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CNN IN THE MONEY
Will Economy Or Gay Marriage Matter More During November Election? "The Passion" Is First Wave Of Christian Entertainment Boom; Learn Car Salesmen "Tricks" Of The Trade
Aired February 22, 2004 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: From New York City, America's financial capitol, this is IN THE MONEY.
JACK CAFFERTY, HOST: Welcome to the program. I'm Jack Cafferty. Coming up on today's edition of IN THE MONEY:
The love bomb: The push for and against gay marriage is sparking debate across the country, but will it be a factor when people go into the voting booth or will issues like the economy matter much more?
Plus, easy marks from a tough customer: Find out about the tricks some car salesman use to close the deal, as we talk to a guy who did the job under cover and learned a bunch.
Plus, praise the Lord and pass the remote: From the box office to the bookstore, the Christian entertainment business is booming, as Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" debuts next week on Ash Wednesday, we'll look what's behind the trend.
Joining me today, a couple of our IN THE MONEY regulars, CNN correspondent Susan Lisovicz. "Forntune" magazine editor-at-large, Andy Serwer.
So, coming off the Wisconsin primary, which John Kerry won, giving him a record of 15 and two in the primaries, the media got all aflutter over John Edwards because he did a little better in Wisconsin than was expected. Now, there's talk about, well, until Super Tuesday we've got a real chance. Edwards has momentum, he could overtake Kerry.
If you look at the polls in New York, Marris Poll in New York, big democratic state, John Kerry is favored by 66 percent of the democrats, John Edwards is favored by 14 percent. Similar poll out in Ohio where John Kerry is favored by 45 percent, John Edwards favored by 14 percent and he's not even going to campaign in California. Is the media making something out of something that's not there?
ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" EDITOR-AT-LARGE: You're up in arms with this one. You really are.
CAFFERTY: All of it. Yeah.
SERWER: And the media is a twittering -- it's a fluttering, it's a twittering.
CAFFERTY: A twittering, a fluttering.
SERWER: You know, there is one group of constituents that Edwards is very popular amongst, and that is the producers and executives of news programs and cable news networks...
CAFFERTY: Thank you.
SERWER: ...et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
CAFFERTY: Thank you.
SERWER: I'm not really sure how much momentum he has. You're right, I mean, the field has narrowed, of course he's going to pick up some votes, right?
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's milking that dairy state for all its worth.
SERWER: Oh, very good.
LISOVICZ: Came to New York a few days ago, and there was some pictures, I forget which newspaper, but he was just surrounded by media. He is really using it, and a very effective speaker, too.
SERWER: Well that's true.
LISOVICZ: He was a trial lawyer for many years, and so he's trying to push John Kerry into some one-on-one debates and probably would do very well, there. So, he's got a future. Who knows where it will be, but he's using it. He's using the media effectively.
CAFFERTY: Yes, and...
SERWER: Aren't we all?
CAFFERTY: And, boy, are we getting used.
When it comes to presidential politics this week, the democrats are the ones who've been generating adrenaline, getting most of the attention, but the real battle lies ahead and the republicans are getting ready. For a look at some of the issues the Bush campaign is tracking as it begins to draw up the strategy and gets ready to dip into the huge war chest. we're joined by CNN senior White House correspondent, John King.
John, last week, the Bush administration promised some very aggressive job growth, some 2.6 million was the number being kicked around between now and the end of the year. Suddenly there was some serious backing off from that. How big an issue is that going to be and how much repair work do they have to do to that promise that got out there?
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Jack, it's certainly a huge issue here, as we get into the middle of February. How big of an issue will it be in the first week of November, is the key question for any incumbent president, of course. The White House predicted in that report, 2.6 million, it immediately retreated, now it won't give us any projection at all. The democrats see that political opening and they are hammering the president. What the White House believes though, is if you have steady economic growth, if you have a million and a half, say 2 million new jobs by the end of the year, then we won't talking about this anymore because the economy will be growing and any incumbent president benefits that that scenario. But, certainly that -- one of a number of political missteps by this president early in the year.
CAFFERTY: And very unlike Karl Rove, who keeps pretty tight control on what that administration is talking about and saying and kind of the position they present. One can only imagine he must have been livid when that number suddenly got out and was attributed to President Bush.
KING: There is a sense of nervousness by top republicans outside the gates of the White House that, "hey, have they taken their eyes off the ball for a little bit? Have they stumbled? Have they lost a little bit?" Inside the White House they insist that everything is OK, everyone makes mistakes, they say. And, the running joke around here, Jack is that if the polls in February were indicative of November, you know, we'd be stopping by the Bob Dole and Walter Mondale presidential libraries from time to time, so we're going to have to wait this one out a little bit.
CAFFERTY: Any surprises that you sense might be coming when they finally get on to the playing field in the -- and the opening shots are fired in this thing?
