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CNN IN THE MONEY

Columnist Jack Anderson Passed Away; New York Transit Unrest; Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?; Energy Exploration

Aired December 17, 2005 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


GERRI WILLIS, CNN ANCHOR: And now just in, Ed Henry, correspondent in Washington is joining us on the phone with a story about columnist Jack Anderson who apparently reportedly just died. Ed, what do you have?
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Gerri, CNN has confirmed that Jack Anderson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, has died this morning about 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time in the Washington D.C. area. He was 83 years old and he died from complications from Parkinson's disease.

Of course, Anderson, the famous muckraker exposing government corruption for over 50 years in Washington. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972. Was on Richard Nixon's Enemies List for various stories that he wrote and he also was somebody who spawned a lot of other journalists throughout the industry, including myself. I started my career there and Jack Anderson now dead at 83.

WILLIS: Ed Henry, thank you for that report. IN THE MONEY begins right now.

ANNOUNCER: From New York City, America's financial capital, this is IN THE MONEY.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to the program. I'm Jack Cafferty. Coming up on today's edition of IN THE MONEY have yourself a merry little -- forget about it. On hot issues like whether it's Christmas or the holidays or whatever, some businesses are arguing what the Christian right wants them to. See if it's about giving in or about cashing in.

Plus all dressed up and nowhere to go. Laying off employees at this time of year used to be forbidden, but now it's a trend. We'll tell you what's behind it.

Also ahead, digging deeper. And there's only so much oil and companies could do a better job of finding it. We'll look at five ways to outthink the oil crunch.

Joining me today, are a couple of IN THE MONEY veterans, CNN correspondent Susan Lisovicz, "Fortune" magazine Editor-at-large Andy Serwer.

And as we went to press, as they use to say in the "Chicago Daily News" -- we taped this program on Friday morning -- the city of New York has been given an 11-hour reprieve from a transit strike that had been threatened for midnight last night. As we're taping this, they've stopped the clock and they're still talking.

The story is this. Thirty-three thousand transit workers in the city are, as of right this moment, without a contract and are threatening to go on strike even though there's a law prohibiting that in the state of New York. It's called the Taylor Law. They have refused to go to mediation which was suggested by the city even though a couple of years ago the MTA agreed to take these things to arbitration if it should become necessary.

So we're at, how you should say, loggerheads. And there's a whole debate raging about whether 33,000 people should be able to hold a city of 8.5 million people hostage over contracts that by law they are not allowed to strike against.

ANDY SERWER, EDITOR AT LARGE, "FORTUNE": Very sharp language from Roger Toussaint, the head of that union. You're right, Jack, they have leverage. I don't think it's a coincidence they decided to this -- do this in December. You know they could have done it in August, but no one's around in August so people don't care. The contract is expiring now so they're going at it big time. You know these are people -- they are vital, and they have the city over a barrel and they're nasty to you on the train.

CAFFERTY: Yes they are.

SERWER: Sometimes they're nice.

SUSAN LISCOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ok, so they are vital. But are they as vital for instance as other workers in New York such as firefighters and police officers? When you compare the starting average police officers and firefighters currently start at $25,000. Guess what it is for transit workers? Fifty-two thousand dollars -- close to $53,000 a year. They don't put anything into their healthcare premiums and they can retire at 55, with half of their salary.

SERWER: The MTA does all right.

LISCOVICZ: That's my point.

CAFFERTY: When the air traffic controllers went on strike...

SERWER: You remember what happened to them.

CAFFERTY: They were prohibited by law from striking, too, but they went on strike anyway. And President Reagan said, fine, you're fired. Twelve thousand of them lost their jobs. No planes crashed. We have another air traffic control system in place today and everything's going along just fine.

SERWER: Then they named the airport after Ronald Reagan in Washington. Insult to injury.

LISCOVICZ: Forgot about that.

CAFFERTY: Plus there is a lot of people watching this program who say you know what? You New Yorkers deserve everything you get. And you're probably right.

SERWER: Take a hike, New York.

CAFFERTY: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa -- take your pick. No question this is the holiday season, which is also the time of year when companies bend over backwards to be politically correct. So instead of wishing customers a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah, they come out with the tired old song, Happy Holidays. That's not sitting so well with Christian groups in this country. And some big-name retailers are bowing to the pressure because while they're watching out for one of things they always have one eye on -- the cash register.

To find out what is going on, we are joined by "BusinessWeek"'s Bill Simmons, who has taken a look at this phenomenon. You know we have all heard these arguments. Bill, nice to have you on the program.

