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President Obama's First 100 Days in Office: Is Your Money in Good Hands?; What Happens If Your Bank Fails the Government Stress Test?; What Companies Are Hiring and What Not to Do on the Job Interview; How You Can Negotiate Your Medical Bills

Aired April 25, 2009 - 13:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: This week marks 100 days in office for our President Obama. We'll issue our won quarterly report card for the administration and find out if your money is in good hands.

Welcome to YOUR MONEY. I'm Christine Romans.

ALI VELSHI, CNN HOST: And I'm Ali Velshi. What happens if your bank failed the government stress test? We're going to go through -- break through the confusion and get some answers to the central question: is your money safe?

ROMANS: And the Fortune 500, well, it may have lost a little bit of its fortune, but a number of the companies on that list are hiring today. We'll tell you exactly who is hiring and just as important, what not to do once you finally land that job interview.

VELSHI: It's more like dating than you think, trying to get a job. Then, when money is tight, everything is negotiable, including believe it or not, your medical bills. We're going to give you some real facts and details as to how you can negotiate your medical bills.

ROMANS: But first, has there ever been such an important first 100 days in office for any president? In tackling the economy alone, the president and new Congress have pushed through a massive stimulus plan.

VELSHI: That's not all of the administration has also offered up a bank rescue plan potentially worth another $1 trillion. In addition, the president is trying to restructure the U.S. auto industry, allow people to refinance or modify mortgages if they're struggling with their homes, so there's a lot that's been going on in this first 100 days.

ROMANS: It really has. Very busy three plus months, but is 100 days too soon to grade any president? Let's bring in our CNN political analyst David Gergen and "Wall Street Journal" editor writer, Stephen Moore. David let me start with you. You've advised four presidents. This first 100 days of this one, how has he done?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that by the gold standard of Franklin Roosevelt and the great depression, I don't think this has been another Franklin Roosevelt performance. You know, that was an extraordinary time and it was an extraordinary effort made and with great success. But this has been very strong. I think our problem right now is it's too early to tell. In giving a grade, it is incomplete, because we don't know how well the policies are going to work.

Whether it's trying to save the banks or, you know, putting GM and Chrysler through the hoops and saying -- and possible bankruptcy here, or whether it's saving the housing industry. Things are still going down but they are not going down as quickly. One major economic policy maker from the past told me things are settling down, it's just unclear whether the operative word is settling or down.

ROMANS: Let me ask you quickly, you mentioned FDR but do you think that this period, I mean is this period more important than or as important as those early days for FDR?

GERGEN: I think that these first 100 days are always extremely important for a president. They do set a tone and a direction, and establish a new persona in the eyes of the public. Usually by the way the first 100 days are when presidents make serious mistakes, too. President Kennedy had his bay of pigs in the first 100 days. Gerald Ford pardon Richard Nixon, I thought it was the right thing to do, but it was badly done.

I don't think Barack Obama has made any big major clear or obvious mistakes. History will judge, and say Paul Krugman would argue that he's been moving in the right direction on economic policy but has not moved far enough or fast enough. That's the kind of judgment we're going to have to wait for history to make a final call.

VELSHI: Good analysis of that. So we're going to ask exactly the same question to Stephen Moore. Stephen what's your view of the performance of the first 100 days, the importance of it, and whether there have been any major mishaps.

STEPHEN MOORE, EDITORIAL WRITER, "WALL STREET JOURNAL:" I generally agree with David Gergen. It certainly has been a blizzard of activity, and one of the things I give high marks to Barack Obama about is, especially in the last month or so, he's really exuded confidence. I think that is important for the economy. I'm a conservative. I'm a free market guy. I think a lot of the initiatives that Barack Obama has undertaken are in the wrong direction. I think the $1 trillion spending bill is more of a negative for the economy than a positive.

We've had a lot of bailouts. There is -- the one thing that I would say that's interesting about Obama's first 100 days, it's been a very liberal agenda, very much to the left, and he has polarized the country. He has very high marks with American whose are liberal, and even independents. He has very negative marks from people who are Republicans and Conservatives. So he's been, I don't know if David would agree with this, but I think he's been very polarizing in his first 100 days.

GERGEN: Let me just jump in on that. I do agree with Stephen, I think this has been very much to the left. Interestingly, I think it's sort of center left, not far left. And that's why a lot of his criticism from economists like Paul Krugman or Joe Steeg (ph) is coming from the left, he hasn't nationalized the banks, for example as they wanted.