KING: Well, they're obviously going to go after John Kerry's record. They believe he will be the candidate, one of the reasons we have not seen Bush spend his millions and millions and millions more on TV ads just yet is they want to be absolutely certain it is Senator Kerry. They believe it will be. They are going back through everything, including articles I wrote almost 20 years when I was working for the AP up in Boston and he was the lieutenant governor.
They are going after his record on spending issues, they are going after his record on national security issue, they are going after criticism of the United States and the presidents of the United States when he opposed Vietnam War, after he came home, and they are going after him on cultural issues, like gay marriage, like abortion, because this White House believes it will be a very closely decided election, they believe the president will win it in small town rural, conservative America.
CAFFERTY: John, it's a pleasure to have you on the program. Thank you.
KING: Thank you.
CAFFERTY: CNN senior White House correspondent, John King reporting from Washington, D.C. Whatever strategy the Bush campaign comes up with, the president's position on gay marriage will undoubtedly be a part of it. The recent spate of same-sex marriages in San Francisco is keeping the debate over same-sex marriage very much alive. The president says it's also been boosting his resolve to perhaps get behind a constitutional amendment to effectively ban gay marriage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ...by activist judges who are defining marriage. I have watched carefully what's happened in San Francisco, where licenses were being issued, even though the law states otherwise. I have consistently stated that if up -- support law to protect marriage between a man and a woman, and obviously these events are influencing my decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAFFERTY: Democratic frontrunner, John Kerry, says he supports civil unions for gay couples, but does not back a Massachusetts court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. The democrats are expecting conservatives to hit gay marriage hard this election year so that voters don't focus on things like economy and healthcare.
For a look at the political and financial side of gay marriage, let's go to the city that putting it very much on the map these days, despite a law in California prohibiting it.
Karen Breslau is "Newsweek" magazine's bureau chief in San Francisco.
Karen, nice to you have with us.
KAREN BRESLAU, "NEWSWEEK" MAGAZINE: Thank you.
CAFFERTY: Despite all of the play that the same-sex marriage licenses being handed out at San Francisco City Hall is getting in the news media, isn't it true that most national elections are won or lost based on how people vote concerning their pocketbooks, the economy, jobs, the future, chances for kids to go to college, et cetera? I mean, this is an interesting kind of side-bar issue, but is it really going to decide very many votes, do you think, when it's time to elect the president?
BRESLAU: I think relative to the overall number of voters, no. You're right, most people vote based on the economy, and the situation in Iraq will also be incredibly important. But, gay marriage is an important -- or same-sex marriage is an important social issue that -- you know, traditional wedge issue where the country just divides among -- along a fault line, cultural conservatives versus liberals, and these voters, voters who would be moved to choose a candidate based on his or her position on same-sex marriage tend to be socially -- obviously, they're going to be socially conservative, and those are voters that George Bush could desperately need, particularly in some southern states. So, his political team -- his campaign advisers, are looking very closely at how this issue plays among evangelical, social conservatives, people who have been wary, tend to vote republican, and have been wary of Bush in the past, and they may want to use this issue to mobilize those voters.
SERWER: Now, Karen, this is, as you're suggesting -- you know, tricky stuff for the presidential candidates and potentially dynamite, but wouldn't the smart thing to do here, say that simply this is a local issue. If the people in San Francisco want to do this, fine. If the people in Dallas don't want to do it, fine. Couldn't we just leave it at that?
BRESLAU: Well, there's the awkward legal realty that the states define their marriage laws.
SERWER: Right. So, leave it as a state's issue, not a national one.
BRESLAU: Right. And that -- you know, Bush until recently had said this -- you know, is a state issue, and I want to see this handled in the states, but as you have seen, Hawaii, followed by Vermont, now Massachusetts, possibly California. You're beginning to see a change in the constitutional interpretations of the states. And this has got many social 00 many people, not just conservatives, riled up, which is why there is an amendment in congress that would define marriage as between a man and a woman, essentially setting a constitutional amendment at the federal level that imitates what several of the states already have. So -- and federal benefits are at stake in marriage, there are social security benefits, there are tax issues. So, you can't just say, OK, it's fine if you live in San Francisco, you have these rules, because what you have now in California, of course, is that the current practice in San Francisco would appear to contradict California state law.
BRESLAU: So, then you're going to get your "Law & Order" types out there.
LISOVICZ: Karen, let's talk about that trend we've seen with states, which actually presents kind of a tricky situation for the democratic frontrunner, John Kerry, who does not want to hear the words, "Massachusetts liberal" lobby the at him throughout the campaign. He's got, actually, a kind of a tricky road, here.
