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President Obama's Economic Stimulus Plan; Layoffs Are On the Rise: What You Need to Know Before You Exit; Inside Scoop On Companies Hiring Now

Aired January 31, 2009 - 13:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: Welcome to YOUR MONEY. I'm Christine Romans.

More than 100,000 job cuts were announced this week alone at some very familiar companies. The question now, is help on the way? President Obama's $819 billion economic stimulus plan passed in the House without a single Republican vote.

What's in it, tax cuts and a whole lot of new spending? Let's take a look. $142 billion to improve the educational system and that is for grants and schools. $111 billion for health care. $90 billion for infrastructure building like bridges and roads. $72 billion in aid for seniors and the disabled. $54 billion to go to energy and $16 billion for science and technology -- Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN HOST: Thanks, Christine.

So we are talking hundreds of billions and the total cost for a stimulus package could go as high as $900 billion once the Senate votes on its version of a plan. What you want to know is what's your share? This is what we know from the house version that passed Wednesday. If you have your job and make less than $75,000 or $150,000 as a couple, you could see between $10 and $20 in your paycheck extra as the government takes out less in taxes.

If you lost your job $25 per week in your unemployment check. If you're buying a home $7,500 tax credit for some first-time buyers to encourage home buying. The credit phase is out as income rises above $75,000 for singles and $150,000 for couples and it disappears entirely at $95,000 for individuals and $170,000 for couples.

ROMANS: Those are just some of the plans, and some of the details, but how this will fair in the Senate and can this help boost our economy? We are joined now by Democratic Senator Kent Conrad from North Dakota and Republican Senator Judd Gregg from New Hampshire. Gentleman thank you for joining us.

Let me start with you, Senator Gregg and ask you what do you think this has that will be a better sell or will it be a better sell for the Republicans in the Senate. The Republicans in the House did not go for this.

SEN. JUDD GREGG, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, I think the Republicans in the Senate would like to have a package, at least I would, that stimulates the economy and it's got to be a big and a robust package. I do feel, however, that the package that is presently pending misses the point and doesn't hit the nail on the head is the way I describe it.

The nail is the real estate issue, how we can stabilize real estate prices and how we can keep people in their homes and how we get value under these assets of the financial institutions can basically value their assets and really not enough effort is in this package on that issue in my opinion.

VELSHI: Senator Conrad is that the nail or is the nail these job losses that we continue to see and the fact that we are going to get another unemployment report in a week and it is going to be bad again. We know that we'll have an unemployment rate higher than 7.2 percent and we know we'll lose another half a million jobs for January. What is the nail exactly that Americans should be worried about hitting right now?

SEN. KENT CONRAD, (D) NORTH DAKOTA: Well, job creation. Additional demand in the economy to give immediate lift, but Senator Gregg is absolutely right that more has to be done with respect to housing, and I would argue more has to be done with respect to the financial sector. If housing and the financial sector aren't in recovery, the overall economy can't be in recovery that would mean more job losses and even deeper slide ahead. So I think Senator Gregg has got it right. It is absolutely imperative that we add to the measures that will help housing in this package.

ROMANS: Senator Conrad, will you vote for this as it is or what will you do to try to get those measures in there?

CONRAD: I said yesterday it would be very hard for me to vote for this package as it is and that's recognized and there are good things in the package that came over from the house. Many things that have merit and some things got added, frankly, that are less appropriate and really arguably, I don't think will give much lift to the economy. We need to take those out and substitute things that will give lift especially in housing.

VELSHI: Senator Gregg, you were out in front during tarp, during the bailout program. It is one of the strongest cases why we needed a program like that and why it had to happen. I think part of the issue facing Americans right now is they're not entirely sure. They're hearing competing Senators, competing Congressmen discussing what's good and what is bad about this bill.

I don't know that Americans are having a full sense of exactly how this $8 or $900 billion is going to put Americans back to work, help us out of our housing crises and somehow get us out of this recession. Where is the full story going to come from and do you have that narrative in your head already?

GREGG: First off, it's not. Its part of an effort and it should be looked on as one of the initiatives that we need the stimulus package that should create more activity on the economy and probably in the consumption side and it will also address, in my opinion, the housing. At the same time, what Senator Conrad said is absolutely correct, there has to be additional initiatives in the area of stabilizing the financial industry and obviously in the housing account.

So this is all part of an effort. We're in uncharted waters here we've never seen a downturn like this in our lifetime and basically what we're trying to do as a government is move forward in a variety of different fronts to make sure that we do as much as possible and we've done as context of what we can do as a nation to pull ourselves out of this.

