symptoms and not the disease. But the fact of the matter is they had to step up and do something because we're not seeing any resolution in the European Union.
And when you look at this, you know, look back to 2008, people need to understand that we are in historic times. Coordination is necessary, but remember after 2008 we had a $700 billion relief for troubled assets. We had the bailout of AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac. Everybody should look at this event and be happy that there was coordination but be aware that we are far from out of dangerous territory.
ROMANS: To say nothing of at that time some $6 trillion or $7 trillion of Fed bailouts as well.
ROMANS: Mohamed El-Erian, let's talk about the credit situation. We were seeing dangerous signs earlier this week, the cost to borrow, swap money back and forth dollars for the European banks was getting scary again. Did what the Fed and central banks do work? Have we averted that?
MOHAMED EL-ERIAN, CEO, PIMCO: Well, as you say, it was getting really scary and it was a legitimate threat. The functioning of the markets, the plumbing if you like, was coming under pressure and pipes were getting clogged, and if the central banks had not moved in a dramatic and coordinated fashion, we would be having massive problems today.
However, it's critical, what they did is a small step. They cannot deliver on the bigger issue which is the economic outcomes. And that is where we need more action.
ROMANS: Yes. Let me ask you all about -- you know, Americans know that Europe's economic instability could drag America back into recession. If it's all about Europe right now, has America, Diane, completely lost control of its economic future in the short term? We had a jobs number that was decent this week, but so much hinges on what Europe does.
SWONK: You know, I think the issue is, yes. Europe is extremely important and I agree with Mohamed on the fact that this was sort of a Band-Aid, a bridge buying time, but the clock is ticking.
That said, there are things we could do to make ourselves more proof and have ourselves more insulated from the crisis, put the phone down before the plane actually crashes. And I think that's one of the things the central banks are trying to do, but fiscal policy is critical here, to not take the lessons of Europe and come up with a ten-year fiscal plan that puts our fiscal house back in order and would allow some fiscal stimulus in case we needed it to offset.
It is sort of irresponsible by Congress at this stage of the game. The super committee, I call them the subpar committee, couldn't even agree on the $1.2 trillion in cuts. And I think we could do things that are more proactive in at least sort of tempering the blow rather than accelerating the blow from Europe. It doesn't mean we can escape it. We are not an island and Mohamed is exactly right on this.
GLICK: I think to Diane's point, she is absolutely right. This is not a black-and-white issue. What is going on around the globe, this is a global economy and we are seeing it unfold. The thing we have to be very careful about when we're looking at this at home right now is there is a difference between how the stock market behaves, how corporate America is behaving, how governments and sovereign nations are performing.
The stock market loves coordination. They want to see an attack to do something about it. But when you look at the sovereign nations and governments, to Diane's point, fiscal austerity measures, getting your deficits in order, these are things that are going to take years to address. It's going to require the devaluation of currencies. But if you look right now at what's going on in corporate America, corporate America is still hoarding cash. They're tightening their belts. They are being extremely careful. This sets up for a very cautious 2012 and the U.S. cannot ignore what's going on in Europe and, frankly, what's going on in China.
ROMANS: You know, Mohamed, stocks in the U.S. soared on Wednesday. The Dow was up I think 490 points at the end of the day on news that the central banks were taking action. Then we found out that the unemployment rate dropped to 8.6 percent. I mean, some are saying, OK, look, the worst is behind us. Others are saying, oh, wow, what a perfect chance to sell. What are people to make of where we are if we could -- we could very well have a very difficult 2012?
EL-ERIAN: And we probably will. We are in a very volatile time for markets. We are getting massive swings, and every investor must be able to navigate this volatility. So if you don't like this volatility, reduce your exposure.
Two critical issues. First, Europe is not going to be solved quickly. And as Diane said, we are not an island. We cannot totally avoid it. We can minimize the risk, but we cannot totally avoid it.
Second, the unemployment number was good on the surface. Let's not forget two other things -- labor participation is coming down and wages are not growing, which means that people will not be able to spend at the rate they've been spending recently.
ROMANS: So I want to add to that point. When you say labor participation is coming down, we're seeing people who have left the labor market. Now some have been out of the market for years quite frankly. We saw women leaving the labor market, and we also know that the jobs we're creating are low wage jobs. You look at those jobs that were created. How can we be a leader in the world and withstand these gale force winds from Europe if this is the kind of economic growth we're seeing?