BRESLAU: He does and -- you know, it's not just Kerry but all democrats want this issue off the front page, it does not help them and, of course, Kerry has this nuanced position that many moderate democrats have, which is, I support civil unions, I just domestic partnership, and equal protections, but I don't support gay or same- sex marriage, and it's the -- you know, the "M" word that causes a lot of trouble and that's a pretty nuanced position and as anybody in political advertising knows -- you know, if it takes you more than 30 seconds to get it out, it's ammo for the other side. And his people are certainly aware of that, the fact that he comes from Massachusetts, that he has this awkward -- you know, very nuanced position is going to potentially hurt him, should same-sex marriage become the powerful, really huge wedge issue that many democrats fear. LISOVICZ: We'll leave it at that. Karen Breslau, San Francisco bureau chief ror "Newsweek" magazine. Thanks for joining us.
BRESLAU: My pleasure.
LISOVICZ: Up ahead on IN THE MONEY:
Air wars: A new U.S. Government funded TV channel is challenging the rights of al-Jazeera for viewers in the Middle East. See whether the Arab world is turning the newcomer is turning it on or tuning it out.
Later, the stuff some car salesmen don't want to you know: We'll hear from a journalist who went behind the scenes to sell cars. He'll fill you in on what really goes on.
Plus, the CEO upstairs: Really upstairs. We'll look at the business of Christian entertainment and why it's getting bigger all the time.
LISOVICZ: It's being called the biggest federal media project since the launch of "Voice of America" in 1942. It's al-Hurra, the new Arabic satellite station that's being sponsored by the U.S. government. The news channel debuted just over a week ago and is available in 22 Arab countries. Joining us today to talk more about this is Norman Pattiz, he is the founder and creator of al-Hurra.
NORMAN PATTIZ, FOUNDER, AL-HURRA: Thank you, it's nice to be with you.
LISOVICZ: There's no question that there's a lot of people who think this is a good idea that's come, if anything, too late. Al-hara meaning "the free one." Do you think that there is still a credibility problem, though, that really, it can be pro-U.S. government, but what really is at issue is foreign policy -- the U.S. foreign policy?
PATTIZ: Well, I think we have a number of hurdled to overcome. I mean clearly, our policies are not embraced in the Middle East, as a matter of fact, in many cases they're despised. But, our mission and the mission of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, on which I serve, is to promote and sustain freedom and democracy through free flow of accurate, reliable, and credible news and information. To be, in so many words, an example of a free press in the American tradition. So, we're getting a late start, no question, but we're going to put a product on the air that's going to be very appealing, that will be an example of a free press and we feel that we will -- if we walk the walk and are an example of a balanced, credible, truthful news and information, that we will generate an audience.
SERWER: Norman, can you give us some specs on the network? Where is it broadcast from? Where will it be received? Who are the anchors? Any numbers on it? Just give us the 101 on it.
PATTIZ: Sure. The main broadcast facility will be in Springfield, Virginia, which is about 20 minutes outside of Washington, D.C. We have a major broadcast center in Dubai and we have bureaus throughout the region, in places like Cairo and Amman, the Emirates, Kuwait, Baghdad and others, as well. There will be about 200 news employees of the network, about 75 of them are in Springfield, right now, and have come from the region. Many of them have worked in the indigenous media in the past.
SERWER: And you'll be able to get it all through the Arab world, then?
PATTIZ: Exactly. We'll be on three satellites. We'll be on Arab sats and Nile sat digital and will also we'll be on Arab sat analogue, which will cover all 22 countries of the Middle East and will basically be on every satellite system in the Middle East that al-Jazeera is on.
CAFFERTY: How aggressive, Norman, is the station going to be? What I mean by that is how -- how -- to what degree are you going to target the leaders of these countries that sit on these vast oil reserves and watch their citizens enjoy a dirt poor standard of living? They have virtually no utilities, they have no income, they have certainly no luxuries, while the governments take all the money out of the oil wells and put it in foreign bank accounts and live in lavish palaces, as we saw with the fall of the Saddam Hussein government -- I mean, are you going to go after these guys in a real and aggressive way or not?
PATTIZ: Well, we will. If it's news, we'll cover it. I mean, if you take a look at the success of al-Jazeera had the region, I mean, far -- long before 9/11 or the period of time where they went all into Fadeh (PH) all the time, the real reason that they gained traction, in the region, was because they were the first Arab television network that broke the cardinal rule that one Arab government does not criticize another Arab government. Al-Jazeera criticizes everybody, except, of course, the government of Qatar, who supports them.
PATTIZ: But, that's where they gained their resonance with the Arab street. So, today what you find mostly in the Arab media are two stories: Iraq and the Palestinian/Israeli crisis, and they've gotten away from a lot of the thing that attracted their audience in the very beginning. We are certainly going to cover Iraq, we are certainly going to cover the Palestinian/Israeli situation, but we are also going to cover the kinds of things and the kinds of stories that our research tells us that our viewers will be interested in.