But I wish we had the magic wand and we don't know that we do. But we certainly are going to try a lot of different things and a good, strong stimulus package will be one of them. But a good, strong stimulus package has on follow the outline of what Senator Conrad was talking about which has to address the problems.

ROMANS: So with some changes, Senator Gregg, you'll vote for it? As it stands you won't vote for it? Where are you?

GREGG: I would not vote for it coming out of committee. I would absolutely vote for a stimulus package in fact support one which is to create jobs and to stimulate the economy and the housing industry and keeping people in their homes is very important. Giving value to people's homes is very important to give them confidence so they'll go out and spend.

I mean, Americans have to have a little sense that they have the assets there in their house or otherwise they start to contract in their spending and so if we can give housing value some base here, put something underneath it, that would be very good, I think, for Americans generally to feel more confident about themselves and the economy.

VELSHI: They do have to have confidence in the future and Senator Gregg, can you tell us with some confidence what your future holds. There's talk that you could be the next commerce secretary of the United States.

GREGG: Well, that's nice of you to say that. I know I'm on a list and that's about all I'll say about that.

VELSHI: You come back and talk us to anyway so we always appreciate that. Senators thank you for being with us. Senator Ken Conrad of North Dakota a Democrat and Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire a Republican, thanks for being with us.

ROMANS: All right. Time for some more perspective now from part of the CNN money team, Shawn Tully editor at large at "Fortune," and Jeanne Sahadi is a senior writer with

VELSHI: For starters President Obama uncharacteristically lashed out at Wall Street following a report that companies had paid out nearly $20 billion in bonuses in 2008.

Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful, and part of what we're going to need is for the folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint and show some discipline and show some sense of responsibility.


ROMANS: Wow! I mean, he is no drama Obama on the campaign trail completely composed, comes in the first nine, 10, 11 days as president completely composed and then he lets loose on Wall Street. He's letting them know that there's a new sheriff in town.

SHAWN TULLY, EDITOR AT LARGE, "FORTUNE:" Yeah. Well, beyond what he said, there's already a new sheriff in town in terms of the new owners of these Wall Street firms. Wall Street is being completely revolutionized. For example, the bonuses at Bank of America are something like one-third of bonuses given out at Merrill Lynch which is owned by Bank of America since January 1st and those bonuses were down 40 percent.

So this number sounds very big, but it's very much reduced and a new world is arriving on Wall Street. We're anything to see much less of these pay packages. We're going to see the banking industry owned by big banks. Jamie Diamond and Ken Lewis will not run these banks the way they were run before.

ROMANS: People were so outraged by this at the end of week. Roland Martin one of our colleagues was just on fire. He said it was like loaning his sister 10 grand to save her house and she throws a huge party with your money.

That's how the American people when they see it and so they really kind of relate to this populous sentiment from the president who is really saying look, "This is way America feels about giving our money to Wall Street and Wall Street thumbing its nose," and I know it's more complicated than that.

Let's talk about the stimulus and what it will mean in our paychecks. We talked about this earlier on in the program about what it means for your check, and your food stamps, the family of four will have $79 more a month in their food stamps. Jeanne does so much work on this. Walk through the tax scenario for us as it stands now.

JEANNE SAHADI, SENIOR WRITER, CNNMONEY.COM: Sure. There are three in the house bill and also in the Senate and pretty much the provisions are very similar. Three tax credits that will affect people's take-home pay at the end of year.

One is the pay credit which President Obama campaigned on that will go to 95 percent of workers and it will be worth about $500 per person making less than $75,000. There's an earned income tax credit for low income families and an expansion the child tax credit again for people with kids. So all told, Deloitte tax did some calculations. As you can see depending on your income level you'll get back varying amounts and I should mention that the couple making $100,000 would get more under the Senate bill because the Senate bill includes a patch for the AMT and that's the alternative minimum tax that typically is intended for people at the high income level but it's been dipping down in the income ranges and this is basically a temporary patch that would protect the middle class from it.

VELSHI: If you're single with no kids, you don't get as much.

SAHADI: All of the time. People who, the make or take credit, that's what you see in the $500 per person. People who like the credit say it's good and you will see pieces in your paycheck, the $10 to $20 per paycheck over the course of a year, but the criticism is it goes too high up the income scale. The idea is to get money into the hands of people most likely to spend it and that's typically people who make less money.

I should say economists on both liberal and conservative economists have some concern that these tax credits are somewhat useful as stimulus, some of it will be saved. That's what everyone's expectation is so we'll see. We'll see.