EL-ERIAN: So regardless of Europe, we have to take seriously our unemployment crisis. I call it a crisis because we have long-term unemployment. We have youth unemployment. These are big issues and they require many years of serious reforms. We have to move quickly to remove all the structural impediments to growth.
It's in public finance. It's in the function of the housing market, the function of the credit market. And so far we haven't done anything. We've been politically dysfunctional, as Diane said, and the outcome has been that the unemployment crisis becomes deeper month in and month out.
ROMANS: Let's leave it there because we have to take a break. I want to come back and talk about this leadership deficit. Stay where you are. Escalating economic situation that is global but what happens in this country in Washington can also be felt around the world. And what we do here right now is what could protect us from all of those other uncertainties. But guess what? Washington is doing nothing right now. That's next on YOUR MONEY.
ROMANS: In the face of a potential credit freeze that could cripple the global economy it was the central banks from around the world, not governments, that took action to keep Europe's banking system afloat this week. But there is genuine concern that this move could just be a giant Band-Aid. Alexis, ultimately we'll need government leaders to step up both here and abroad to avoid another dire economic situation. But they can't even decide how to cut $1.2 trillion in this country. and over there they can't even decide, I don't know, I'm stretching here but what to have for lunch in Brussels, you know? This is really a leadership deficit.
GLICK: It is a leadership deficit. And what you're seeing is particularly in European Union is you're seeing more and more members of the Union speak out, particularly with Germany. They're getting really frustrated that there's been too much talk and not enough action.
There is a very important meeting next week at the end of the week in Brussels, to your point. There is going to be enormous scrutiny associated with this what they come out of, what do the austerity measures look like? Can the EU survive? It is still a huge question mark. And here in the United States we're still not sure if we're going to extend payroll tax cuts. We got people coming off of payrolls. At the rate we're going in the United States right now, in order to get unemployment below six percent, in the United States, it would take three years of north of 350,000 jobs created a month. We're creating 120,000.
ROMANS: I know. Diane, to the point of that payroll tax holiday what is that going to cost overall? I don't know how many billions it is overall but if they can't decide on that, the Senate voted down two versions this week, how can they decide on the real issues? I mean, we have trillions of dollars of tough decisions to make and then even more hard work ahead even when the economy starts growing strongly again.
SWONK: One of the things that is not widely known is the shortfall in growth this year for every tenth that we fall short on what the congressional budget office estimates growth would have been this year we lose $300 billion in revenues over 10 years. So we now need over $5 trillion over a 10-year package to put our fiscal house in order and no longer the $4 trillion. The ante has been upped. At the same time they're doing nothing. And the payroll tax extension is worth over a hundred billion dollars to consumers. I think that will come through.
There are a lot of issues that could expire at the end of the year, including extensions to unemployment insurance. And what we're finding is when people come off their 99 weeks unemployment insurance they are so -- because the long-term unemployed, that stayed the same this time, those people are not getting reengaged. That's just compounding it.
It gets to what Mohamed said earlier about the structural nature and concerns about losing a generation of people, young people not getting experience in the labor force, moving home to live with their relatives. And those things have long-term effects. Also one in five children in this country now living in poverty, almost 40 percent African-American children living in poverty. This is the United States of America. You should not be seeing those kinds of numbers. And the long-term effects to lose that kind of human capital are just not acceptable.
ROMANS: Yet, Mohamed, you've written a book about the debilitating lack of leadership in the world today, yet we're all just in a standstill. You say western countries are not as well equipped as emerging economies to deal with these changes. The longer they fail, the greater the risk. What needs to change so government can be part of the solution again?
EL-ERIAN: I think we need a few things. First we need to think structurally and not cyclically. We are thinking in the west cyclically but not facing a bad cycle. We are facing a structural and cyclical challenges.
Second, we need to recognize this is part of global realignment and therefore global cooperation and collaboration become absolutely key.
Third, we need what we call the "sputnik moment." If you remember in the late 1950s when the Soviet Union, USSR, at that point, sent up the satellite sputnik, we had a huge shock, but we came together as a nation with a common purpose and a common vision. That is what we need today. We need a common economic purpose and a common economic vision. If we don't get all this, as Diane said, things will get harder and harder.