LISOVICZ: You know, Norm, one of the hallmarks of good American journalism is presenting both sides or -- and oftentimes there's more than two sides. If it's going to be sponsored by the U.S. government, how critical will al-Harra be of the U.S. government? PATTIZ: Well, let me just say this, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, one of our main -- one of our main missions is to act as a firewall between the independence of our journalist and pressures that may be put upon us by the State Department, or the administration, or Congress, or anybody else, for that matter. We are a board of eight private citizen, four democrats, four republicans, and the secretary of state serves as an ex-officio member. Our mission is a journalistic mission; we are not in the propaganda business, we are not in the psychological operations business. If we start broadcasting propaganda and we don't do news, if we're not an example of the free press in the American tradition, we will not generate the kind of viewing audience that we need to be effective in that market.
SERWER: All right and I'm sure we will be watching this story very closely to see how al-Hurra does. Thank you very much, Norman Pattiz Wireless.
He is the chairman of the Westwood One also the chairman of Middle East Committee Broadcasting Board of Governors.
PATTIZ: Thank you very much. That's for your interest.
SERWER: There's much more ahead on IN THE MONEY. Up next:
Who's the power behind your cell phone? As Cingular scores a matchup with AT&T wireless, we'll look at how consolidation is changing the business.
And down the road a ways, how to make -- how to move a car, excuse me, without getting behind the wheel. Discover the secrets of car salesmen, from a guy who became one himself.
Plus, the "Good Book" and best seller: See what's turning the Christian entertainment business into a success that's long on faith and short on flap.
LISOVICZ: In our "Money Minute" this week, former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling has been charge with fraud and insider trading. Skilling turned himself in Thrusday to face 35 charges connected with the collapse of the energy trading giant. Skilling pleaded not guilty to each count. Skilling faces up to life to prison and $80 million in fines if convicted.
Martha Stewart may take the stand in her own defense sometime next week in her obstruction of justice trial. This week, Stewart's defense suffered a setback when one of her best friends testified that Martha knew Sam Waksal was selling his stake in ImClone before she decided to sell her own shares. Stewart has claimed she sold her shares based on a preexisting stop loss order.
And Kermit meets Mickey: Disney is buying the Muppets from the Henson family. The Magic Kingdom wrapped up the deal for an undisclosed sum just after rejecting a hostile takeover bid from Comcast. Disney tried to buy the Muppets way back when, in 1990, but that deal fell apart shortly after Jim Henson died that same year.
SERWER: OK Susan, Cingular won the bidding war for AT&T Wireless this week, by putting up $41 billion to close the deal. That offer beat out Britain's Vodafone and will make Cingular the No. 1 mobile phone company in America. AT&T spun off its unit in 2001, not the best time to taking your company public, was it?
But this latest merger is making some investors believe a new era of tech and wireless sector mergers could be on the way. So, that makes AT&T Wireless and the entire wireless sector our stock or stocks of the week.
You know, AT&T Wireless, not a happy story. I mean it really hasn't been. The stock went down and the service is not at all good, according to "J.D. Power and Associates," according to "Consumer Reports," and I should know, because it's my service...
LISOVICZ: Ah-oh. Ah-oh.
SERWER: I don't like it. No, it's not that good.
LISOVICZ: But, don't they have a lot of business customers and that's makes it attractive as a takeover target?
SERWER: Well, they've got a lot of customers, that's for sure.
CAFFERTY: Isn't it ironic that way back a long time ago, when we were all much younger, they broke up the Bell Telephone Company in order to increase competition and help consumers? And now there's concern that if these wireless companies continue to do deal, it's going to subtract from the options that consumers have, could drive up prices. The question is: Will the regulators allow this thing to go through untouched, do you think?
SERWER: Well you know, I don't really buy that whole thing about prices hurt, Jack, and consumers hurt, I mean, because -- you know, first of all you still got Sprint, Nextel and Verizon and T-Mobile, so there's a lot of choices. And, the big thing out there is voice over internet protocol, Voice Over IP or as I call it, internet telepathy -- internet telephony there other -- internet telepathy. And this whole thing -- it's a huge -- there's two things I know about: One, we hve no idea where it's going, but two, voice -- making telephone calls over the internet is going to drive prices way down. Way down. I mean it practically costs nothing.
LISOVICZ: But you know, it's interesting, because consumer advocates don't like the deal, they say, one of the reasons why mobile phone rates have come down, is because there was so much competition.
LISOVICZ: So, they're against it. But, on the other hand, you have to say, if you put these two players together, the network will probably be better. You probably know at least one or two people who travel a lot on business and have more than one cell phone, because the other cell phone carrier doesn't work in one region or another and this, at least, should improve the network.
SERWER: GSM, CDMA, we won't even get into those letters and initials, but oversea, it's a big problem.