But I don't think there isn't any doubt that this is going to the left and I think one of the big, big questions and one of the reasons it's incomplete is, where are we going to be at the end of this process? We're going to be in a new landscape, but will business be heavily regulated or regulated to so much that it stifles innovation. Or is it going to be a smart regulation that is light enough to get the job done but also allows entrepreneurship and innovation.

MOORE: I agree with that David and you know we can talk all we want about the first 100 days and his approval ratings and so on, but even Barack Obama himself has said, look, I'm going to be judged on whether this works or not. And the American people will hold him to that standard. So when we talk about the second 100 days, if the economy is improving, if we see more jobs, if the stock market starts to get out of this funk that it's been in, then he'll be seen as the savior and the messiah.

On the other hand, if the economy is still in a lot of trouble six months from now, I think people are going to say, OK, what comes next. This didn't work, what do we do next? Americans have a very short attention span. We're an instant gratification society. I don't think he has a lot of time to get the job market and the stock market back in the right direction.

VELSHI: Very thoughtful analysis from both of you. Thank you so much. Stephen Moore from "The Wall Street Journal," and David Gergen, CNN's chief political analyst.

ROMANS: And make sure you stay with CNN for the complete coverage of the first 100 days, it all leads up to next Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, the "CNN National Report Card," where you have the chance to log on to, and you can grade the president, the administration and even members of Congress.

VELSHI: Well, your bank is getting a physical, a stress test. Should you be worried? We're going to tell you what the government stress test really means for your money and we're going to show you how to give yourself a personal finance stress test.

Plus, why Christine is all fired up about credit cards.

ROMANS: Have you seen them?


ROMANS: You know, maybe you've had a stress test at the hospital, you see how your body can handle certain situations, and you might be on a treadmill tracking your heart.

VELSHI: I don't feel like I'm in my most fit so I don't want to do that just yet. But 19 of the major banks in this country are finding out how they performed in their stress test by the government to see if they need more money to deal with the current financial crises. Particularly if it gets worse, now the results of those stress tests won't be made public until May 4th. ROMANS: But we're learning more about what the parameters are for how they are going to be testing these companies. You know, is it really critical to the road to recovery? Is it political and what will the results mean for your bank, for your money and for the economy?

Diane Swonk is the chief economist at Mesrow Financial, she joins us from Chicago. Here at the studio with us is Paul La Monica, editor at large for Diane let me start with you, and just ask you how critical these stress tests are. We spoke last week about how you have to be careful about separating out the winners and the losers. The markets are already starting to do that. We're kind of getting a good sense of who is weak and who will need more money.

DIANE SWONK, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MESROW FINANCIAL: Well, the real issue on the stress test, they were quite significant parameters. I know some of the banks that were going through them and they were saying these are really tough, we're going to make it, but they're really much more than we ever thought they'd be. So they did have teeth to them. But I think because of the politics of what's happened and the fact that we are seeing these banks in a pretty good capital situation right now because they've gotten so much money that they've lost a lot of their credibility factor for overall financial markets.

VELSHI: Paul, let me ask you about these stress tests. They describe them as stress tests because they're like, as Christine said, what you might do at the doctor. The idea here is that the government is setting parameters and they're saying if the economy gets worse, if unemployment goes up, and if home prices go down substantially more than they have already, what kind of shape will these banks be in, is that the sense of this?

PAUL LA MONICA, EDITOR AT LARGE, CNNMONEY.COM: That does seem to be the sense of this. I think one of the problems is that there are some concerns that maybe the stress tests aren't really actually testing for a situation that might now be -- that is actually an apocalyptic type of scenario. There are reports that 10 percent unemployment or something around those levels might be part of the stress test and that might have been unforeseen a few months ago, but not anymore with unemployment already at 8.5 percent.

ROMANS: Right and Diane, I know that some people have targets for 10 percent unemployment next year. Deutsche Bank has a target at, if you saw a bankruptcy or even a stretch for bankruptcy of one of the car makers you could see 11.5 percent unemployment.

VELSHI: We're a week away from the reality that Chrysler may not make it, so we may have a bankruptcy there.

ROMANS: So how valuable are the stress tests in the end?

SWONK: Well I think they've lost their value. I think unfortunately all of this has become politicized. I think they actually were intended well and well intended and the downsides scenario were much higher unemployment, 12 percent, 30 percent declines in housing prices, so they had a range of scenarios, but they've gotten all watered down.

And the reality is nobody trusts the results now anyway. People feel they don't have any teeth because they feel like they've said, hey, the banks are well capitalized, we're finding out that Tim Geithner said that himself, which means he's revealing the stress test.

I also add, stress tests are not the best way to see if your heart is in shape. I had two strokes; stress tests did not show it. It was the other testing that showed it. Stress tests aren't the best way to go.