SWONK: But even, you know, Mohamed, it seems as though whenever we see policy makers do anything, including the central bankers, when they do something it's defensive. It's not playing offense but defense. We look at the emerging markets, China investing an awful lot of money in infrastructure, Brazil making big investments as well. Russia and India the same kind of -- when is the United States, Mohamed, going to be able to be playing offense again. And is that a completely political statement? Because Republicans would say, we don't want this administration or anybody to be doing any more. You've done enough.
EL-ERIAN: So two things that you point out. First we need to go as you said from playing defense to offense. When you play offense, you need a game plan. You need to tell people what your vision is. You need to tell people what your first three or four plays are going to be. Then you recognize you'll need midcourse correction. We need to change the mindset.
Then you are right, the politics. I fear that with the November election next year we may see nothing at all out of Washington, and whoever comes in after the election in November will have a very long to-do list.
GLICK: The only thing I would say here on offense versus defense is I do give the Fed chairman and the Treasury secretary, particularly in this case, tremendous credit for being offensive. They have been probably the most vocal over the past six months about a need to fix the situation in the European Union. I really believe that the coordinated effort we saw this week really came about because the Federal Reserve said we're going to be the ones to help stem the bleeding. So we should get some credit for that.
ROMANS: All right, Alexis Glick, thank you so much. Mohamed El- Erian, very nice to see you. Have a wonderful weekend. Diane, stick around for a minute, because I want to talk about the big drop in the jobless rate and what it really means. Could it finally be some time for optimism in the jobs market?
ROMANS: Hiring is up and unemployment is down. This is what the government said about the job situation in November -- 120,000 jobs created over all and more jobs created in October and September than originally thought. The private sector accounting for all of this and then some, 140,000 jobs created in the private sector while the government shed some 20,000 jobs.
Here is the headline if you will from the jobs report. The unemployment rate dropped from nine percent to 8.6 percent. A much bigger drop when you look at the unemployment rate than that 120,000 gain in jobs would suggest. So let's ask Diane Swonk. Why the discrepancy? I don't want to say the 8.6 percent isn't real because we did see a drop in the unemployment rate because there is more hiring. But there's a lot of reasons behind that 8.6 percent number. Explain them.
SWONK: Exactly. We did see more hiring. We also saw more people leave the labor force as well, almost as many more people were hired as also left the labor force, which means they either retired or they gave up entirely. I think that's very important. We also saw in the size of the labor force decline quite dramatically.
The other issue that is very important is the long-term unemployed remain the same. So those people who did get jobs were not those people who have been unemployed more than six months. They are more the newly unemployed and we know there are a lot of issues with the long-term unemployed, many people are hiring won't even look at someone who has been unemployed for more than six months.
And so these are all issues that fed into that number. So, yes, there is good news in it. But there is also some under current. It's not pure good news. It's still a mixed economic picture and it still shows the economy shows the labor market is stabilized and is improving, but off of a very low threshold.
ROMANS: And you and I have talked about this before about the discrimination quite frankly for people who have been out of work for more than six months and when we've seen hiring pick up, the picking up and hiring is for people who already have a job or are recently unemployed, right? It is not necessarily long-term unemployed.
ROMANS: I want to ask you about the low wages. There are a lot of low wage jobs in these numbers which leads me to be concerned structurally about what we're building in the labor market. I mean, the kinds of jobs we're adding on to here, retail, leisure, hospitality, a lot of these jobs you can't send a kid to college on.
SWONK: Exactly. And even you can't support a kid who is in college on. I mean, a kid who is in college can't support themselves on those kind of jobs and probably it's 55-year-olds getting those jobs. But I think it is really important, the composition of the unemployment picture had a big component of what you said these low wage jobs relative to not very much manufacturing where they're now reporting shortages of all those highly skilled UAW workers who retired they didn't pass their skills on. These are not rocket scientists. They are very highly skilled individuals, machinists, electricians, and they can't hire them now.
And they are substituting capital for labor in the manufacturing sector because they are still uncertain about the future. They're picking up production but not the biggest bang for unemployment on high wage jobs.
Also the loss in government sector jobs. We saw 5,000 postal workers lose their jobs. Those are high paid jobs as well. Many government jobs are very high paid jobs. And the headwind of that is also sort of lowering the pool of high wage employment for those who don't have extra graduate degrees out there.
