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Is it Important to Balance the Budget?; Could the Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco Save the American Economy?; Scouts Ask Parents about Gay Issues; Experts to Probe if Chavez Poisoned; Unwelcome Homecoming; Fans Harass Howard; Get Vasectomy for Shot at Final Four

Aired March 13, 2013 - 09:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you for joining us. Stories we're watching in the NEWSROOM. Opening bell just rang on Wall Street. The Dow poised to extend its winning streak. Alison Kosik at the New York stock exchange. Give us the scoop.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: The winning streak, gosh you look at it, it's eight days in the making. Yesterday the Dow eked out another record setting day, Carol. Two points higher, but that's all it took. But knowing that the Dow barely ended in positive territory, it looks like investors may be ready to take a bit of a breather today. You see stocks starting mixed, slightly lower, but what the winning streak is been. It's the longest winning streak since 2011.

So, what's Wall Street watching today? New retail sales numbers that came out this morning. We learned that retail sales jumped more than one percent in February. Looks like consumers spent more on gas and bought cars, but the spent less at the mall. But it looks like the consumer is still holding up. Still spending money even with higher taxes. We'll see if that good news maybe gives stocks more of a boost. It's not going anywhere right now, Carol.

COSTELLO: We'll get back to you. Alison Kosik live at the New York stock exchange.

"Political Buzz" is your rapid fire look at the best political topics of the day. Three topics, 30 seconds on the clock. Playing with us today, CNN senior political analyst and editorial director of "The National Journal," Ron Brownstein and CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona.

Welcome to both of you.



COSTELLO: Good morning. First topic. Most Americans would say a balanced budget is a good thing. In fact, previous presidents have made it central to agendas, among them, Ronald Reagan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RONALD REAGAN, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think what we are going to have to have and what I have to strive for is an amendment to our constitution that requires the government every year to balance the budget.


COSTELLO: Then in 1997, Bill Clinton signed a balanced budget amendment into law, saying it represented, quote, "an historic compromise." But it is a different story in today's Washington where Democrats are blasting a Republican plan to balance the budget in ten years. President Obama says it's not just about dollars and cents.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My goal is not to chase a balanced budget just for the sake of balance. By goal is how do we grow the economy, put people back to work, and if we do that, we're going to be bringing in more revenue. If we controlled spending and we've got a smart entitlement package, then potentially what you have is balance, but it's not balance on the backs of, you know, the poor, the elderly, students who need student loans, family who's have disabled kids, that's not the right way to balance our budget.


COSTELLO: Democrats set to unveil proposals today, one that is likely dead on arrival with their colleagues across the aisle, as in Republicans. So our question to you, is the balanced budget important or not? Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Look, it's an aspiration we honored mostly in the brief (ph) Ronald Reagan may have talked about it, but that budget has only been balanced three or four years since 1969, at the end of the Bill Clinton administration, and we instantly blew that up with large tax cuts and the creation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Balancing the budget is a moral or ideological statement. From an economic point of view, what economists focus on is stabilizing the debt as a share of the overall economy, so the debt is not growing faster than the economy. That's the realistic goal that both sides are probably pointing at now.


CARDONA: I completely agree with Ron. It is idealistically a good idea. But, I completely agree with the president, that it shouldn't be done just for sake of doing it. If you look at a family and you look at the things that families need to get done, and a family in debt, they could balance their budget in a minute if they decide not to send their kids to college or if they decide not to give their grandparents the health care they need. Is that smart? Absolutely not. We need to do it with the focus on investing on our future. Making sure the middle class is educated, healthy, and robust. That's the way to do it. COSTELLO: All right, onto question number two. Ending gun violence in America through higher taxes? That is the idea behind a House Democratic bill led by California Congresswoman Linda Sanchez. It calls for an additional 10 percent tax on sales of concealable firearms with the extra money going to fund gun buybacks and safety programs. Supporters say the legislation would get unwanted guns off the streets. Critics say the plan punishes law abiding gun owners while doing nothing at all to deter criminals. So, our question, will raising taxes on gun sales target the wrong people? Maria?

CARDONA: I don't know if this particular legislation will work, Carol, but what I like about it is that they are putting everything on the table in terms of trying to solve the issue of gun violence in this country, which is critical. Should we focus on this? I don't think raising taxes will keep anybody that wants a gun from buying a gun. But I think we should maybe focus on other things also that have more bipartisan support, like the background checks and focusing on real solutions. I like that this continues to be part of the debate. We need to continue to put everything on the table.


BROWNSTEIN: The real point of this is that we have had over a decade of silence about gun issues after Al Gore was defeated and Democrats concluding that was a big portion of it. So, it is important that all of these issues are being debated, but I think this is going to be a very polarizing idea. I can see some blue states advancing it. Very difficult beyond that.