BILL SIMMONS, "BUSINESSWEEK:" Thank you.

CAFFERTY: Should we have the Christmas tree in Washington, D.C.? Should we have Christmas wishes on the Christmas cards? But when you talk about American business, this is less about political correctness than it is about stockholder happiness, isn't it?

SIMMONS: Well, right. I think that business has been very influenced by the political correctness debate, but at the same time I think they're beginning to realize that most people in the United States are Christians and will be celebrating Christmas.

SERWER: You know it's not a one-way street. I'm changing the issue here a little bit because I want to talk about Ford and getting pressure from the American Family Organization Association, and where they got in trouble about advertising in gay publications. And Ford went ahead and did it anyway. So it's not a monolithic wave to the right, is it?

SIMMONS: No, it's not a monolithic wave to the right. And I think Ford has a long tradition, actually of being quite friendly to gays and other groups.

LISCOVICZ: Yes, because they have a huge disposable income.

SIMMONS: That's right.

LISCOVICZ: It is a company that wants to turn a profit. It's increasingly hard these days for the Big Three.

But going back to the happy holidays thing. I mean, this is a diverse nation and it may be a Christian nation. But here in New York, for instance I have plenty of friends on December 25 who go to the movies because they are not Christians. They eat Chinese food. And what's wrong with saying happy holidays to embrace all people?

SIMMONS: I don't think there's anything wrong with saying happy holidays, but it's become a very interesting and provocative issue for some of the Christian groups that they're raising and I think a number of the retailers would realize that about 80 percent of Americans actually are Christian. So that's a clear majority.

CAFFERTY: How do the Evangelicals or the Christian right suddenly come up with enough clout to be able to talk -- if not directly, at least symbolically -- to companies like Wal-Mart and get them to change the way they're doing things?

SIMMONS: Well, the power of the Christian right has been growing quite dramatically in recent years. As a matter of fact, some political scientists argue that they have more power now than they've had any time in almost a hundred years.

CAFFERTY: Where did it come from?

SIMMONS: Well it came from the fact that they're the most dynamic religion in America. Evangelicals constitute maybe about 40 percent of the population, but they're far more likely to go to church. They're more active in their religion and they're becoming increasingly outspoken politically as well. Last year about 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for President Bush, so they have a lot of political clout.

SERWER: Bill, I used to think that happy holidays was a short cut because you had New Year's there and Christmas and of course, you throw in Kwanzaa and Hanukkah and Ramadan and everything else, but that's just me.

We talked about Hollywood making all sorts of Christian movies and the reason why I did that is because I never thought "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" was a Christian book. "The Lord of the Rings" apparently is Christian. I mean I guess you can put that coat on anybody these days. In the end, though, don't people just want great entertainment? How far can this go?

SIMMONS: Well I think it can go quite a ways. Hollywood ignored this market for quite a while and then "The Passion of the Christ" came out. Mel Gibson made that and it wasn't distributed by any major studio. It was one of the biggest hits ever.

LISCOVICZ: But you know going back to the Ford story, for instance, American Family Association had on its Web site still, how to boycott Disney. It had this action for years against Disney.

SIMMONS: Right.

LISCOVICZ: Don't go to the theme parks. Don't watch ABC. Don't see Disney movies. I mean, that really didn't work, did it? I mean --

SERWER: They abandoned it after they ignored it.

LISCOVICZ: Exactly. That is my point. They get a lot of press. We're talking about it right now. But the results are mixed, are they not?

SIMMONS: They are very mixed as far as the entertainment goes. As a matter of fact, the national religious broadcasters, which represent Christian broadcasters, say they feel there's never been more sex and violence on TV than there is right now. So that would show that their campaign hasn't been totally successful to say the least.

CAFFERTY: So to what degree is this whole thing perhaps a backlash against the very kind of thing you're talking about? Somebody sitting down in front of the television set to watch the Super Bowl with an 8-year-old child and suddenly seeing Janet Jackson's breast in their living room when that ain't what they barring and for at all. The public's been squawking about this stuff for years, but Hollywood and the broadcast networks turned a deaf ear because the sex sells and they keep making money. Are we at a sea change point here where the public maybe has just had a belly bulge and they are going to insist that things be done differently?

SIMMONS: I think there maybe a sea change as far as your industry is concerned, cable television. Just this week, Time Warner and Comcast and some other major cable operators announced they're going to start offering a family tier of networks just including channels that are considered more family friendly.

SERWER: Yes Bill, I want to point out that CNN is not part of that package. CNN HEADLINE NEWS is. It is true I looked it up, I'm not sure why.