ROMANS: Let's bring in Stephen Moore, editorial writer for the "Wall Street Journal." Stephen, when you look at young people over the past three months who have been getting more jobs, look at the broader picture, you look at some forecast that you'll see some auto industry, gosh, domestic sales of cars is pretty good. You might see some auto industry jobs coming up. You have the Obama administration saying, look. This number is, this month is more evidence of a healing labor market, healing after the worst hit since the great depression. So slow but steady growth? That's a good thing.
STEVEN MOORE, EDITORIAL WRITER, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, yes. I was encouraged by these numbers. I may be a little more bullish than Diana is about some of these numbers. When you're talking about 140,000 or so private sector jobs, and don't forget we had a revision upward of the numbers from September and October that were very significant. So, yes, I do think, remember when we were talking about this a couple months ago, Christine, we were worried about the double dip recession. Remember that? Now it looks like we don't have to worry about that, thank god.
I think the economy is picking up. I think we'll see two percent to three percent, maybe even a little higher for the fourth quarter. That's not outstanding given where we are in the recovery phase, but it sure feels a lot better than where we were six months ago.
And one last thing. If I may -- go ahead.
ROMANS: But --
MOORE: I was going to say I have two kids in college so I have a very big interest in making sure young people have jobs. I think that's the biggest issue for a lot of Americans watching this show is will my sons and daughters have good paying jobs when they get that degree?
ROMANS: I agree. Why don't you tell those people who are running for president against Barack Obama that his policies in the last year aren't failing. They're all saying he is destroying the world and you are telling me the world is getting better.
MOORE: I'm the one who has been saying that. But you know what, things are getting better. And I think that is really a testament to the entrepreneurs in this country, the people who put their sweat and equity in businesses that despite everything Washington is doing to try to hold this economy back, and it is starting to shift into a little bit higher gear. Look, I'm not saying we're out of the woods by any means but this was a pretty decent report.
ROMANS: All right.
SWONK: You know what? One piece of good news out there is that it does look like small business hiring is picking up and not just small business. It is not the existing small business I care about as much as the new small businesses. It looks like we're starting to see new business creation showing up in the household survey and that is a little bit of a glimmer of hope.
Of course I would temper it with earlier conversation on Europe and the icebergs that still lie ahead. We're still in very turbulent waters. And although I am hopeful with these numbers, hope is not enough to carry you. We really need some real sustained growth. And we've got a lot of icebergs to dodge. Let's hope our leadership in Washington is better than the captain of the titanic.
ROMANS: We'll be dodging icebergs. Go ahead.
MOORE: One other quick statistic. The wages were down a little bit this month so that, you know, tempers some of the good news because more people are working. But they're not getting the pay raises. The pay checks aren't getting bigger.
SWONK: They're also working lower paid jobs.
ROMANS: We discussed that. We'll dodge these icebergs together we hope over the next year or so because it is going to get interesting I'm sure. Thanks to both of you.
MOORE: Let's hope we're not the titanic.
ROMANS: Exactly. The economy is the number one issue in the presidential campaigns, and one top Republican candidate wants to fire Ben Bernanke. We'll tell you who it is, next.
ROMANS: The Republican presidential candidates insist that President Obama and his policies have been terrible for our economy. So what plans are they proposing as an alternative? Most Republican candidates agree on three key points. They want to cut corporate taxes. They want to repeal what they call Obamacare. They say it's been an abomination. And they want to shrink government. Some of them want to, you know, get rid of entire departments. Rick Perry for example.
But let's talk about Newt Gingrich because he is really rising to the top of the polls. What does Newt Gingrich want? He wants to scrap the estate and capital gains taxes entirely. He wants to extend the Bush tax cuts, and he'd like to have an optional 15 percent flat tax on income. Rick Perry wants a 20 percent flat tax.
He also wants to balance the budget, break up Fannie and Freddie Mac. Some controversy about that because his consulting firm has received more than $1 million from Freddie Mac. He wants to reform the Federal Reserve and limit its powers. And he wants to switch over to something called the "lean six sigma technique" to manage our government. Of course that is a business management protocol used by many Fortune 500 companies to cut the fat, fire under performing employees, to stick to strict budget terms, talk about efficiency and quality control, and save money.
Will Cain is a CNN contributor. Pete Dominick is also the host of Sirius XM's "Stand Up." Will, we've seen Newt Gingrich emerge as a front-runner in some polls pretty recently. Is his economic plan resonating with voters?