VELSHI: That's a very, very key point. There are other things that could be wrong, as we found in this economy.

ROMANS: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Diane, let me ask you quickly then about the health of the banks. Somebody this week told me that bank profit is like an oxymoron. They wouldn't have them if they hadn't had a rescue from the United States government. The American people are still very angry and saying, we want our money back. While some economists are saying we might frankly need more money, if you have a real estate debacle, which some say are coming, more bad assets, what is then the next hurdle moving a side stress tests for the banking sector?

SWONK: Well, this is a key issue. Now banks are in pretty good shape and they are making money. You want them to make money to be able to pay us back. That is the oxymoron out there. They're making money because we gave them money but they also want them to make money to pay us back.

But going forward, it's the economy, stupid. We had the sub prime and all these things happen, but now the cyclical issue that we've talked about. How high is unemployment rate going to go, how high are the losses. The losses, $2 billion to $3 billion in commercial loans need to be reset. If they can't be, what will happen to the banking system then? So there is the second wave related to the basic economy hat we have yet to see, and that can happen up to a year after we see the bottom in the economy as well. It takes a while for some of these effects to actually set in.

ROMANS: All right Diane, Mesrow Financial in Chicago, also Paul LaMonica for CNN.COM, thank you Paul, so much you.

VELSHI: You know a little over a week ago, you and I were sitting with a senior government official who was saying stress tests should be taking place. These stress tests should be taking place all the time at banks.

ROMANS: But he said they didn't.

VELSHI: They didn't do it and by the way, I think a lot of people don't do it for themselves; it might actually be a neat idea to try a stress test on your own personal financial situation.

ROMANS: That is right; our friends at came up with a very east to test the strength of your money plan, your very own money stress test.

VELSHI: All right, is joining us to take us through the proper. What do you think?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's take a look, it is a tool on our site on the personal finance section of, your financial help, find it right there at the top of the Web site. Let go into this, let's show you what it looks like. What we did is factor in the age of 40 and then annual income of $50,000.

Let's continue and tale a look here at what that would mean. Take a look all of these different areas, you can put in your house payment, your dept., what you have saved for emergency, we put in some numbers here to show you where you could stand.

Let's say your debt and this is by month including you mortgage and your credit card debt, lets say it is $1,800, how does that leave you on a $50,000 salary? You are in danger you are carrying to much debt. In order to stay out of trouble those debt payments, those monthly should not exceed 36 percent of your gross income.

But what about your housing payment, that is a big expense for everyone. Take a look here at housing, let's pull it up and what we put in here is $1,200 whether you are renting, or whether is flip flops, where does that put you at $50,000 dollars a year. You are 40- years-old, careful again, you are spending too much on your housing and that payment shouldn't exceed 28 percent of you gross income.

And then finally, we decided to talk about retirement savings. This is key especially right now. Take a look here what we put in is $500 so 10 percent of what you are making every month is putting that away, You already have $75,000 saved, that puts you in pretty good shape, you are on the right track for retirement. Pretty nice, right?

VELSHI: Incredible. What a great tool.

ROMANS: It really is.

VELSHI: It answers so many of the questions so many people ask us all the time. I do want to say though, that 28 percent for housing, I think there are a lot of people in this country who very legitimately spend more than 28 percent on housing. If you live in New York, Chicago -- but that's a good tool. You can be on the good side of many of those measures and then that's your stress test. You can handle the recession ...

ROMANS: I took it myself. I passed some of them, not all of them, but it's good to know. On housing, we put in $1200. If you were paying $1100, they said you're safe there. On the debt, we put in $1800, but if your debt payment is $1500 a month, so they were pretty close.

VELSHI: That's fantastic, Poppy. Your own personal stress test. I'm going to do that after the show.

ROMANS: That is so helpful for people; I think especially when we're talking about credit cards and credit card holders. The president this week and Congress moved quickly for some big credit card changes, they're going to try to end some of these shenanigans that have, the fees and the retroactive fees ...

VELSHI: And he stated it very clearly. He said this is what the administration would like to see happen with credit cards. Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There has to be strong and reliable protections for consumers. Protections that ban unfair rate increases and forbid abusive fees and penalties, the days of any time, any reason rate hikes and late fee traps have to end.


ROMANS: Now, I have something -- I'd like to go a little farther. The days and times of any time, any reason, charging when you don't have the money, that has to end too. And that's something I did not hear this week in a lot of the coverage of the credit card story.

VELSHI: That's right.

ROMANS: It was about credit card out rage, it was about the bane of our society, credit card companies, and look. You charged the money.