VELSHI: What do you think? Shawn.

TULLY: I don't think it will be simulative. We saw a big rebate under President Bush that was a complete failure. It's a transfer of payment, not a tax cut because most people were getting the credits, many of them, the majority don't pay taxes now.

ROMANS: Income taxes.

TULLY: They pay payroll taxes, but there is no payroll tax cut. There is no payroll tax cut. It's a transfer payment essentially. Let me go on. Also, the stimulus -- part of the stimulus package relating to infrastructure spending virtually nothing will be spent this year. It only kicks in in the next several years and we also have enormous subsidies to the health care system in terms of giving healthcare benefits to unemployed people with children, expanding Medicaid to the unemployed.

VELSHI: Meaning more than just people who have lower incomes.

ROMANS: You immediately qualify under the house version of the stimulus for Medicaid.

TULLY: So in effect what's happening is you're raising permanently and structurally a baseline spending this is not a good thing because now we're looking at deficits of well over a trillion dollars, 1.2 trillion without the spending and that's 8 percent of GDP, the highest level we've gotten to was 6 percent under President Reagan and people were outraged and caused a tremendous political problem in 1983 and now we're at 8 and we will be over 12.

OK, what happens when you run out the numbers with the current tax system is we're collecting 22 percent of GDP in taxes and we'll be spending 28. Interest on the government debt swamps the entire budget. We're headed for a value added tax and no one is talking about it and it's the only way out.


VELSHI: That's one thing we're starting to head toward. People should adjust themselves to it. Shawn Tully thanks very much.

TULLY: Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI: Jeanne Sahadi, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Layoffs are on the rise. You or someone you know could be next. What you need to know before you make your exit. There's money on the table and we're going to make sure you know how to get it.

Plus, we have the inside scoop on the companies that are hiring right now.


VELSHI: If you're keeping track of the jobs disappearing this was a week of mass layoffs. Pfizer announced plans to slash 26,000 jobs and Caterpillar says it is cutting more than 20,000 workers, Sprint Nextel, 8,000, Home Depot and ING Group both laying off 7,000 employees and Starbucks eliminating 6,700 positions.

On the larger scale, our unemployment rate according to the government stands at 7.2 percent, almost 5 million Americans are claiming unemployment benefits right now and almost 11 million are unemployed in total and that's a week away from the next unemployment report -- Christine.

ROMANS: All layoffs are not created equal. All these things are up for grabs if you know how to get the best deal when you get laid off. Get a pen and paper, chances are you or someone you know will need this information. Robin Bond is an employment attorney. Robin thanks for rejoining the program.

ROBIN BOND, EMPLOYMENT ATTORNEY: Thank you, Christine. I'm glad to be here.

ROMANS: You know it's tough, you loose your job it is tough, but there are some important things right away. There is money on the table quite literally and you need to know how to get it to use it as you go forward with the next step.

BOND: Great. Exactly right. I say to people this particular job may be over, but your career is not and you are going go on to the next phase of your life. Our whole objective here is helping you get there with the greatest bridge in this transition. The first thing you want to do is find out how is this employer going to characterize your discharge because that's critically important to enabling you to move forward successfully with another employer. ROMANS: Completely without fault. You want to make sure that the terminology there is that you have left the company completely without fault and this is so you can get unemployment benefits, right?

BOND: Exactly. You have to be fired due to no fault of your own in order to qualify for unemployment and that could keep some income coming in for a minimum of six months and almost up over a year now with the new federal additional pay.

ROMANS: In some situations you can negotiate with your employer to actually stay on payroll. It's a great idea. If you know the economy is tough and it might be hard to get a job, ask them to keep you on for a few more weeks and you can keep the benefits and wait longer until your severance kicks in and you have a phone number, too, when you're trying to get a new job.

BOND: That's exactly right. By staying on payroll, you're delaying the inevitable while you're able to tell employers I'm still gainfully employed and plus stay in benefits and keep going. You have to show the employer there's something in it for him to keep you on. For example, hey, the project I'm working on I have the potential to sell our software to a company where there's maybe a $1 million sale. That will affect the bottom line of the company very positively. If you keep me on I can really help the company.

ROMANS: OK. Ask for more severance pay. This is key. Can they possibly just give you more? I know you're giving me six weeks, I'd like nine weeks, please?

BOND: The answer is yes, but it's how you ask that makes a difference. Severance pay is not a right. This is something that an employer gives you because they want something in return. For example, they want your silence and they want you not to speak negatively of the company. They want you not to sue the company and perhaps they want you not to compete. There are three main areas of leverage here I ask clients to look for.