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely not. If you ask Newt Gingrich what his economic plan was, he'd probably give you an answer that wound through the founding, went through the Treaty of Guadalupe, went to the fancy football stats of Demarco Murray and landed on the optional flat tax.
The point is there isn't a single thing that's resonating with voters. They couldn't name anything from it. That is the issue, Christine, from a political perspective. He needs a signature issue.
He needs a 9-9-9. He needs Jon Huntsman scrap the entire tax code plan. That is what it's going to takes for somebody to actually know what his economic plan is.
ROMANS: The thing is about the flat tax, the 15 percent flat tax or you can choose your other tax rate. So you really wouldn't get some budget experts say the savings you would need on a personal level because you'd have to do your taxes twice anyway to figure out which one. PETE DOMINICK, HOST, SIRIUS XM'S "STAND UP": That is a whole hour conversation. Listen, the reason why his economic plan isn't resonating because he introduced it in March before he imploded. He has made this amazing comeback because everybody else imploded.
Rick Perry, Herman Cain, etcetera, but I just have to ask Will a question. I mean, when we look at what you just introduced, talks about what it was, it is so transparent to me, that almost every policy, economic policy, will only benefit super wealthy people, estate taxes, capital gains taxes. I mean, I just don't get it.
ROMANS: But I want to break in here. One thing about these plans is that there are those who say it doesn't matter what the plan is. They all just want to beat Obama. Republicans just want to beat Obama. They are less concerned about what the plan is for their candidate than just making sure it's not Obama.
DOMINICK: The problem with this conversation that we have in this country is Will and I argue about this all the time is that we cannot agree on what caused the problems, the economic problems. Deregulation caused the problems and Newt Gingrich, etcetera, want to deregulate even more whether it's environmentally or financial markets.
CAIN: I have many substantive critiques of Newt Gingrich's economic plan. When compared to other Republican presidential nominees. When you compare to President Obama I would say this.
Yes, he might be grinding the gears between first and second, but he is at least moving forward. The problem we have is we have a massive amount of debt in this society, public and private. Not just in America, but the entire world. We have to grow the economy.
DOMINICK: How do we get there?
CAIN: The economic plan is a better economic growth plan than anything President Obama has even considered.
ROMANS: I want to tell you Newt Gingrich this week outlined one of the first things he'd like to do if elected president. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe Bernanke should be fired. One of the first things I'll ask the Congress to do.
The first thing that I'll ask the Congress to do is to end his term early and create a vacancy for a new appointee who will be committed to a policy of keeping the dollar as good as gold and maintaining a firm position on a strong dollar.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: So the same week that Newt Gingrich says he wants Bernanke out, the fed and all of these other central banks come together and sort of like save the European banking system. I mean, a lot of other Republicans say they want him out, too. Is Bernanke fair game here?
CAIN: No. I wish Republicans would stop targeting the fed and Ben Bernanke. I'd even go so far as, Christine, to say Ben Bernanke has been one of the most successful people in keeping this economy from going completely off the cliff and over into the abyss over the last couple of years.
Let me say this about Newt Gingrich. I, again, have substantive critiques compared to other presidential candidates. His fundamental flaw, his fundamental political characteristic that he has that is a problem is a lack of humility.
It is reflected in his economic plan. He wants to subsidize various energy companies. He embraces tax credits. These are things that distinguish him from other candidates and it shows that he thinks he can tinker this economy to its optimal level, which to me makes him marginally different than President Obama.
DOMINICK: Firing Bernanke is what you were talking about. He needs that 9-9-9 message. He needs that kind of simple thing people can understand.
Do you know how awesome it sounds when someone like Newt Gingrich says, well, fire Ben Bernanke, the fed chief? It just sounds awesome, Christine. OK, fine. That's great. That's the kind of messaging that actually works.
CAIN: Let me say this. That is what -- explains Newt Gingrich's rise. It's all about style. It's all about that messaging. Fundamentally, substantively not that different from Mitt Romney, certainly we're not talking about a character advantage over the other guys. It's all about the bombasting style.
ROMANS: And confidence, an absolute confidence and what a rise. Unbelievable where he is in the polls in the right now. You guys, thanks, Pete Dominick, Will Cain. It's nice to see you this week. Have a great weekend.
With the world possibly on the verge of another financial crisis, we must ask the one question everyone is asking, what would Ben Stein do? We're going to find out from Ben stein, himself, next.