CAFFERTY: Which category would IN THE MONEY be?

SERWER: We could be considered R-rated. I don't know, where do you see this heading? Are we a pluralistic society? Can't we have a situation where people can have Christian entertainment and secular entertainment and everybody just leave everybody alone? Or is that asking too much?

SIMMONS: Well I think we're a very secular and very pluralistic nation. And I think what some of the Christian right is advocating a la carte cable programming would take us more in that direction and then you can choose whatever channel you want to watch and ignore the rest if that's what you wanted to do.

CAFFERTY: I don't think that's a bad idea. I get three Spanish- language channels on my cable thing and I don't speak Spanish. I get all this stuff that costs me whatever it is -- $70 a month. I have 60 channels and I probably watch eight of them but that's another discussion for another day.

Bill, thank you very much. It's nice to have you with us. Bill Simmons of "BusinessWeek" magazine.

When we come back on IN THE MONEY, red ties, Washington's already deep in debt with a whopping federal deficit. See if Congress is pushing America's luck by cooking up some new tax cuts.

Plus, upward to the outback. Qantas ordering dozens of new jets from Boeing. We're talking billions. Find out if Wall Street is getting onboard the deal.

Take a number. Holiday season layoffs have gone from unthinkable to unstoppable. We'll look at what's driving what seems to be a sudden change of attitude. Back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAFFERTY: When you think America's already deep enough in the hole, consider this. Washington may be about to dig us in even more. The federal budget deficit clocked in at $319 billion for the latest fiscal year, and now Congress is considering tax cuts worth tens of billions more. If that plan goes ahead it could crank up the deficit even more. To see whether that's a smart move here's a hint, it's really dumb.

We are joined by Robert Bixby, who is the executive director of the Concord Coalition, a non-partisan group promoting fiscal responsibility. Bob, nice to have you with us. Thanks for joining us.

ROBERT BIXBY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CONCORD COALITION: Thank you, good to be with you.

CAFFERTY: In addition to the aforementioned tax cuts that are on the table, the president wants another $50 billion a year for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And there was talk he might ask for $100 billion more for next year for the same purpose, in addition to the budget which is something that would choke a government mule. But there's not a lot of talk in Washington about doing anything like controlling bridges to nowhere and cutting spending and getting rid of such -- I mean. Where are we going here? We're headed right off the edge of the cliff, aren't we?

BIXBY: Well this is a very bad situation that we've got now. We're increasing spending at the same time that we're cutting taxes. And we're doing all this just on the verge of the baby boomer retirement years. And when the boomers begin to collect Social Security and Medicare starting in 2008 and 2011, respectively, then we're really going to see some increases in spending. So this is the time to be getting our fiscal house in order. Unfortunately, Congress and the president is digging a deeper hole.

LISCOVICZ: Robert, do you think that perhaps there's still this mentality in the wake of the recession, the dot com bust, 9/11. I mean there were many economists and analysts that said tax cuts at that time were actually an excellent way to get the economy back on track. The problem is that the president and Congress are still feeding into that theory.

BIXBY: Yeah. It sort of reminds me of when you're sick and you take some sort of medicine and it feels good, and you decide even after you get well that you'd like to keep taking the medicine. Tax cuts at that time were a good idea. The problem was they should have been targeted to short-term stimulus and when the economy is back growing again, you know, phased out. And the problem now that we have is that we have what economists call a structural deficit where even with a growing economy, we still have a very large budget deficit.

SERWER: Robert, but aren't you being a bit of an alarmist? Won't we just muddle through? I don't see any problems right now. You guys at the Concord Coalition sometimes remind me of the Club of Rome people from a couple decades ago that complain about a population growth was going to swamp us. Well that never happened. Isn't this not going to be a problem, and we'll figure out a way to fix it ultimately?

BIXBY: Well I think we will figure out a way to fix it ultimately. What we are trying to do is get people to make those choices. There are only two things we can do, which is cut spending or raise taxes.

You can muddle through for a few years with deficits the size that we have now. I'm not suggesting that we're about to go over some economic cliff because of the deficit that we have now. But you have to consider the historic context, which is that we're on the verge of the boomers' retirement years.

And I don't know anybody on the left or the right or in the middle that thinks that we can grow our way out of the fiscal problems that we have coming just a few years down the road. So I think these are not normal. These are not your father's deficits, in other words. This is a new historic situation that we're facing and so we ought to start looking beyond that artificial five-year budget window to make some more substantial changes that we have on the table now.