First of all, did you suffer a legal wrong which makes it worth more money for you to go away quietly? We'll think about this and strategize the right way to ask and the right way is not to threaten, but to ask. Secondly, was there a promise made to you implied, written, verbal, something where they said hey, leave that other job and come to work for us and we'll give you a year to get the program up and running and they are letting you go after six months.

ROMANS: Can they ...

BOND: Wait, one more thing. Is there a family hardship? They can respond favorably to that.

ROMANS: All right. Robin Bond, so much great information and you have great tips that we are going to bring to you next week about cobra and some other things that you can do about getting a little bit more of that money on the table when you are leaving your job and as you say it is not the end of your career it is just a pause and you are moving forward, you ended the job, you have not ended your career. Robin Bond, thank you very much.

BOND: Thank you, Christine.

VELSHI: And that is a good point, Christine. With folks losing their jobs it really is easy to lose hope and we're here to make sure that doesn't happen. There are companies in all sorts of industries, hiring right now and we're going to tell you all about them.


ROMANS: I'm doing my part for the economy. Went to a clothing store and was going to buy some clothes and there was a sign.

VELSHI: There are companies that are hiring. Our friends at "Fortune" actually found 20 top companies with at least 350 openings.

ROMANS: If you know where to look there are jobs available right now and some pretty good jobs. Lee Clifford assistant managing editor of "Fortune" joins us now. A closer look at a few of the companies that are hiring. Welcome to the program.


ROMANS: One of them I think is interesting Edward Jones, this is a financial services company and it's counterintuitive because you would think everyone in financial services is laying people off because the stock market is so bad, but not true.

CLIFFORD: Absolutely. This is really surprising, they have about 1,000 job openings right now and I think it comes down to the fact that people are really desperate for good financial advice and so they're hands-on financial advisers and the interesting thing about them is that you don't actually need to have a finance background to work there. They will train you. Maybe you worked in Pharma and maybe you worked in sales, you can still get a job there.

VELSHI: And that is a good point. Don't necessarily think of what the company does in terms of industry as your only opportunity. Another one on your list is Allen Hamilton, a consultant, but they have all sorts of jobs available.

CLIFFORD: Everything from executive assistants at Booz Allen Hamilton (ph) starts with $65,000 a year with full benefits and so that is a pretty good job. They're also looking for associates up to high-level intelligence.

ROMANS: Don't they consult for the government?

CLIFFORD: They do a lot of government work.

ROMANS: We all know the government is growing and getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

VELSHI: They even need web designers and things like that.

CLIFFORD: Absolutely. Absolutely.

VELSHI: How about the Mayo Clinic.

CLIFFORD: That's another interesting one because you would think I don't have a nursing degree and I'm not a doctor, how will I work in the health care field? They need nutritionists to people who work on their web projects to clerical workers.

ROMANS: And Wegman's this is a grocery store chain?

CLIFFORD: It's a grocery chain in upstate New York. People are fanatical about Wegman's, they love to shop there and they love to work there. They have so many part-time jobs and you can get full health benefits. It's a great thing if you're searching for a job.

VELSHI: You have flexibility with those jobs and it's not bad for families. You also know the company and there are 20 of them. Bright Horizons.

ROMANS: I've heard of this one.

CLIFFORD: The mommy set knows about Bright Horizon.

ROMANS: Exactly, they do child care centers.

CLIFFORD: They link up with big companies like Time Warner, like Viacom and Cisco and they open child care centers at the corporate headquarters. It's a great thing for parents who are working because they can commute with their kids and then see them during lunchtime.

ROMANS: They're not looking for day care people, well, they are.

CLIFFORD: Staff to take care of kids during the day, but they need people to scout out now real estate for them. They need people to work on their Web site and marketing people.

ROMANS: Information technology in several of these. I keep hearing if you are in finance and you work in IT and finance, go to education, figure out how to ...

VELSHI: Under the stimulus program, the recovery program, there's a provision to automate health care records and things like that. So this is a great time to look at transferable opportunities.

CLIFFORD: Absolutely and actually if you go to our Web site at CNNMONEY you can see the actual jobs that they have open right now.

ROMANS: I was looking at it and I got myself stuck on it because it was so interesting. Please do that. There is help out there.

ROMANS: Please keep it your job. We're happy --

VELSHI: I love my job, but it behooves all of us to know what the environment is out there and what the landscape is out there.