CAFFERTY: Stock of the week. Do you buy the stock based on the deal that was announced, or no?
SERWER: Well, the stock's -- you know, going to it be bought up at 15 and it's close to that, so I don't know about that. But, you know, the best thing to buy would have been Nextel last year. That would have been best stock buy, but there's still some room ahead for this sector.
CAFFERTY: All right.
As we continue, more to come on IN THE MONEY, here's what's next on the rundown:
We will put you inside the mind of a car salesman. Now, there's a trip you want to take. And yes, you do want to go there, because we're going to find out how the game works from the inside, courtesy of a guy who went undercover to play it.
And where god and men meet: We'll look at the booming business in Christian entertainment.
Stick around, we'll be back.
CAFFERTY: On the list of job titles that might make your brain switch on the hazard lights, car salesman could be just a little south of telemarketer.
Let's say it up front: there are plenty of honest car sales people and dealerships out there.
PHILIP REED, EDMONDS.COM: Yes.
CAFFERTY: But they're not all like that. And our next guest found out firsthand.
The car information web site Edmonds.com sent one of its editors out to work as a salesman at two different car dealerships. He got through it with his soul intact and now he joins us from Los Angeles to talk more about it.
Philip Reed is consumer advice editor at Edmonds.com.
Philip, nice to have you with us.
REED: Thank you for having me.
CAFFERTY: What's the worst thing you found out about being a car salesman?
REED: Well, the worst thing? Where do I start, you know?
Actually, one of the worst things is that you're required to really manipulate people almost from the very first moment that you make contact with them on the car lot.
You're always trying to get them to a situation where you can control them so that when you begin negotiating you can control that, too, and maximize the profit.
SERWER: Philip, I'm real interested in this, because Susan Lisovicz said I'd make a really good car salesman.
LISOVICZ: You dress like one.
CAFFERTY: Be careful.
SERWER: Thank you.
REED: What's she trying to tell you?
SERWER: Yes, I don't even want to go there.
SERWER: Let me talk a little bit about pricing. Because I thought this whole world was supposed to be getting a lot better as far as getting ripped off at car lots. You know, there's a lot of information on the Internet.
SERWER: My insurance company provides information. Car Max (ph) has some non-haggle pricing. Hasn't it gotten better?
REED: Yes, definitely it has gotten better. And my comparison is that it's almost like a game show, because it kind of depends on which door you choose.
What I'm saying is that if you walk onto the car lot you're going to be greeted by a car salesman who may have been in the business for ten years or so, and there's definitely old school and it will be the same old game.
But if you take the second door and go through the Internet or the fleet department or one of the sources that you named, then yes, absolutely, it's a kinder gentler world out there.
LISOVICZ: Philip, I want to follow up on something you were saying to Jack, which is you try to manipulate the customer as soon as they walk onto the lot, and it starts with something as subtle as the handshake.
LISOVICZ: Can you explain that and talk about some of the other -- some of the other skills that you learned.
REED: "Skills," I'll put that in quotes.
LISOVICZ: Yes. I did, too.
REED: OK. Well, the first thing, I was taught on the car lot was what they call the car lot handshake, which is that you -- as you shake hands with them you sort of exert a subtle pulling pressure towards you, which is sort of indicative of, you know, you have to see, then, how they react to this.
You're a little bit like a stage hypnotist. You're trying to figure out whether they're suggestible and whether they're going to be able to be led through the process. So that would be the first thing that you do.
And then immediately after that, you would chat with them for a few moments, and then you would suddenly say follow me. You turn around and try to walk into a sales room in the dealership without even having looked at any cars.
Sit down and find out what their down payment is, what their monthly payment is, what they want to buy, where they live and their telephone numbers before you even look at cars.
Now, if they follow you through this process, you know you're probably going to be able to sell them a car.
CAFFERTY: Let me ask you where this reputation of car salesmen comes from. Because it doesn't sound to me like it's any different than a guy trying to sell me an insurance policy or a house or a suit or anything else that I go in and I'm in a position to argue a little price and look at quality on.
Where does this awful reputation of car salesmen come from?
REED: Well, you know, this is just my own guess, because I spent a lot of time thinking about this, but I think it started with horse traders.
It's no different than a guy who had a horse, and the horse was lame, and they tried to cover it up long enough to make the sale. So I think it had its roots in that.
More recently though, I know after World War II there were many more buyers than there were cars available to be sold.
So the car salesmen had their pick of the customer. And they just wanted to make sure that the customer had a lot of money before they stuck them in the car, and they didn't deal with the people that didn't have money. And that environment has sort of pervaded to the current situation.
But you know, you make an absolutely accurate point, which is the tricks of the trade in car salesmen are used in many, many other fields. So I felt like I was being prepared for, you know, just about anything.
CAFFERTY: Now, you can go out and sell anything, right?