ROMANS: Central banks are moving to prevent European problems from spreading around the world. As we have been discussing, there are parallels between what is going on today and what happened to the U.S. in 2008 and it makes me cringe to compare to anything to 2008.
Andy Serwer is the managing editor of "Fortune," economist Ben Stein is an actor and author and just about everything in between. He has a new book entitled "What Would Ben Stein Do?"
So let's start with you, Ben. The world possibly facing another global financial crisis, some say we're already in it. What would Ben Stein do? BEN STEIN, AUTHOR, "WHAT WOULD BEN STEIN DO": I sure wouldn't let another big bank fail. That led us into the crisis in the first place. That was economics 101. Do not let Lehman Brothers fail. They let them fail. I wouldn't let a country fail.
I would take whatever steps have to be taken by the European central bank, the European Union, or the U.S. Federal Reserve to make sure there are no big failures. The big failure with financial institutions or a big country or even a small country is just, should just be ruled out.
Just get on TV right now, Mr. Bernanke and all the other big powers in finance and say we're just not going to let this happen.
ROMANS: But you know what? People don't like bailouts. No one likes bailouts.
STEIN: That is not true. With great respect, the Tea Party doesn't like bailouts. And the Tea Party is a fading force in this country. And there are plenty of people who do like bailouts. If we're properly understood, I explained to Mr. Obama if your choice is bailout or depression I think people take the bailout.
ROMANS: And what Andy Sewer do?
ANDY SERWER, MANAGING EDITOR, "FORTUNE": Well, first of all, I think it's inappropriate to say we're going back to 2008 that that might happen because what is happening now is a continuation of 2008.
This is the longest, slowest, most uneven recovery we hope of our lifetimes. We just went through the worst financial downturn of our lifetimes. So this is all part and parcel of the same thing. It's of a piece with 2008.
Now the problems spread to Europe. I mean, they were always in Europe, but the worst part of it is in Europe. We obviously still have problems here. What we need to do is deleverage and that is a fancy word for getting rid of debt.
I mean, that has to happen across the private sector, public sector, and in Europe. That is a long, slow process. That is number one. Number two is government spending particularly in Europe because there's too much government spending relative to the size of the GDPs and those economies.
And you're seeing the chancellor, excuse me, the president I should say, of Germany, Angela Merkel, who is really on top of the situation I think and doing a wonderful job.
ROMANS: You think she is.
SERWER: I think she is. I think she is saying that it is going to be a long, slow process, and that --
ROMANS: Marathon she said this week.
SERWER: Yes, exactly, a marathon.
STEIN: She's being very tough apparently about helping bail out the other countries, but they have plenty of money, Germany, they can print all they want. There is very little inflation in Germany.
I mean, I don't understand the reluctance of the German and other countries to print more money and have the euro authority print more money to bail out these banks.
Inflation is not a big problem now because velocity of money is so low. Let them print the money, get the banks bailed out, and then worry about the other problems.
ROMANS: So these are solvable problems.
STEIN: Very solvable.
ROMANS: But we have leadership deficits that are making them feel like they're not solvable.
STEIN: Policy has been way, way behind the curve for a long time now in both countries and both the U.S. and in the Euro zone.
SERWER: I think people are very frustrated with leadership and I think that people are scared both ordinary people and I think politicians and there is a lot of finger pointing. I think, you know, sometimes the media doesn't help because, you know, it is a sound bite mentality right now.
And if you say things like I'll never compromise, I'll stand by my principles. It's an incredibly inappropriate thing for a politician to say. You know, that you would never compromise. You were voted into office to compromise and to legislate and get things done not to stand by your, quote, "principles."
ROMANS: It's about signing pledges --
STEIN: That is a terrible, terrible mistake. Politics is the art of the possible and you get along by going along. I mean, they should learn from Sam Raburn you get along by going along.
ROMANS: All right, guys, stick with me because I want to talk with you after the quick break about "Occupy Wall Street." What do they want? What is it all about? Where is it going?
An exclusive look inside the corporate style office, yes, they have a corporate style office near Wall Street in an old bank building no less, next on YOUR MONEY.
ROMANS: From parks filled with tents to some posh financial district digs cameras have never been allowed inside the new "Occupy Wall Street" office until now. CNN Money's Poppy Harlow takes you on an exclusive tour.
POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT: Zuccotti Park is nearly all cleared out, but "Occupy" has moved to places that you probably wouldn't expect including an office right off of Wall Street.
You walk in. You get a name tag like this. Is this "Occupy" headquarters?
MEGAN HAYES, OCCUPIER: Not at all. This is one of our offices because we don't have Zuccotti Park.
HAYES: We are spreading out our resources so we can have people join us. Working groups can continue to work and continue to plan.
HARLOW: All right, show us around.
HAYES: This is some of our working space. You can see lots of occupiers working here. We have some offices, our info hub, to help to people who were staying in the park who are now homeless.
HARLOW: A copy machine, fax.
HAYES: As every office needs we have our copy machine.
HARLOW: Look, right in Manhattan isn't cheap. How are you guys paying for this?
HAYES: We are not. It's donations. Our office furniture was donated. Our food still donated. Our water is donated.
HARLOW: So this really stands out to me. We'll walk in here. What print media is saying about the movement today so they're posting all of this stuff that we the media are putting out there. You're keeping an eye on us.
HAYES: Of course.
HARLOW: Is it a more professional movement now that you've got an office? Is it different now?
HAYWOOD CAREY, OCCUPIER: No. I don't think so. One of the things we're trying to reconcile here is that we're trying to show the world a different way of doing things. And though we may be in an office space, we want to stay true to exactly who we are.
HARLOW: So there is no boss on this office floor?
CAREY: Absolutely not. We are a movement without leadership. People oftentimes say, well a bunch of anarchists can't run anything. They'll do whatever they want.
Nothing could be further from the truth in "Occupy Wall Street." We have layer upon layer upon layer upon layer of structure, regulations, and guidelines. The difference is, that we as a people came up with those.
HARLOW: Here right next to the New York Stock Exchange in the Trump building is another public meeting area for "Occupy Wall Street" where a lot of them have gone since Zuccotti Park got evicted.
CAREY: It is a little bit ironic. This is actually the lobby of a bank, but that actually makes it so much more important to us.
HARLOW: Is this as important as your office is? That we were in earlier?
CAREY: This space is much more important than the office.
CAREY: Because what you are seeing right here is decision making. I can't tell you what we're going to look like in a year, but what I can say is what you see around here is what is going to determine what we look like.
ROMANS: All right, back now with Ben Stein and Andy Serwer. Ben, in the piece, they referred to not having a leader of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. They want a leaderless movement and they want to stay true to who they are and what they stand for. Who are they and what do they stand for?
STEIN: They are a bunch of extremely infantile children who go around banging on drums and talking to each other and thinking they are accomplishing something. They are people who don't know the meaning of the word work.
They are kind of sad and self-important. As far as I can observe they're not doing anything very important. I mean, they are against greed. We're all against greed. They're against fraud. We're all against fraud.
There are already laws against fraud. I don't understand what they're doing. The only time I've ever been around them all they did is bang on drums. I don't see that accomplishes very much.
ROMANS: They say they represent the 99 percent.
STEIN: They don't represent the 99 percent. The 99 percent are working, working. They are working. Try working.
ROMANS: Or they want to be working. There are those in the 99 percent who are trying to work.
STEIN: I don't see these guys working. Banging on drums ain't working.
ROMANS: What do you think? SERWER: I guess he doesn't like them so much. You know, I think they bear watching, Christine.
ROMANS: They bear watching?
SERWER: They do.
ROMANS: Look, the first --
SERWER: Because they are a force. They have been growing. They're in hundreds and hundreds of cities.
STEIN: Hundreds of cities. So that means there are thousands of them in a country of 308 million.
SERWER: That's right. But, I mean, why do you ignore it? You are suggesting we should ignore them?
STEIN: I would ignore them completely. I wouldn't pay one bit of attention.
SERWER: You're not a policeman down in Lower Manhattan. Are you a Wall Street person and they march to your house and try to bang down your door? That would bear watching.
They're rallying more people on all the nation's elite universities. They bear watching. They'll organize into a political movement. They bear watching.
STEIN: I'm not law enforcement.
SERWER: You said if you're a Wall Street executive, in a university. If you're a politician, they bear watching.
STEIN: They don't bear watching if you are a politician. They are a trivial, insignificant bunch of punks.
ROMANS: But the president and Nancy Pelosi have talked about the movement. When you have a president talking about a movement that didn't exist two months ago that is something.