CAFFERTY: You and I both know that's not going happen. Politicians want to spend money, that's what they're in business to do. I mentioned the bridge to nowhere for want of a better example is guy Ted Stephens I think his name is in Alaska. When he was asked if he'd be willing to donate his $225 million bridge to nowhere to help the Hurricane Katrina victims he said absolutely not. We have to have this money to build this bridge to an island that has 5,000 people on it. What about the mentality that refuses to address the fact that the politicians are spending money of ours that doesn't have to be spent?

It's all about let me get re-elected and worry about the problems that I create in the process for somebody else when I'm no longer in office. There's nothing wrong with tax cuts. I pay too many taxes. You pay too many taxes. It's money that's used to support stuff that's just ludicrous, bridge to nowhere and other programs like that. What about the mentality in Washington that says let's just spend as much as we can get and then some, and not worry about the consequences?

BIXBY: Yeah. I mean, I think that's a real problem. And it's totally irresponsible and it's actually immoral in my view because what we're doing when we're piling on these debts is somebody's going to pay for them. You can run -- it's like charging up your credit card bills, you know, the family, you can get away with it for a while and eventually the interest costs catch up to you. And so some of the politicians will be out of office by the time these debts catch up to us and, you know, people 10, 15 years from now may be paying much, much higher tax rates than we're willing to pay for ourselves. I think that's a real problem, but I think it's a moral issue as well as an economic issue.

LISCOVICZ: So right, Robert, you were talking about the huge segment of the population that's retiring and is going to require all of the federal spending programs. But what about the fact that so much of the U.S. debt is held by governments overseas? Like for instance, China buying U.S. Treasuries? What happens if that reverses?

BIXBY: Well, it is a huge vulnerability. Right now, 45 percent of our publicly held debt is held by overseas investors and that's at a historic high and that's not going down any time soon. We are not saving, which means we have to borrow from abroad. We have to borrow because we're living above our means, basically and spending more than we are willing to tax ourselves, importing capital. And the problem there is that, you know, if you're dependent upon the kindness of strangers and they want to do something else with their money, you know, we're going have to raise interest rates considerably to attract new capital. So it's not, you know, it's not a bad thing that foreigners want to invest here, but having so much of our public debt held by abroad certainly is a vulnerability.

SERWER: Quick last question, Robert, what about the AMT? Are you for or against it?

BIXBY: Well, you know. I think we will have to do something to reform it because it applies to more and more taxpayers. I don't know that they need to get rid of it totally because the intent of it was to prevent very wealthy people from avoiding all tax liability through shelters and deductions and credits and that sort of thing. So I think that that essential purpose is probably still a good one, but it's applying now to people that don't consider themselves fat cats in any sense. And because it's not indexed to inflation, more and more people will be subject to it so they do need to do something to reform it, but it's going cost a lot of money and again, if they just repeal it or change it without making offsets or cutting spending, it's just going make the deficit even bigger.

SERWER: Well, sad to say, this is a conversation that will be continued. Robert Bixby, the executive director of the Concord Coalition, those fiscal watchdogs.

Coming up after the break, how a company from down under could move Boeing up higher. See if the big order from Qantas is giving a lift to shares in the aircraft maker.

Also ahead planning for the worse, at a time when there's concern about oil running low, we'll hear about five moves that could help your tank.

And the game of the name. Allen Wastler is going to tell us about how one radio station is taking the naming rights thing to a new extreme.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LISCOVICZ: Now let's take a look at the week's top stories in the "Money Minute." Alan Greenspan and company raised interest rates by another quarter-point this week, but the Fed also hinted that the 18 month long rate hike trend may be coming to an end. Greenspan will preside over his last Fed meeting next month. The Illinois Supreme Court tossed out a $10.1 billion verdict against Altria's Philip Morris U.S.A. tobacco unit. A lower court had ruled the company fooled customers into thinking light cigarettes were safer than regular cigarettes. Altria shares shot up about 5 percent after the verdict. The case could now go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The big entertainment news of the week was Paramount's $1.6 billion deal to buy DreamWorks Studios. Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen started DreamWorks in the early 1990's to break away from the big Hollywood studio system, but they say they were tired of running it on their own. Paramount is owned by media giant, Viacom.

SERWER: Christmas came a little early for jet maker Boeing after Australian carrier Qantas ordered 45 new 787s in a $6.1 billion deal. The agreement means Boeing will beat out rival Airbus in annual orders for the first time in five years. Boeing shares have been on a steady climb since February, and they're now at a 52-week high. Boeing, an American company that actually manufactures something in America, is our "Stock of the Week". Get the flag up here on that one.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely.