REED: Yes, that's right.
SERWER: Phil, let me ask you a question.
SERWER: Say I was going to a lot and buying a $20,000 car. What kind of price variation? I mean, how bad do people get ripped off in that kind of a scenario?
REED: You know, it's really pretty sad. You can -- the difference between a good car deal and a bad car deal can sometimes be as much as $3,000.
REED: Three or four thousand dollars. And it's horrible to think that two people can go into the same dealership and buy the same car and pay roughly $3,000 difference on that car.
And the question is why? Well, it's, you know, information and their ability to negotiate.
LISOVICZ: And one of the tactics for a salesman, Philip, right, is to try to make the deal that day. So the best, really, offense for a consumer is to shop around and not to be in a hurry.
REED: Yes. Well, you should absolutely never be in a hurry. You should always retain your ability to walk out of the dealership if you don't like what they're doing to you. And I don't mean price either.
I mean, if you're just feeling uncomfortable you should leave, because it's only going to get worse as the deal, you know, deepens.
LISOVICZ: Philip Reed, we know that you're a terrific journalist. Were you a good used car salesman?
REED: You know, I sort of had the ability to make people feel comfortable, which is always the beginning of a good deal. But I couldn't really drop the hammer on them and get tough about price because I -- I was too much of a consumer advocate for that.
LISOVICZ: You had a conscious and you are a consumer advice editor at Edmonds.com.
REED: That's right.
LISOVICZ: Philip Reed, thank you so much for joining us.
REED: My pleasure. Thank you.
LISOVICZ: A lot more to come on IN THE MONEY. Next, Mel Gibson's "Passion" may be controversial, but it's almost likely to become a box office hit. We'll take a look at the huge Christian entertainment history.
And curb appeal. Just because you can't drive your car anymore doesn't mean it can't still be a work of art. We'll show you our fun site of the week.
SERWER: The controversial new Mel Gibson movie, "The Passion of the Christ," opens next week.
And given all the buzz around the film, it's expected to do a big box office business. In fact, observers expect the movie to bring in at least $50 million in its opening weekend.
"The Passion" is just the latest offering in a growing business of Christian entertainment, from books to the box office.
Joining us today to talk about this boom is Bill Anderson, CEO of CBA, or formerly known as the Christian Booksellers Association.
BILL ANDERSON, CEO, CBA: Thank you. It's good to be here.
SERWER: Just exactly how big is this business and how much is it growing? I mean, obviously, it's been around for awhile.
ANDERSON: Well, it has been around for decades. Presently, the industry is about $4.2 billion in total sales. And that's up from about $1 billion in 1980.
LISOVICZ: Bill, how -- how much is this growth attributed to the times that we live in? I remember talking to some religious booksellers in the aftermath of 9/11, and they said that their sales were going through the roof. People just looking for something to give them solace at this terrible time in our lives.
And it's still a very dangerous world, and people are still very jittery. So how much is that playing into the total business?
ANDERSON: Well, it definitely has a hand in that, I'm sure, because people are looking for security and purpose in life, as well as meaning in life. So it's sort of a combination of that sense of security, but also how do I improve my life? How do I integrate my faith into my life and live out my values?
CAFFERTY: What sort of bounce, for want of a better word, would the industry overall expect from "The Passion of the Christ"?
This Mel Gibson movie is generating buzz like I don't remember, certainly for a religious movie, in a very long time. Traditionally, in fact, religious movies don't do that well. There have been a few exceptions over the years, "The Ten Commandments," "The Robe," but usually they don't do that well. This thing is expected to be the second biggest grossing film of the year, behind "The Lord of the Rings." Somebody said that, between domestic and overseas sales, it should ring up something north of $200 million.
What kind of residual effect across the industry -- books, music, et cetera -- could be expected from that kind of attention suddenly being focused on a religious piece of entertainment?
ANDERSON: Well, we certainly expect a great deal of interest in not only in the movie, but then as you point out, in religious products that would help a person understand what they just saw.
You know, in the wake of September 11, we saw a real spike in our sense of appreciation for the firefighters and the law enforcement and military, because we had a fresh glimpse of what they do and what that means to us.
And I anticipate that coming out of the movie we're going to see people asking the question, "Who is this Jesus that died on the cross for our sins and rose again? I want to know more about that kind of a savior."
And so our people, our stores are wanting to be ready with the kinds of books and Bibles and materials that will help people get their questions answered.
SERWER: Bill, I want to ask you a bit about whether or not Christian books and Christian music, Christian movies are divisive. Why does it either have to be Christian or non-Christian? I'm thinking of some music acts in particular that seem to straddle that.
For instance, the rock group Creed, they sort of have a Christian motif, sometimes. They say they're spiritual, and yet, they're not calling themselves Christian. They want to appeal to all manner of people.
