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Interview with Pamela Danziger; Costco Begins Selling Coffins

Aired August 22, 2004 - 15:00   ET


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:

Sunny side down: Florida's known for its old folks, hot times, and hard-nosed politics. Find out why the state that shook up the last election could matter a whole lot in this coming one.

Plus, vote like a CEO: We will look at which presidential candidate will be better for America's corporations. See if what's good for business is good for you.

And let your plastic do the talking: For a lot of us, buying isn't about necessity, it's about identity. See how you make a statement about your life when you plunk down your credit cards.

Joining me today, a couple of IN THE MONEY veterans. Joining me from "Lou Dobbs Tonight" is CNN Correspondent, Christine Romans, and "" managing editor, Allen Wastler.

So, the Olympics are in full swing, as we sit here taping this program. And, I just wonder how you guys feel. To me it does not feel like the summer games have the same cache perhaps, as they've had in the past. I don't know -- one if you all feel the same. And, two, what might be behind what seems like a sort of a...

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I absolutely agree. And I think one of the reasons is because for so many months people were pooh-poohing whether the Olympics were going to be fun, whether there was going to be terrorism concerns, there's the anti-doping scandal. People are thinking -- you know, how many sports are rigged? It's just not fair; it's not the way it used to be. And I think a lot of people just tuned out.

ALLEN WASTLER, "MONEY.COM": Well, I think that there's been a number of great performances there. And I've been watching them and -- you know, there's some fun stuff going on, but there's nobody in the seats, and I think that's because I think people are just scared about terrorism, there's scared of hanging around crowds. And I think, as we go more and more to TV coverage, do you really need to have to be there in the stadium watching what's going on? I mean, we can get smaller stadiums, which cost less, and more expensive TV coverage, so those of us in weird time zones can actually watch it live.

CAFFERTY: And I thought about the TV coverage. NBC has 93 networks that they own. They own NBC, and then they own MSNBC, and the own CNBC and they've got this... And they've spread the Olympics all over all the networks.

ROMANS: Right.

CAFFERTY: Which is aggravating if you are trying to find what event is on which network.

ROMANS: Jack, tell us how you really feel.

CAFFERTY: So, why couldn't they designate one of these as the Olympic network? I know why. Because they want to cross plug and cross promote, and do all this nonsense. I mean they've got John McEnroe doing a show on CNBC that's only watched by the camera people in the studio and they are running the Olympics in prime-time ahead of John McEnroe. I looked at the ratings the other night, 600,000 homes watching the Olympics, the ratings dropped to 30,000 for John McEnroe.

So, that's why they're doing it. But, it makes it hard on those of us who are trying to find the games. I can ply on at some length about this, but I will spare you further comments.

Meantime, all eyes are on Florida this week, not because of the relief efforts following Hurricane Charley, but rather because the Sunshine State is among a handful of battleground states in the upcoming election. It's not being hailed a "red" or a "blue" state, some Florida voters are so divided they are calling it a "purple" state. Joining to us talk about why Florida is so divided is Tom Fiedler, the executive director of the "Miami Herald" and if anyone should know about this, he should. He's also the author of a "The Almanac of Florida Politics."

Tom, welcome to the program.

TOM FIEDLER, "MIAMI HERALD": Glad to be here.

CAFFERTY: So, are we going to be spared this time around? The last Florida experience, I mean by that, the fact that they couldn't get their stuff together down there to even count the votes, it didn't seem, until weeks and weeks had gone by?

FIEDLER: Well, I can only hope so, but I think we are a long way from being able to guarantee it. It seems like with every -- with every week, if not every day that passes, there seems to be a new potential boogeyman that jumps up and suggests there could be a problem, at least, somewhere at some time in counting the ballots, once again. But we hope.

ROMANS: Tom, what is it about Florida that makes it such a toss- up? FIEDLER: Well, it's because Florida is a -- is really a bellwether of the country as a whole. If you're going to have virtually a tied race across the rest of the country you can -- you can be pretty well assured it's going to be tie in Florida. We are, after all, a state that's primarily made up of people who came here from somewhere else and then, I guess, it just happens that they have come here in just about the same proportion that they are scattered around the rest of the country. So, it's really not surprising that it's so tight here.

WASTLER: But, Florida has become the butt of a lot of jokes, I mean, with the hanging chads jokes and can't get it straight -- is that a little unfair and is there a little stereotyping going on now?

FIEDLER: Well sure. It's -- it was easy to be the butt of jokes after the 2000 election when it takes you 36 days to even figure out who was there and, as you say, you had all the chads, and the photographs of -- remember the near-sighted judge who was squinting up, trying to see if that chad happed to be dimpled or pregnant. So, yeah it was easy to make it and of course the humorous quick to point out you cannot spell Florida without the "duh" in it.


CAFFERTY: That's not bad.

FIEDLER: So, we went through that. But, I think it is unfair in the sense that Florida was also very quick to recognize, and I credit Governor Jeb Bush with this and the legislature, to do away with those punch card ballots entirely, and switch over to an electronic system that -- the hope was, of course, that we would go from being the laughingstock to being the best case example. We may find that that transition is happening so quickly that there are still bugs there, but I think we're on the right track.

CAFFERTY: Let me go back to the make up of your state and compare it with other battleground states. Florida, unlike for example, Ohio, tremendous number of older people. Third largest Jewish population in the country outside Los Angeles and New York, tremendous number of Hispanic voters, virtually no manufacturing base, to speak of, and yet a battleground state like Ohio resembles, at least at first glance, not at all the state of Florida. Figure out the disparity between the two and go back to the things we were talking about earlier about how Florida's representative of a nation so divided in this election.