SERWER: This company is in the sweet spot, though, because they're making commercial aircraft. They just passed Airbus. They're the number one in the world. They're the number two defense contractor in the country though after Lockheed Martin. So let's not forget about that -- that business obviously has been cooking since 9/11. And you see this, it's unusual because it seems like this company every five years or so is about to fall off the cliff. They're not falling off the cliff anymore.

SERWER: No. And no question. it's one of the great rivalries in the world. Boeing and Airbus is like Coke and Pepsi. And Airbus, as you said, had the upper hand over the last few years and this was a five-month long competition to win this Qantas contract. And one of the reasons why is because these Dreamliners are 20 percent more fuel efficient. So you would think this is something that Airbus would want to get onboard to, quite literally.

CAFFERTY: Which relates nicely to another subject we were talking about in some length on this program, which is the supply of oil which is used to make jet fuel. What about the stock Andy, $70, $71 a share. It's up there in the stratosphere based on where it's been, but things are looking good. Do you buy the stock now with the idea it will go higher, or do you say, wait a minute?

SERWER: I think there might be an upside. You have the order. Remember the grumpy koala bear? You have Dubai buying planes, China buying planes from Boeing. So you ask yourself, are the conditions that made the stock go up still present? And I think, yes. You hit on it perfectly because that Dreamliner has that fuel efficiency. They'll keep beating Airbus, that's number one. Number two -- I frankly think this is kind of sad -- but I think the defense business is going to continue to be a good business and I say that's sad because it reflects the condition, the political condition in the world. LISCOVICZ: But the aerospace industry has had a fantastic year. Sales jumped more than $14 billion, so hitting record highs. So the industry is healthy and obviously Boeing is one of the big players.

CAFFERTY: We'll start doing what Jim Cramer does on that "Mad Money," start beating the desk, running around the room screaming about the Boeing stock, and the Airbus. And just acting silly.

SERWER: We could do that.

LISCOVICZ: Right now Boeing is doing pretty well.

SERWER: We don't have to know what Jimmy Cramer thinks.

Coming up on IN THE MONEY, celebrate this, pal. There's a blizzard of pink slips falling as we head into the holidays. See why a company would pick this time of year to can a bunch of workers.

Also ahead, good to the last drop. Oil won't be around forever, but we can make the most of it while it's here. Find out five ways to get what's available.

And loaded for health? If you heard one carol too many, take out your frustrations on our "Fun Site of the Week" please.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIS: I'm Gerri Willis at the CNN Center. Here's what's making news now.

A surprise this morning from President Bush. He acknowledges he authorized the National Security Agency to spy on people in the U.S. as part of the terror investigations. Mr. Bush said he's reauthorized the wiretap program about 30 times since 9/11. The president defended his action, saying the secret spy program has prevented more terror attacks.

And protest leaders may withdraw from Sunday's demonstrations against World Trade Organization talks in Hong Kong. That's after today's protest outside the meeting turned violent. Riot police used tear gas and water hoses and pepper spray against demonstrators who tried to break through a designated protest zone. Some of the protestors are South Korean farmers who want to have their views heard at the international trade talks

And Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Jack Anderson has died. Anderson uncovered a string of Washington scandals from the Eisenhower to the Reagan administration. His work even led Nixon operatives to plot his murder. Family sources say Anderson died of complications from Parkinson's disease in his home in Bethesda, Maryland. He was 83.

I'll have all the day's news at the top of the hour. Now back to IN THE MONEY on CNN.

SERWER: Here's a happy holiday thought. You're 54 percent more likely to be laid off in the last three months of the year than any other time. But it's got less to do with bah humbug and more to do with the bottom line.

John Challenger joins us now from Chicago to explain. He's CEO of job outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. I'll tell you something, John, I have some personal experience. No, not me, I haven't gotten laid off yet, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Challenger, Gray & Holiday.

SERWER: Yes he's heard that before. But what I wanted to say is we just had some very major layoffs over at the magazine company, the Time Incorporated Magazine Company, 100 people. And it's devastating stuff. And everyone thinks it is the most heartless stuff to lay people off well into December, right near the holiday or Christmas season, whatever you want to call it, but they do it for financial reasons, right?

JOHN CHALLENGER, CEO, CHALLENGER, GRAY & CHRISTMAS: Well, they do. There used to be a taboo that you just didn't take these kinds of actions between Thanksgiving and New Year, but that really has changed. We're seeing layoffs surge in the last quarter because companies hit year-end; they're going to get the cuts done. They don't want to start the New Year with that still waiting to happen and so we see more and more slowing into December.