COSTELLO: Okay, the final question, your buzzer-beater, 20 seconds on the clock. Outrage, indignation, unrest, all because of this. The Cool Ranch Doritos Tacos Locos, Taco Bell's much anticipated sequel to a menu favorite causing a social media frenzy after customers unable to find it at their local Taco Bell restaurants. Last year, Taco Bell was so overwhelmed by the response to the Cool Ranch's cousin, the original Nacho Cheese Doritos taco, that it reportedly hired 15,000 additional workers. Who needs Washington when you can have a job creating taco. As the people at "The Daily Bease" ask, can this taco save America, Ron?

BROWNSTEIN: Go back to question one, the concern about the deficit. Largely driven about health care costs. Why are health care costs rising? A big part of it is the way that we live and the lifestyle choices we make. It is a very difficult issue. People are reluctant to be pushed on what they eat, or consume, or exercise, but ultimately that is part of the solution on our health care issues and the long- term federal budget as well. Hate to say it.


CARDONA: But it's creating jobs. Taco Bell is looking to open 2,000 additional stores this year because of the Doritos Locos taco. Now look, I will say this. This is for the GOP advice, this is not the way to reach out to the Latino community. Don't start serving Doritos Locos tacos at your events. Underline that. COSTELLO: I actually believe that President Obama, when he meets with Hosue Republicans today should bring some of those tacos, it might work.

CARDONA: There you go. Everybody loves them, Carol.

COSTELLO: Exactly. They are good. Ron Brownstein, Maria Cardona, thank you for playing today. We appreciate it.

Parents, do you want your sons sleeping in a tent with a gay 15-year- old? That's what the Boy Scouts of America wants to know. And wait until you hear what else is on the Boy Scouts' new survey.


COSTELLO: A question. Should a gay boy scout be able to share a tent with a straight boy scout? That's just one question on a new survey the Boy Scouts of America is sending out to scout leaders and their parents. The Scouts are deciding whether to lift a ban on gay members. They say they're in a listening phase of the process, and will vote on the matter in May. Jon Langbert is an openly gay father in Dallas, Texas. He was fund-raising with his son's scout troop. But left the Boy Scouts after he was told he couldn't wear a uniform or hand out awards to other scouts.

Welcome, Jon.


COSTELLO: Thank you for being with us. We appreciate it.

First off, how do you feel about the Boy Scouts passing out a questionnaire like this, in order to make its decision?

LANGBERT: I think it's a great idea to get feedback from the troops and parents. Nothing wrong with that. I think it asks a couple of different types of questions, one about acceptance and that's fine, although I think what they really do need to get on with it, and other about implementation, and I think that's fine too.

COSTELLO: Well, I just want to take a look at some of the questions. Here's part of one question. From the questionnaire. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for a gay adult leader to take adolescent boys on an overnight camping trip? How do you think people respond to that question?

LANGBERT: I am going to say -- the Scouts have policies in place where you have to have two adults whenever they're around the kids, and that's designed to keep the kids safe. Whether adults are gay or straight, it really shouldn't be entering into that decision-making process. When I was a scout leader, I there was to do scouting. This issue really should be set aside.

COSTELLO: Well, that the question is asked in that particular way, how do you feel about that? That particular question? LANGBERT: Well, I don't really have an answer for that, because I understand the scouts, just like the Catholic Church right now, they are grappling with change in the world. And they're trying to get feedback, I understand that. But, really, it's -- I think you are implying or they are implying there is something wrong with gay leaders when they ask questions like that, and I personally wouldn't be asking those questions.

COSTELLO: This is another question and it's a scenario, and this is what it says on the questionnaire put out by the Boy Scouts. Johnny's friends and their parents unanimously nominate Johnny's mom who is known by them to be a lesbian to be a den leader. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for his mother to serve as den leader for his Cub Scout den? How do you think people would look at this question if you replace lesbian with black or Hispanic?

LANGBERT: That's excellent point. I think if you look at the U.S. military, they took this, and they got their marching orders, that we're going to be implementing equality, and they did it just fine. There are a bunch of doomsayers beforehand any time there is a change like this. And they were saying oh, people will leave the military, it's going hollow out our force and it never came to fruition. Same thing here. If the Scouts would just show leadership and say we're going to be an inclusive organization, we recognize we already have gay scouts and gay leaders, we're just going to allow them to be out about it, and they would move past this topic, all of this these things would be unnecessary.

COSTELLO: I want to read you what the Boy Scouts says about this survey. Because we did contact them. The Boy Scouts told CNN, "We're currently in the listening phase. Where the Boy Scouts of America's committees engage key stakeholders for input. The BSA is reviewing a number of issues and how they will impact the Boy Scouts, including youth-chartered organizations', parents, and financial fund-raising and legal concerns. The survey results will help inform the officers' work on a resolution regarding membership standards."

I guess I'm wondering, like you said, shouldn't the Boy Scouts of America just make its decision and not base this decision on a number of opinions out there across the country which all may be different?