CLIFFORD: I think after a tough day he does say I'm going to go get a job at Wegman's.

VELSHI: Lee Clifford, assistant managing editor at "Fortune" thanks for joining us.

ROMANS: All right. The reason why women everywhere should celebrate this week and how to make sure women don't get lost in the stimulus shuffle.


MELISSA LONG, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Melissa Long here at the CNN Center in Atlanta with some of the stories happening now in the news.

More than half a million people are without power today in Kentucky. At least nine deaths in the state have been linked to this devastating ice storm. Emergency workers are struggling to reach people in the remote areas. One local official said national guardsmen who went out had no chain saws to clear the fallen trees.

Iraqis going to the polls today for the first time in four years. Voters heading home waving their index finger stained with purple ink used to identify people who cast ballots.

More than 14,000 candidates, about 3,900 of them women are running in the provincial elections.

The peanut processing company linked to a salmonella outbreak could face criminal charges. Officials are looking into reports that the company's Georgia factory was contaminated with salmonella as far back as 2007. Peanut Corporation of America says it wants to express its deepest and most sincere empathy for those made sick in the outbreak.

Four more arsons have been reported in the part of southeastern Pennsylvania that have been plagued by intentionally set fires this year. All four of today's fires were homes in the Coatesville area that is about 35 miles west of Philadelphia.

We have more news coming up for you at the top of the hour. Now back to YOUR MONEY.

VELSHI: Well global economic crisis or not, business government leaders have gathered once again in snowy Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum.

Our Richard Quest as well making sure they are doing more than just skiing because Richard the world is coming apart at the seams economically and the rich and famous and fabulous are partying like it's 1999 in the slopes of Switzerland. Are they getting anything meaningful done?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well there is nothing like pre-judging the issue, Ali. There's not really any partying that I have seen before at Davos. No, this is a very different sort of environment. The people who are here, they are talking about very arcane things, stimulus packages and they're talking about quantitative easing and they're talking about bank liquidity and capital ratios and yes, they are substantially talking about what more needs to be done.

There is a vast recognition here that a lot of the people who are here are the very people who got us into this mess in the first place. So whether they're not exactly humble or chagrined at least they're walking around with more humility than in the past and one other thing to note, Ali, the Americans are not here. The bankers are not here and the administration is virtually not here. Only one or two representatives and people are pretty much saying well, what do we do next?

VELSHI: That's given a bit of a green light to some of the former communist countries to blame the capitalist establishment and the American system in some ways for having gotten us into the mess. That may not be entirely accurate, but it does seem that there is some American and western bashing going on there.

QUEST: It was earlier in the week. It came from president -- former President Vladimir Putin. Now the prime minister of Russia. It came from the premiere of China and it was Mr. Putin who really brought the capitalist boot into it. Basically he called it the perfect storm and it was an embarrassing moment in many ways for this organization for the west. This organization funded itself, pledged itself, put itself forward as being the bastion of free market and economics.

Here, this is the place where you would come to meet the head of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Merrill Lynch. This is the place you would come to schmooze with Barclays and with AIG. Well, they were there if you looked under a rock around the corner and behind the tree, but you couldn't really find the CEO. The chairman might not have made it. Certainly the private plane wasn't here. No, they were here, you just had to be a little bit more sensitive, and sniff them out, if you like.

VELSHI: That's why we've got you. Richard Quest, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS." Catch the new show at 2:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN International when you're not in front of a CNN U.S. TV.

Richard, good to see you -- Christine.

ROMANS: The very first piece of legislation that President Obama signed into law has seen as a boom for working women. The Lilly Leadbetter Fair Pay act makes it far easier for employees to seeking equal pay to file a complaint.

There to witness the historic signing Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. Thank you for joining us so much. That was quite a week here. This Alabama factory worker who long suffering with her fight through the courts for fair pay. She in the end, doesn't get the payback, but in a way changes the world.

KIM GANDY, PRES., NATIONAL ORG. FOR WOMEN (NOW): It's absolutely true. Goodyear Tire and Rubber will never have to pay Lilly Leadbetter for all those years of discrimination, but thanks to her perseverance and a lot of hard work, we now have a law that Congress signed yesterday as his very first act by President Obama that will make it easier for not just women, but anyone who has been discriminated against to make their claim and to be heard and to have their day in court.

ROMANS: On the campaign trail, President Obama had said many, many times that this was going to be the first thing he wanted to sign this legislation and in fact he did. He also said a couple of times, I heard him say that if his grandmother who raised him had been treated, equally he wondered what the world would have held for her or what she could have done. Ironically, she raised a president of the United States, so it shows that she did overcome an interesting and emotional time at the signing.