LISCOVICZ: But John I mean that's what planning and CFOs are supposed to be doing. You know, just by my count right at the top of my head, GM, "BusinessWeek," Time, the NYSE, Bellsouth -- the New York Stock Exchange just these past few days there were about 70 people let go. Some of them depend on this time of year for tips. They had to be escorted out because that's what happens when you get laid off like that and they did not get their tips. The floor clerks, the people who handled the coats, the guy by the name of Train Wreck who's been there for decades, these people are not getting a sizable portion of their income when they're let go at this time of the year summarily like that.

CHALLENGER: There's no way to justify it. When people get laid off it leaves them in very difficult circumstances. If they've got bills to pay, they were counting on maybe the severance that they were given will see them through. Hopefully the organization will give them some outplacement support and have them find another job quickly. It doesn't always happen. There's no good time to lay people off and certainly the kind of situation you're talking about where someone is waiting for their big tip time to come in, that's particularly galling.

CAFFERTY: But it is not unheard of, people that are within two weeks of being vested in their retirement plan or three weeks of retirement age and suddenly they're shown the door. Are there particular kinds of businesses that are more apt to lay people off this time of year? And if you're one of those unfortunate few who gets a pink slip at Christmas time is there anything in the way of information or advice you might be able to offer these folks that would make them, you know, make it easier for them to get to the next place? CHALLENGER: Usually the companies that are laying off -- and you see it now really in every industry -- are the companies that are underperforming vis-a-vis, their competitors. So if your company has been putting up poor numbers, often the handwriting is on the wall and there is risk as you get near year-end. There are also industries that for one reason or another are really not performing. Right now we're seeing it in automotive particularly. And then even the best companies are often scaling back and that puts you at more risk.

Certainly one of the most important things as a job seeker is to get right at it. This is not a bad time to be looking for a job because about 20 percent of your competition just takes the time off and says there's probably not enough time to find a job anyway or there's not enough people to find a job right now.

SERWER: John, what happens to these people? You hear Wal-Mart's hiring 100,000 people a year in this country, but of course, you have a cushy job at the NYSE and that's not going make it. Starbucks is obviously hiring people. Where do these people go?

CHALLENGER: Well, everybody's got core skills. And the question is how are those transferable to other kinds of companies, not only within your industry, but outside your industry. And most of us work in jobs that are more organization-wide type of jobs. You can really fit into any kind of company. So you do have to get out and seek employers and explain what you've been doing and what the skills are that you have. We are seeing good jobs created. It's not all just low- paying jobs. There are skilled jobs getting created, and higher-paying jobs and that's why we see so many people around the world wanting those jobs, but there're also lowing-paying jobs. The ones that have been hollowed out are those middle kind of level ones that were highly paid.

LISCOVICZ: Yes, because the economy seems to be smoking along. The GDP in the last quarter was 4.3 percent despite hurricanes and oil shocks. So where are these good jobs?

CHALLENGER: Well, some of the industries right now that are up include energy, health care, technology has really turned around the industry, international companies as the economy globalizes. So there are companies that are growing. Again, the economy has been very strong from the job point in the last two years -- over 4 million jobs created -- but that doesn't mean that somehow we're immune, that we have job security or the potential for life time tenure. So there are always stories, we all know people, friends, family members who are losing their jobs and then caught in that period of transition.

LISCOVICZ: Which is especially tough around this time of year when you're supposed to be jolly. John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, thanks for joining us and happy holidays.

CHALLENGER: Yeah.

LISCOVICZ: There's plenty more to come here on IN THE MONEY. Up next, putting the squeeze on Mother Nature. We'll hear about five ways to make the most of whatever oil we've got left. Plus, mixed messages. Find out how a radio newsroom wound up in the news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LISCOVICZ: Oil prices headed for the nosebleed seats again this week, only to back off later on. On Monday crude closed out at its highest level since early November, driven up by cold weather and supply concerns. But one worry about oil isn't about where we stand now, but way down the road -- as in how long before we run out of the stuff?

Matt Maier has come up with five ways to beat the oil crunch. He's a staff writer at "Business 2.0" which like CNN is a Time Warner property. Welcome.

MATT MAIER, STAFF WRITER, "BUSINESS 2.0:" Thanks for having me.

LISCOVICZ: So basically, your gist is that we're underutilizing, that is the industry is underutilizing ways where it can tap into oil like for instance, old wells.