Are the Christian markets, the Christian media, is that divisive in your mind?
ANDERSON: I don't think so. I think there are really two different tracks there. One is the track of a person as an artist or as an author who wants to write or sing the Christian message.
And it's the lyric in the music that makes it Christian. It's not the tune. And it's the perspective of the book, whether that's biblically based.
And then, on the other track are Christian authors and artists who want to be a Christian who makes books, who writes books on any given subject, or a Christian who wants to perform in the entertainment industry, either as an artist or as a filmmaker.
LISOVICZ: You know, Bill, when you market to people on religious-based items, there's a certain vulnerability, like -- sort of like selling sugary cereals to kids during kids' programming. And with the growth of the Christian marketing, there have been some questionable items. Like, one of the things we've heard about lately are these fake crucifix nails.
I mean, is there any sort of kind of regulation that can prevent some things from really -- really tapping into this? The vulnerability of consumers?
ANDERSON: Well, I think the regulation is in the consumer. And we have found the American consumer is a tough jury.
People are voting with their feet and with their hard-earned dollars. These are discretionary dollars that they are laying down for books and music and videos. And some will find that they want some kind of memorabilia or jewelry that helps them remember decisions they've made.
But by and large, the American public is a pretty tough jury, and products that don't make the cut with the consumer don't make it on the shelf for very long.
LISOVICZ: But there's no watchdogs to speak of?
ANDERSON: No, it's really free enterprise. It's the American way of free enterprise in the open marketplace.
LISOVICZ: Bill Anderson, president and CEO of CBA, formerly the Christian Booksellers Association.
Thanks for joining us.
ANDERSON: Thank you for the opportunity.
LISOVICZ: Coming up, remember the Yugo? Web master Allen Wastler will show you what some enterprising artists did to their old models.
CAFFERTY: Look at that.
LISOVICZ: The fun site of the week.
And it's -- and if you don't like something you've seen on our program, don't take it out on your car. You can e-mail us instead at InTheMoney@CNN.com. And we'll take your compliments, too.
CAFFERTY: And money. If want to send money we'll take that.
LISOVICZ: Or your cars.
CAFFERTY: Well, the knives are out for the leading Internet search engine. Our web master, Allen Wastler, has the latest on plans to unseat Google -- oh no! -- as the top dog. And he's also got the fun site of the week, which is about those Yugos.
How are you doing? What's this thing about Google?
We'd have to change the language and everything. Now it's just "Google it."
ALLEN WASTLER, MONEY.COM: You Google it.
CAFFERTY: Google it.
WASTLER: Google is the number one search engine, OK? But now, Yahoo!, which has sort of ceded some of that territory, now they're saying, "No, no, no, no. We want some of that back."
And Google is going, "Oh, yes? I'll show you something. I'll fix it over here."
And so they're two squaring off here.
Now you've got to ask why are you doing that? OK. It's a search engine. You just go, you type in, I want to find shoes, and it seems pretty straightforward. What's the big diff? Right?
They have found, in the last couple years, an excellent way to make money.
SERWER: How do search engines make money?
WASTLER: They put sponsored links, and each search engine has it's own variation of it.
WASTLER: Essentially, when you type "shoes," they have a bunch of people willing to pay saying, "Hey, you want shoes?"
CAFFERTY: Buy my shoes.
WASTLER: "Buy these shoes."
WASTLER: Now, you say all right, so how much money is that? It's serious money. Think about this. One in five people who goes to a search engine is thinking shopping. "I want to go buy something."
CAFFERTY: Looking to buy something. I didn't know that.
WASTLER: Last year, about $53 billion was spent on the Internet, all right? That grew 20 percent from the previous year.
WASTLER: So if you can get all these people who sooner or later are going to use a search engine (singing) we're in the money.
LISOVICZ: You lose the credibility -- I mean, one of the things that you like about going to the search engine is just give me the research.
WASTLER: And that's one of the ways they're competing. When I was saying, the businesses...
LISOVICZ: You don't want a bias. You don't want a commercial bias.
WASTLER: Some will come up and say, "Well, here are your straightforward things. And if you're interested, we've got some sponsored links over here."
WASTLER: Others are more like, well, you know...
SERWER: Have you ever put Jack Cafferty's name into Google?
WASTLER: From time to time.
SERWER: Try it sometime.
CAFFERTY: You don't want to be going and doing that.
LISOVICZ: Pages and pages.
CAFFERTY: Let's move on to something else, like maybe we'll talk about those Yugos.
WASTLER: The Yugos.
CAFFERTY: Where I go, Yugo.
WASTLER: You were talking about cars before, you know, and a salesman will tell you anything. He'll tell you the car can do anything.
WASTLER: Yes, but what about a car as a work of art? We've got here -- Here's a Yugo as a confessional, which might be good.
SERWER: Car dealership.