Wall Street executives, they kind of think, well, they are not talking about us. They don't think this movement is talking about them.
SERWER: Well, then they're wrong. They are talking about them. I was just down at NYU's business school and they had a panel with myself and Governor Patterson, former governor of New York, and one of these leaders or not leaders of "Occupy Wall Street" because he kept saying he wasn't a leader.
Listen, I don't think these guys are perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But the room was packed and the debate was very, very active. Some of the students said, you guys are punks, get to work.
Some of the students said, I'm glad you're trying to destroy the capitalist system because it's based on slavery and it should be destroyed. There's this whole range of opinion. It was a great debate.
But people did talk about the factors no economic growth or none to speak of, it's just incipient, number one and number two, they talked about the income and wealth gap and how that was making them feel unhappy.
STEIN: Lots of things make me feel unhappy. I assume I have to work to get the things I want and that my wife and children want. I do not assume -- lots of things --
SERWER: Have you ever protested?
STEIN: Absolutely. We had specific goals. We had specific things we wanted the government to do and consider. We demonstrated against the war in Vietnam --
SERWER: Were you banging drums out there?
STEIN: No, we were not banging drums. We had specific complaints.
SERWER: We asked them about the goals. That was a very interesting point and we criticize. People were criticizing, why don't you have any goals and they said, we're only two months old.
STEIN: They want to call attention to themselves and avoid doing constructive labor.
ROMANS: Because we are working, all three of us here, I have to actually take a break to pay the bills. Don't move for a second because there's more I want to ask you about getting a job. What would Ben Stein do next?
ROMANS: Hiring was up last month. The unemployment dropped, but it's still not enough. Ben, in your book, Ben Stein, you say work is a gift from God. What advice would you give to someone who's searching for a job right now?
STEIN: Get a job, even if it's not the job you want right now. Get a job at McDonald's, get a job at Burger King, get a job at Nordstrom's, get any kind of job that helps pay the rent and gives you dignity and self-esteem. Work is probably the single best cure for any mental problem. Samuel Johnson said that. It's incredibly true.
ROMANS: And if a company won't give you a job, what do you do?
STEIN: There are lots of jobs out there that Americans won't take.
ROMANS: Like what?
STEIN: Clerks in retail stores. We live down in the desert part of the year. Almost every store has a sign up saying "help wanted." It's really amazing. I say to them, you've had these signs up for months, why can't you get help? People won't take the jobs.
ROMANS: I know, but the composition of the work that we're creating in this country is low-wage work --
STEIN: It's better than no work at all. It gives you a certain dignity to do work and if they want higher-paid work, go to school.
SERWER: It's tough. I mean, there's this hourglass economy that we see taking place. The middle class is shrinking a little bit. The lower class, under class is growing. There are more people in the upper middle class.
So if people are moved from the middle class down, you can lose hope. Some people may think those jobs are beneath them, which is a mistake. I agree with Ben.
STEIN: Very much a mistake.
SERWER: Because I see people when they're unemployed, they get caught up, they get depressed and they start to blame other people. I'm not saying a lot of these people aren't trying hard every single day to find jobs. But are people really looking at all the opportunities out there because there are a lot?
ROMANS: We lost 8.8 million jobs since the recession. We've recovered only a third of those. Clearly there are fewer opportunities.
STEIN: Look, this country would grind to a halt without work done by illegal immigrants. Some of that work could be done by Americans. They won't do it.
If we had 5 percentage points more of employment that would mean unemployment is at an all-time low. So there are plenty of jobs that illegal immigrants or immigrants will take. Americans won't take.
Look, I'm not saying that I want to do jobs in slaughterhouses. Those are awful, awful jobs, but work has dignity. There is dignity in labor and I wish people would realize that.
ROMANS: All right, guys, we have to wrap it up. Come back again. There are so many things to talk about from "Occupy Wall Street" to whether there are enough jobs and what kind of jobs to take.
Andy Serwer, Ben Stein, really nice to see you guys. The book is called "What Would Ben Stein Do?" Ben Stein would not be banging drums, he says, down at any "Occupy" headquarters or drum circle.
All right, thanks for joining the conversation for us this week on YOUR MONEY. Ali Velshi is here every Saturday, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, Sunday at 3:00.
Make sure you check my new book with Ali, it's called "How To Speak Money," it's a step by step guide to understanding the language of money with everything you need to know.
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