Something that is interesting I think as well this week that was a big piece of news. This contraception controversy in the stimulus. Give me a little bit of an insight into your perspective on this because there was in the stimulus some 200 million for contraception for low-income families and the Republicans and others were concerned about that and they took it out of the stimulus.

GANDY: Well, you know, the recovery act, the recovery plan does a number of things. One of the goals is to maintain the jobs we have, create new jobs and also to help people who are affected by the downturn, people who are unemployed and the like and then particularly to help the state recovery by providing an influx of money into the states that will go into creating jobs and also providing services and Medicaid increasing funding of Medicaid is one of the ways to do that. And it hits multiple goals of the administration. It increases healthcare among ...

ROMANS: So you think it was wrong to pull that out. You think it was simulative?

GANDY: Of course, it was simulative. There was no question. All this did was say that the states have the option and it was an option for states to choose to use their Medicaid money to provide family planning and related services like cervical cancer screenings, pap smears and the like all reproductive-related care to low-income women whose income wasn't quite low enough to qualify for Medicaid, but who didn't have health insurance and needed it. This raises health care jobs. It puts money into the state. It takes pressure off of the emergency rooms, its preventive care. All of those things.

ROMANS: It's out of that now, so at this point it's in the rear- view mirror.

GANDY: Well, no, actually it's not. There is a commitment from the leadership of both houses of Congress and a personal commitment from President Obama that it will go into the budget. So it's going to happen. It's just going happen in a different vehicle. I see that.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the stimulus quickly. There have been some concerns, nagging concerns that if you have all these shovels in the ground, construction projects is a big portion of the stimulus that it might leave some women behind. How do we make sure that the new jobs created in the stimulus are shared by men and women of all different kinds of incomes and different parts of the economy?

GANDY: Well, it did start out looking that way, but many of the women's organizations including mine, worked with the administration, worked with leadership and Congress and we are confident now. In fact, we have the first gender analysis that I know of. The administration put out a gender analysis of the jobs that will be created in the stimulus plan and about 42 percent of the jobs are estimated to go to women.

ROMANS: About 1.5 million decided of those jobs would go to women.

GANDY: There continues to be a little concern, though, that those jobs tend to be jobs that are paid a little less than average while the construction jobs tend to pay a little more than average and so we think there needs to be an ongoing analysis of the kinds of jobs that are created and the wages that they pay because women now are not only half the workforce, but 40 percent of women are the sole support.

ROMANS: Kim Gandy, president of National Organization for Women. Thank you so much for joining us.

GANDY: My pleasure.

ROMANS: All right. Say your spouse cheats on your taxes and defaults on the mortgage and doesn't pay the credit card bills. Could you be in trouble, too?


ROMANS: Investigators continue to dig into the Madoff files looking into what could be the largest Ponzi scheme ever. Part of that investigation, did Madoff's wife get involved in anything illegal.

VELSHI: Well chances are your spouse won't get you caught up in a Ponzi scheme, but in many households one partner does handle the finances. How liable are you if your spouse is cheating in your name when it comes to taxes, credit card bills and the mortgage.

Jeffrey Toobin is CNN senior legal analyst. Good question, Jeff. Either someone handles the finances or you may think something shady is going on but you don't really know and you're not in charge of it. What does the law say about that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: There is a big difference between criminal and civil liability. In terms of civil liability, in terms of your taxes, if you sign a tax return, even though you don't know what your spouse was doing and it may be that your spouse was cheating, you are still liable.

ROMANS: Really?

TOOBIN: You are still liable. The difference is for criminal law. If your spouse is intentionally cheating on his taxes, he or she can be criminally prosecuted, but you can't be. You can't go to jail for a tax return that you didn't know was false even though it was false, but you can be forced to pay the taxes.


VELSHI: Does this occur, you know, companies have these rules now ever since Sarbanes-Oxley where a CEO and a chief financial officer who signs off on the accounts has to say I understand it, I've read it, I know what's in there. If you didn't know what was in there, what's your recourse if something happens? What happens when you hear from the tax department or you hear from the law?

TOOBIN: This is where the law is pushing you to learn what's in there. This is what -- if you're going to sign a tax return, if you're going to vouch for the truth of a tax return which is what signing is, you have to know. Now, as I say, they can't throw you in jail if you really didn't know, but if you signed a tax return that understates income and overstates deductions and that is untrue in some way in your favor, Uncle Sam can come after you and Uncle Sam does come after you. You have often very sad situations where it's so-called the innocent spouse.