FIEDLER: Right. Well, really of all the things that you mentioned Jack, it's really just the manufacturing base that I think would be out of line for Florida, and perhaps we do have a higher percentage of older voters than would be demographically true for the rest of the country. But, other than that it's really not out of line our -- the ratio of racial groups, for instance, African-Americans, non-Hispanic, Hispanic and so forth, is fairly true. The breakdown between those who are urban dwellers and suburban voters and even rural voters, here in Florida, is fairly accurate to the -- what's happening in the rest of the United States. So, when you put all of that together, again, it really is like picking a sample group for a national poll. It turns out to be pretty close to the mark of what we will see nationally. Now, our economy is different and you point out Ohio, they are struggling. I hope I don't offend anyone by saying it's one of the rustbelt states, we certainly have a very different economic makeup and drivers, but there are other concerns here that seem to strike a balance.

ROMANS: Tom, do you think there'll be a better turn out this time around? Because now, I mean, we know that in 2000 every single vote, every single group really counted and some votes in 2000's didn't count, apparently, so I mean, do you think people will drive -- you know, drive in and get their voting done?

FIEDLER: I absolutely do. And I think that is what could be the difference between what happens here on November 2 and what happened in 2000. The single largest group that, I believe, almost sat on the sidelines in the 2000 election, of course between Al Gore and George W. Bush, was the African-American vote, here in Florida, which constitutes significantly a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) proportion, 15 percent to 20 percent. And I think, the fact is that the black vote really was not energized by the Gore/Lieberman ticket. So, that is not going to be the case this November. There is, I think I can say, there's just a great deal of anger that is there in the black community, a feeling that their votes, in many cases, were disproportionately disenfranchised in 2000 and the voter registration efforts that are going on, the education efforts, as to how to use the new technology, are going on, I think that's going to be the difference here.

CAFFERTY: Tom is the executive editor of the "Miami Herald." Do you have any sense which way the state might go in November?

FIEDLER: You know, this is -- that's if I knew that, I -- I would have bought a lot of Goggle stock and figured it would go up, and I didn't. It is -- I think it's going to be event-driven and that's not a unique thought with me. I think what's is going to be on peoples minds, the closing days of October and early November is what's going to matter. Right now, as the polls would show, John Kerry is leaning ahead, but we haven't had the republican convention yet and I think we haven't had the debates. By the way, the first debate is here in Florida and I think that could really draw lines...

CAFFERTY: Yeah, those will be interesting, I think.

Tom, thank you. We have to leave it there. I appreciate you being with us. Thanks very much.

FIEDLER: Thanks for having me.

CAFFERTY: Tom Fiedler, executive editor of the "Miami Herald" and author of the "Almanac of Florida Politics."

Coming up on IN THE MONEY, as we continue:

Better for business: We'll look at which candidate corporations want to see in the oval office after November.

Plus, get a life and charge it: Find out why one author says we're not just buying things, we're buying experiences.

And, death on a discount: What a big box giant entering the bargain coffin business, find out how to get the most for your funeral dollar. There's a happy little topic. And we'll explore it in some detail. Stick around.


CAFFERTY: Well, it says here making money can be a little like making sausage. You might get excited about the end result, but finding out what went into it, well that's another story. Which is why we try to keep the boring Wall Street jargon, things like "price to earnings ratio," out of the mix around here. We're going to try and stick with that now and do a little straight talking as we look at which presidential candidate might be better for American business. In other words, which candidate would give you a better shot at making a buck and being able to hang onto it? Joining us top do the heavy lifting is on that topic is Justin Fox, he's a "Fortune" magazine editor-at-large.

Good to see you, again. Thanks for being here.


CAFFERTY: I suppose you have to differentiate between making a buck, due to the fact that you have a job or making a buck from ininvesting in Wall Street stocks, bonds, worrying about capital gains taxes, like that. And if, in fact, it's the economy, stupid, which one of these guys, George Bush or John Kerry has the inside track?

FOX: I have been struggling with that for the last couple of days trying to figure it out. And then you can figure out, OK, Bush did that dividend tax cut, which was really kind of a cool thing, it only help people who got lots of dividends, but it's a good thing for the economy. But, on the other hand, he's running up massive deficits that, at some point, they're probably going to raise taxes in the future to do something about it. And Kerry, if Kerry's elected, you're more likely to have this return to the gridlock days of the late '90s which were -- seemed to be great for Wall Street.

CAFFERTY: I seen the late '90's, a lot of people made money on Wall Street.

FOX: Yeah. And it was because government couldn't do anything...

ROMANS: What do we know about John Kerry's economic plan? Because there have been journalists who've said, "Well, there have been great ideas here, except we can't really get our teeth around the numbers."

FOX: Yeah, I've been trying to read the stuff and be good and actually -- and I mean, it's...

CAFFERTY: Somebody has to do it. FOX: He cares about healthcare and he has some ideas, but they are not radically new or different, that I can tell, but what do I know. And he talks a little bit more about the overseas competition and offshore jobs, but doesn't have any really radical plan to do something about it. So, I mean, I think it's this sort of moderate economic plan. And the other thing with Kerry is I don't know that he ever, in the past, that this was a big issue for him. He was more interested in other things.

ROMANS: In a way, if you can keep it nonspecific, the you can let George Bush sort of sit on 1.2 million jobs lost and what happened over the past four years and maybe he can -- he can try to let George Bush's record speak for itself in terms of the economy.

FOX: Maybe, except that the one thing I have found is, you look at the polls, and there's definitely dissatisfaction with the economy, 2/3 of Americans think the economy's only fair or poor. But, it's not the big issue for most people.

ROMANS: Right.

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