MAIER: Yeah. I think that necessity really is the mother of invention or innovation and in this case what people find is that as the price of oil goes up there are actually alternatives that become viable such as applying new technology to existing wells and a whole host of other technologies.

SERWER: Hey, let me ask you a question, Matt. Your article is sort of contraire; saying hey you know there is more oil out there, let's not worry. There are always new technologies to find the stuff. But shouldn't we be acting like we're running out of oil I mean instead of buying three Excursions and 25 mega McMansions and all of the rest of the stuff? Shouldn't we be putting more attention to conservation?

MAIER: Definitely. I think that conservation is probably something that we need to invest in and just making our automobile fleet more fuel-efficient is a great step. But in the meantime, there are a lot of resources available that will allow us to keep the oil flowing for at least the next 50 to 100 years.

CAFFERTY: The marketplace is a great leveler of consumption and prices. Prices go high enough, alternative forms of energy exploration and things like oil shale can become viable. I remember back in the '80s when the Arab oil embargo happened, they said we have all of this oil shale out there in Colorado, but it was too expensive to get the oil out of shale. Now there's some new technology and there are estimates that the reserves of oil shale in Colorado alone are more than three times the size of the oil reserves that Saudi Arabia has. So where do we stand vis-a-vis getting that to shale?

MAIER: I think they're in early tests right now. I know that Shell has something going on, on the western slope of the Rockies that they're pretty excited about, but at the very least that's 10 to 15 years out. The upside is if they can figure out a process that's commercially viable, like you said, there is anywhere from 1.5 trillion to 2 trillion barrels of oil that they believe they can recover.

CAFFERTY: How much do they have in Saudi Arabia the reserves there?

MAIER: It is 263 billion barrels of oil.

SERWER: That would be more than.

CAFFERTY: They're pipers. They've got nothing.

LISCOVICZ: There is crude out there in those hills, in those shales.

Hey, Matt, since the name of your publication is "Business 2.0", let's talk about new technology and pods and we're not talking about music here. We're talking about software that can pinpoint where the reserves are. Tell us about that.

MAIER: Yeah. One of the things that's been a problem historically is people would be able to drill holes in the ground, but they didn't necessarily know exactly what was down there. What companies like Silicon Graphics and a unit of Halliburton called Landmark Graphics have done has created really elegant models for sort of seeing what's under the ground. So we have a better sense of where to put your wells and you do a little bit better job of recovering - actually you do a lot better job of recovering oil out of the ground.

SERWER: You know, Matt, I was talking to the CEO of an exploration and production company yesterday who is drilling in Poland because it wasn't gone over with the newest technologies from the Soviet Blocs. So they're going back there again and there is actually some significant stuff in terms of nat gas. He told me that the best place to look for oil is where you already found it, right next to it. What are some spots that you can talk about today?

MAIER: Exactly. This place is in the Permian Basin in Texas. There's places in the panhandle of Oklahoma where people, I mean, there's 40,000 existing oil wells in the U.S. alone. And what people have figured out is if you go back and look at a lot of these old wells and old reservoirs, sometimes there's as much as 70 percent of the oil remaining in the ground. So all you have to do is apply some of the latest technologies such as new sensors for wells, new pumping technologies and you can increase the flow of wells that were thought to be dead for you know, at least 10, 15 years.

CAFFERTY: We've heard as several times in the past, we're running out of oil and we're running out of oil, the end of the world is coming, the sky is falling. The fact of the matter is at some point we will run out of oil and given the fact that there are a tremendous number of variables in this question, what sense do you have based on your research of how long the civilized world has before their backs are literally against the wall on this stuff?

MAIER: That's obviously the big question. I don't know that anybody -- and that's one of the disconcerting things about the whole subject is people don't necessarily know how much oil is in the ground. The people I spoke to, a lot of the analysts that I spoke to say we're at least 50 to 100 years away from running out of oil. But as you mentioned earlier, we need a backup plan, whether it is conservation or looking at alternative sources of fuel. I think we'd be doing ourselves a disservice not to start to explore other options because it is obviously a finite resource.

LISCOVICZ: There is a sizable population out there who would like that to be on the fast track for sure. Matt Maier, staff writer of "Business 2.0", thanks so much for joining us.

MAIER: Thanks having me.

LISCOVICZ: We've got more in the works for you here so stick around.

Up next, had it with the holidays? Our "Fun Site of the Week" lets you show Santa elf's how you really feel. Then again you can always vent by dropping us a line. Our email INTHEMONEY@CNN.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAFFERTY: There are lots of media purists are up in arms over a Wisconsin radio station's decision to sell the naming rights to its newsroom, but our Web master Allen Wastler says it is really nothing new, that's the focus of his "Inside Out" segment this week.