The innocent spouse defense is a legitimate defense in a criminal case, but in an innocent spouse still has to pay the taxes. Sometimes the IRS will work something out if you simply don't have any money. There are always negotiations, but in terms of the law, you're liable.

ROMANS: It's complicated enough if you don't have a spouse who is cheating in the whole process. You look at Timothy Geithner the treasury secretary and he even had a tax preparer and he still couldn't get it right.

VELSHI: Does the law distinguish between what he claims to be a mistake and an investigation of a potential Ponzi scheme. In other words, does the law treat that differently?

TOOBIN: It's the same idea. It seems clear that Geithner didn't intend to cheat on his taxes, but even though he didn't intend, even though he didn't understand he was making a mistake he's still liable for the taxes. It's not that you didn't intend to speed. If you're speeding, you're guilty. If your taxes are wrong, you have to pay.

Again, criminal law is different. You can't be prosecuted for tax fraud unless you intend to violate the law, but even if you intend to comply with the law and file a return that's defective in some way you have to pay the money as Geithner did.

VELSHI: All right. So know your stuff.

ROMANS: What a great conversation with the w-2s. I keep shoving them in a drawer going like this.

TOOBIN: Who among us really understands a full tax return?

VELSHI: If there's ever been a year to read your financial documents this would be it. TOOBIN: It is useful advice for our viewers even those who are not conducting $50 billion Ponzi schemes.

VELSHI: So few of our viewers are arguing that. Jeff good to see you. Thanks so much.

By the way none of these laws apply to TV spouses.

ROMANS: That's right.

VELSHI: You are completely safe.

ROMANS: Can we file together or separately? What did we do last year?

VELSHI: I can't remember.

All right. It's countdown to Super Bowl. Three hours when folks across America can forget about this tough economy, unless you bought tickets. Stephen A. Smith is here to talk about why the sporting world doesn't seem to be hitting hard times.


ROMANS: OK. I'm not a Yankee fan, I'm a Cub fan. I just want to be clear here.

VELSHI: You are close to perfect.


VELSHI: My Yankee's are going to be good this year, you know why?

ROMANS: Because they spent a whole boat load of money for three players?

VELSHI: Half a billion dollars on three players. All right. So you have big ticket player signings and soaring ticket prices and they're used to support these brand new billion dollar stadiums. I guess you can forgive fans of professional baseball, basketball and football if they are wondering what universe you people are playing in.

ROMANS: At least tickets to this weekend Super Bowl have fallen to a paltry $1,500 apiece on popular Web sites. You know, that's $1500 a ticket for the worst seats in the stadium. In this economy.

VELSHI: I don't know about that. Let's make sense of all this. We turn to ESPN Steven A. Smith. Steven what is going on? Make sense of this for us. Everything else is suffering. Ticket prices, soda prices, food prices, parking prices. Stadiums and games don't appear to be.

STEVEN A. SMITH, ESPN: The issue is simple. The fact is that these professional sports franchises they have television deals. That's the reality of the situation. Look at major league baseball; they're in the middle of a seven-year $3 billion deal that ends in 2013. Look at the NFL. They signed the deal with three different networks. You got Fox and CBS. They've got like an $8 billion deal with the NFL.

You've got ESPN and NBC. They've got a combined $14.5 million deal that expires in 2012 and 2014 respectively. You look at the NBA. They're in the first year of an eight-year $7.4 billion deal, which was a 22 percent increase from the previous deal that they had with the television networks. So when you take those things into consideration, you have to understand that you've got guaranteed revenue that is coming in.

Certainly you've got to engage in cost deficiency and what have you. You see people curbing costs, the league, the NBA basically made a 10 percent cut in terms of job cuts. You look at the NFL did a 10 percent reduction in ticket prices for these upcoming -- for the playoffs that just transpired. Take all of those things into consideration, they are engaging in cost efficiency, but at the end of the day they know what revenue is coming in for years to come, so they're able to weather a storm that most people can't.

ROMANS: You know weather a storm that most people can't. At the same time the Super Bowl tickets have come down. A lot of press this week about how it's cheaper to get a Super Bowl ticket on the resale market. But still I still can't afford that resale ticket. Is it still -- is it ever going to be affordable again for a family of four to go out and see a big sporting event?