LANGBERT: You are absolutely correct. You can't satisfy all of the people all of the time. And this is one where an organization that purports to develop future leaders needs to show some leadership of its own.

COSTELLO: John Langbert thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

LANGBERT: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Still ahead in the NEWSROOM, "Talk Back". "Is Mississippi's anti-Bloomberg bill a good idea?" Your response is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: Just about 50 minutes past the hour. Time to check our "Top Stories".

A team on horses is expected in New Orleans today to join the search for 26-year-old second grade teacher Terrilyn Monnette. The Californian native was last seen March 2nd at a bar in a quiet neighborhood. She was celebrating her nomination as "Teacher of the Year" in her district.

Top scientists will investigate whether Hugo Chavez was possibly poisoned with cancer. That's the word from the Venezuelan President's temporary successor. Comes a week after Chavez's death.

CNN's Zain Verjee has more for us.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Carol, it may sound totally crazy but Venezuela is going to look into claims that Hugo Chavez's cancer happened because he was poisoned. Well by who? Officials there are saying his enemies.

The acting President Nicolas Maduro is saying that he is formally opening an investigation adding this, quote, "We have an intuition that our commander, Chavez was poisoned by dark forces that wanted to be rid of him." Foreign scientists are going to be asked to join the probe.

He went on to say that the U.S. had labs creating cancer in the '40s and '60s so while the State Department spokesman says that it's totally absurd to think that the U.S. caused Chavez's cancer. Now some analysts are saying that all of this sounds crazy but it's an internal political ploy just to keep the attention on Chavez still and to get some benefit from the emotional outpouring from his supporters -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Zain Verjee.

To the Web where federal rules now require short form ads like the ones on Twitter and Facebook to include traditional product disclosures. "The Wall Street Journal" reports that even the tiniest online ads must include details like whether a celebrity was paid for an endorsement.

Dwight Howard's homecoming was something he'll probably remember for a long time. Coming up, you'll hear how Orlando Magic fans welcomed him back.


COSTELLO: "Talk Back" question today, "Is Mississippi's anti- Bloomberg bill a good idea?"

This from Molly, "Way to go, Mississippi, government has no right to dictate what citizens are allowed to eat and drink."

From Lanny, "If you don't have the self-control to live a healthy life then you're inviting government interference. It's your choice." This from Kayjay, "A temper tantrum knee-jerk reaction to Bloomberg only hurts Mississippi residents. If he gets people to rethink their habits, why not?"

And Chris, "God bless Mississippi. Keep the government out of my life."

Please keep the conversation going, or tweet me @carolCNN.


COSTELLO: Dwight Howard now with the Lakers played his old team the Orlando Magic. It was his first game back since leaving and let's just say Magic fans were not exactly ecstatic to see him.

Joe Carter is here with "Bleacher Report".

JOE CARTER, BLEACHERREPORT.COM: Hey good morning, Carol. Yes they're not happy with him because when he left Orlando for L.A. it really wasn't a clean break. He kind of kept -- he kept Magic fans guessing on whether or not he would stay in town or if go and of course, as you'll hear there's still a lot of bitterness with the fans.

All right so there you have it. So the Magic fans they try to actually distract him all game by booing him every time he touched the ball. Except that strategy didn't work. Dwight Howard played his best game of the season. And the team Orlando, their strategy, pack it every time he touched the ball. That didn't work either because he scored 25 of his 39 points from the free-throw line. The Lakers win by nine and after the game, Howard had a parting message for his old fans.


DWIGHT HOWARD, NBA PLAYER: Forgive me, you know everything that the whole process, whatever happens it's behind me now and I can't let it affect who I am as a person.


CARTER: All right, so the Miami Heat won again last night. Make it 19 wins and counting. The Heat crushed the Atlanta Hawks. Lebron James made just three shots but he did help in other ways. Dwyane Wade picked up the slack with another strong game. Miami goes for win number 20 tonight.

Our friends at breaks down how Miami's win streak, how they're doing it through the eyes of their opponents.

All right, so this next video is a celebration video gone wrong. North Side Community College wins a big game. Then they decide to celebrate with a Gatorade shower, except coach goes down. Watch the person when the fans comes down to help. Also goes down. See here's the deal. This Gatorade shower celebration should be saved for outdoors, not indoors. Because it gets so slippery there but both the coach and the fan are ok and both of these guys actually laughed it off when they walked away.

All right, question here, do you want to win free tickets to the final four? Well if you do you just got to get vasectomy or at least come in for a consultation.

COSTELLO: Why is this --

Carter: Yes that's right, the tournament in Atlanta this year a local medical office in Georgia is offering two free tickets if you come in to get snipped or even if you consider it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you still are -- have had a procedure and you're off your feet for the weekend to watch basketball. I mean it truly is a win/win situation.


CARTER: I can hear the excuses coming in now Carol. I can't possibly get off this couch or get out of my bath robe. Doctor's orders, I can't do anything all weekend. I have to watch basketball.