ALLEN WASTLER, MONEY.COM: A little Wisconsin radio station it is going to be known as the Amcor Bank News Center.

LISCOVICZ: That is so wrong!

WASTLER: A lot of society professional journalists weighed in and said this is back -- it just crosses the line, we wear the letter J very big. But I'm sort of the view, first of all that's how news sort of got started -- by being sponsored.

LISCOVICZ: But it evolved, Allen.

WASTLER: But the thing is, it's the people who make the news you know like if we were sponsored by, I don't know, any of a variety of products I could think of, I don't think that's what we would change what we would say about anything.

CAFFERTY: What happens if the sponsor suddenly gets into trouble and is caught up in some scandal of; you know, indeterminate proportion, does the newsroom then go out and aggressively report on the name of the sponsor that's hanging on it?

SERWER: No, they don't.

WASTLER: Oh ...

CAFFERTY: Which is why they want to sponsor the newsroom. WASTLER: Maybe so, but you know what I would say there is a bad investment because you're putting your ad on the crew that's going to bring you every tsunami, earthquake, layoff, hurricane.

SERWER: Yeah.

WASTLER: Death and destruction over and over again and pretty soon, Amcor Bank News Center is going to get associated with bad news trying to feel bad.

CAFFERTY: Speaking of bad news. We're going to take 30 seconds on this program to whine about the following. Last week the staff of IN THE MONEY had a Christmas party. They all got together, they left -- they left the building and went to a very nice French restaurant. They had wine, they had omelets and they had whatever --

LISCOVICZ: This just in.

CAFFERTY: There were four people who were not invited to go to the IN THE MONEY Christmas party.

SERWER: We weren't invited. I think they're telling us something.

CAFFERTY: Maybe we should start looking around and see if maybe that Wisconsin radio station is hiring.

What's the "Fun Site of the Week?"

WASTLER: Well, nothing says Christmas like shooting elves.

CAFFERTY: I love it.

WASTLER: So, let's do some elves happy here. This is me playing the game, OK? And I have developed quite an aim here.

CAFFERTY: This is lovely.

WASTLER: Oh, look at this approximate.

CAFFERTY: Are you watching, boys and girls?

WASTLER: You want the green elf. Don't shoot the orange elves.

CAFFERTY: Why not?

WASTLER: The orange elves can get you, the green ones you want.

SERWER: Is this family friendly?

WASTLER: If you really nail an elf.

CAFFERTY: Is there any way you can shoot Rudolph with this thing? Because he wears me out every year.

WASTLER: I can find a guy who got a game for that for you.

Slow down productivity at the office, playing games. You build up job demand. There.

CAFFERTY: Coming up next on IN THE MONEY it's time to hear from you as we read some of your e-mails from this past week. You can send us an e-mail right now, too. We're at INTHEMONEY@CNN.com. And unlike Santa's elves we really read what you have to say, those of us who are not away at some Christmas party. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAFFERTY: French restaurant they went to, a very expensive French restaurant.

Time now to read your answers to your answers to our question about the things that you don't need, but bought anyway for Christmas.

One viewer wrote: "My parents were part of that crowd that rushed out at the crack of dawn on Black Friday and they went crazy. They bought a cake mixer, a crock-pot, a bread maker, a griddle, a milkshake maker, a smoothie maker, a coffeemaker and more. They'll never use most of that stuff. Merry Christmas."

Kristen wrote: "I bought a new BlackBerry for myself with the money I was going use to buy presents for my co-workers. Now they can email me on my BlackBerry every time they want to complain about not getting any presents. "

And Frank from New York wrote this: "Judging by the way the economy has been going for me, I think I just bought myself the most useless Christmas gift of all, a new wallet."

Here is next week's email "Question of the Week". We're going to try to be positive here as we head into the end of the year. What was the best thing that happened to you in 2005?

SERWER: Nothing, and not being invited to the Christmas party?

CAFFERTY: Perhaps.

Send your answers to INTHEMONEY@CNN.com. You should also visit our show page at MONEY.com/inthemoney, which is where you find the address of our "Fun Site of the Week." Where you can zap those elves.

Thanks for joining us for this edition of the program. Appreciate it. My thanks to CNN correspondent Susan Lisovicz, "Fortune" magazine Editor-at-large Andy Serwer, and MONEY.com Managing Editor Allen Wastler. See you back here next week Saturday at 1:00, Sunday at 3:00 Eastern. Until then, enjoy the rest of your weekend.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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