SMITH: Well, for a long time people have been complaining about that. You've got to understand these professional sports leagues have been catering to high-end clients. It is as almost as if they anticipated a catastrophe like this. Certainly they didn't. But at the same time, they recognize the point that if you're going to sell these luxury suites, these PSLs, the reality is that they're you're going to have to cater to high-end clients, to corporations, people in corporations that can actually afford these prices.

In the case of the Super Bowl, certainly it's a star-studded event. So you have people going out there willing to pay these exorbitant prices. Certainly not the ones they were paying before this economic downturn, but they still can afford more than the average American out there.

VELSHI: Do you think even with the long-term contracts at some point somebody from the TV station is going to call up and say guess what our car companies, our financial companies are not advertising and with these suites a lot of people are going to say hit me with the penalty but I can't take the box. Are we seeing some of that happening yet? Am I going to get a cheaper Yankee ticket later on this season?

SMITH: No, you're not going to get a cheaper Yankee ticket. I can tell you that right now. They spent $423 million and it's possible even though it's a long shot they might throw in an additional $70 million at a guy like Manny Ramirez. Certainly you're not going to see them come to the leagues yet simply because, again, in sports it's like a delayed reaction.

They have to engage in some cost deficiency. But at the end of the day you're able to wait longer because you still have those guaranteed dollars coming. You make a deal with the television networks. They have to have a big-time viable long-term reason to back out of those deals.

So I don't think you'll see something like that happen immediately, to directly answer your question. But who knows what will happen in the long haul. Anything is possible.

ROMANS: Anything is possible. Who do you got, Pittsburgh, Arizona? What are you taking?

SMITH: I'm taking Pittsburgh. I just think their defense is stellar. Arizona has been a Cinderella story, but I think the Cinderella ride and I'm picking the Pittsburgh Steelers 28, 24, don't hold me to that curve, we are on the Cinderella ride. Who knows?

ROMANS: Thanks so much. I'm picking the Cubs. I can't pick the Cubs.

VELSHI: You can't pick the Cubs. But that's what I love about the Cubs fans; they'll pick the Cubs no matter what the game.

With the economy in a slump why even porcupines could be getting pink slips.


VELSHI: Well, the recession is coming to a zoo near you. State budgets are in terrible shape. That means big cuts for zoos and aquariums.

ROMANS: There won't be any help from that huge stimulus bill. None of the $891 billion will go to zoos, golf courses or swimming pools. Tax payer watchdogs say there are simply more important uses for your money. That means no pork for porcupines.


ROMANS (voice over): There's just no job security anywhere, even for sea lions. Here at the Bronx Zoo, a state budget crisis means cuts are coming. More than $3 million in state funding will disappear here, $9 million altogether for the state's 76 zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums.

STEVEN SANDERSON, CEO, WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY: We're faced with this very difficult problem of firing the animals, as it were.

ROMANS: Firing the animals? They've made a little video to illustrate and maybe rally support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disastrous. So there's no easy way to say this. Even though you bring record numbers of people to New York and help the economy, we're going to have to let you go.

ROMANS: So just whose necks are on the line?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two-third of our budget is people. So two- thirds of the cuts will come in cutting positions. And we'll also cut back what we provide in the way of education and entertainment and nature experiences for people. So it affects everything.

ROMANS: It might mean no new animals, sending some away, and some collections will not be replaced when they die. Sanderson questioned New York State's Priorities. But Jeffrey Gordon, a spokesman for the New York State Budget Office tells CNN the cuts are regrettable but necessary.

Quote "Given the dramatic reduction in revenue we're seeing at the state level. Every entity that receives state funds must do what the state has done, which is to review its operations and identify ways to operate at lower costs."

It's happening everywhere. The Los Angeles Zoo stopped work on its $42 million elephant exhibit last year. Big budget cuts, too, for zoos in North Carolina, Missouri, Maryland and Florida. Hard realities of a tough economy.



ROMANS: I love that little frog. The little frog on the chair. The Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium they really only get 3 percent of their funding from the state. But every penny counts. Between the state budget cuts, the loss of the value of their endowment and, frankly, fewer people renewing zoo memberships, they say they'll have to lay off between 120 and 130 people.

VELSHI: I guess memberships are not being renewed at museums and zoos and things like that. I wonder if people on a one-off basis will go with their family to things like this is where the museum and the zoo.

ROMANS: Everybody is hurting, even the zoos.

VELSHI: Well make sure you join us every week for YOUR MONEY, Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern and Sundays at 3:00 right here on CNN.

ROMANS: Stay with the CNN Money team everyday for the very latest on news on YOUR MONEY. And to log on 24/7 to

VELSHI: Have a great weekend.