WASTLER: You like that? How about a Yugo as a toaster? That would work even better.
You want a little entertainment in your life, Jack? Yugo as movie theater, OK.
CAFFERTY: Small. Small movie theater. WASTLER: Well, small movie theater. And you might need a bath and shower that you got there. Or...
CAFFERTY: Who are these people, Allan? Who are these people?
WASTLER: Here is the port-a-potty Yugo.
CAFFERTY: Who are these people?
SERWER: These people have a problem.
WASTLER: There's a little Eden.
CAFFERTY: Thank you, sir.
WASTLER: Our fun site of the week.
CAFFERTY: As we continue, we're going to read some of your comments, and you can tell us what you think by dropping us an e-mail. Our address is InTheMoney@CNN.com.
First, Susan has this week's edition of "Money and Family."
LISOVICZ: Do you plan on applying for financial aid in a couple years when your child heads off to college? If so, here are some steps you can take now to adjust your assets and maximize your aid potential.
First, trim any assets held in your child's name, in particular custodial accounts, like UGMA's or UTMA's. Aid officers will argue that up to 35 percent of these accounts should go toward tuition.
But you can legally reduce that money by using some of it to pay for your child's summer camp, tutoring, school trips or car.
When it comes to assets in the parents' name, aid officers will argue that approximately 5.6 percent should go toward your child's college tuition. To reduce cash in your name, you can give up to $11,000 each to grandparents or other relatives outside your household, who could then help pay college expenses.
Remember, aid officers can't touch the assets of your extended family.
You can also increase your 401(k) or IRA contributions to their maximum amount. Colleges won't expect you to use retirement savings to pay for your share of tuition.
I'm Susan Lisovicz for "Money and Family."
CAFFERTY: Time to get to your answers to our question about office romance.
Floyd from Ohio wrote this: "I was in an office romance ten years ago, we were both young college lecturers and saw each other daily. That was nice when we were dating but very uncomfortable when the relationship ended. Luckily, I found someone else and I'm happily married now."
SERWER: At work, no doubt.
Stephanie wrote this: "It's important to keep office romances quiet. My boyfriend and I kept our relationship so under wraps that when we were engaged most people didn't even know we were friends. We've been married for seven years."
And Bert from Pennsylvania checks in with "My girlfriend and I both work for the same company but in different cities. We corresponded by the Internet for months. Unfortunately, an article about our e-mail relationship appeared in 'The New York Times'..."
CAFFERTY: "... and I was reprimanded for using company property for personal reasons."
Now, for our e-mail question of this week: "What was your very worst car buying or leasing experience?" Send your answers to InTheMoney@CNN.com.
And check out our show page on the web. It's at Money.com/InTheMoney. That's where you can learn more about the program, get the fun site address and find out Andy Serwer's shoe size.
LISOVICZ: Big foot.
SERWER: There we go. Right there.
How about getting busted by "The New York Times" in an office romance? How did that happen? I mean, that's so busted.
LISOVICZ: That's good journalism. But you are the product of a very happily...
SERWER: Yes. I don't know if I'm the product of. I am involved in an office romance...
LISOVICZ: Office romance.
SERWER: ... that went right.
CAFFERTY: My sense is that must have been a fairly high-profile couple. Because "The New York Times" is not likely to arbitrarily write about some e-mail correspondence between Ken and Barbie in Dayton and Columbus, Ohio. Must have been somebody that maybe...
SERWER: Ken and Barbie are breaking up, I think, too. CAFFERTY: Let me go back to this Google thing for one second. We didn't mention, they are going to come as an IPO, when? Next year maybe? Later this year?
SERWER: Is that delayed now, again? Because they were talking spring before.
WASTLER: Big buzz going on that sooner or later they're going to IPO and everybody is just waiting for it. Because you know, they don't reveal their numbers, but most people estimate they make about $1 billion in revenue a year.
So you're talking hefty money, a lot of people interested.
SERWER: Big company.
CAFFERTY: But as you mentioned, Yahoo! and also Microsoft looking to get into the same business. So it will bear some watching.
All right. That's the ball game for this week. Thank you for joining us for this edition of IN THE MONEY. Thanks to the gang, CNN's national correspondent Susan Lisovicz, "Fortune" magazine editor-at-large Andy Serwer. I don't know his shoe size. I know, though, that none of us could fill his shoes.
And Money.com managing editor Allen Wastler.
Join us tomorrow -- it's getting so deep here. Join us tomorrow at 3 p.m. Eastern Time when we'll discuss whether gay marriage could end up as a major factor in the presidential elections. My opinion is it won't, but we're going to talk about it anyway. That's tomorrow at 3 right here on CNN.
See you then. Have a great weekend.
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Election? "The Passion" Is First Wave Of Christian Entertainment Boom; Learn Car Salesmen "Tricks" Of The Trade>