VELSHI: But we are doing the same thing.

ROMANS: It's not your money. It is not your money that is someone else's money that they loaned you.

VELSHI: Which you have to pay back.

ROMANS: Like I was saying also, loan sharking is essentially the second oldest profession after something else, and loaning money at high interest rates is something that has gone on for a very long time, because it is for people who get themselves in a situation where they don't have money.

We have learned how to use credit cards to make our lives better and how to make our own situation grow. There's healthy debt and unhealthy debt and I think we've crossed the line on some of these credit cards.

VELSHI: You look at the number of people, who hold credit cards in this country, and it is continuing to increase, and there are some good reasons for that to happen. But the reality is, we've got to take on personal responsibility alongside regulating the credit card companies so that they practice fairly.

ROMANS: And Congress should have done it a long time ago. Some of the most outrageous things, some of these companies have already dropped these -- actually, for several years some of these companies have done some of the most outrageous things that will be outlawed now.

So just my two cents. If you don't have the money, don't spend it. That's what got us into this mess in the first place.

VELSHI: Now what do you do if your prospective employer just isn't that into you. Why the rules of dating hold the key to finding your next job.


ROMANS: All right. About 6.1 million people in this country collecting jobless checks. You know we hear the dire news about jobs all the time, but there are a lot of companies, Fortune 500 companies that are hiring right now. They are firing people in some parts of the businesses and in some cases but they are hiring across a broad set of specters.

VELSHI: Which means you shouldn't have this view that there's nothing going on in the economy that can be useful to you. Let's just give you a look at some of the Fortune 500 companies that are hiring, Lowe's, where you go for your home improvement, 7,900 openings across the country in different areas.

Northrop Grumman, defense contractor with 3,700 openings, Boeing, they manufacturer as you know air planes, 2,400 openings. Hospital Corporation of America, they've got hospital jobs and health care jobs across the country look at that. 9,000 openings. And by the way, that's one of those areas where we constantly talk about there being some growth the health care sector.

Let's take a look at some of the other job opportunities out there. UPS, about 3,000 openings. Remember, as we emerge from a recession, one of the first places you'll see develop in the job market is in areas of transportation because so much of everything that we buy in this country gets moved around. General Dynamics has 2,365 openings, New York Life, the insurer and financial company, 3,640 openings, and Bank of America has openings across the country, 1,860 of them.

So there are jobs out there, and you just have to get very creative in some ways about how you're going to get them and see the trend and see whether or not it's worth retraining for them. Ultimately, there's something people are faced with right now that they haven't been faced with for a long time and that's getting a resume together and having an interview.

ROMANS: And being prepared for going a little bit longer between jobs. Before you get that job, you're going to have to nail that interview when you finally get it. You want to seem interested but not too desperate. Not that Ali and I are going to give dating advice that is for sure.

VELSHI: But it is.

ROMANS: You don't want to let your desperation show through. It can cost you in the dating world and it can cost you in a job interview. It is difficult to avoid letting, letting out how badly you need that job.

VELSHI: And yet you want to make sure that the person you're interviewing with or dating knows you're interested and you're ready to go the extra mile.

ROMANS: Jennifer Merritt is the career editor with "The Wall Street Journal" and she knows firsthand about the job market and what have you to do and the mistakes you cannot make. Jennifer, you finally get the job interview, you've been out of work for six months. Don't go too early, don't be too eager and for god sake's don't tell them how desperate you are to get this interview.

JENNIFER MERRITT, CAREER EDITOR, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:" That is so true. Some people are showing up over an hour early for their interview, that really makes the receptionist or the human resources person really uncomfortable. They are going to try to accommodate you and make them nervous. But also, once you get in the interview, you can't tell people that you haven't had an interview in six months or that you're going to have to take your child out of school or you're about to lose your house.

As cold as it sounds, they don't care about that, and it can actually be a turnoff and keep you out of the running for a job. You've got to keep in mind that hundreds of people applied for that job and you've got the interview, so leave that baggage at home.

VELSHI: All right. So you've said, don't arrive too early, don't seem too desperate and your other don't is don't stalk the interviewer. What do you mean by that? It's like dating advice.

MERRITT: Absolutely. Well, after the interview a lot of people follow-up with a thank you, but if you call them back the next day and keep calling them, what's going on, when will I hear back, you know interviewers have caller ID. Human Resources have caller ID. They'll know if you've called and called and called and not left a message.

ROMANS: You really have to be polite, do you want to be persistent because that is a sign of a good employee somebody who follows through, but you don't want to be desperate and you don't want to be a stalker.

You've got tips for what to do in the interview, the dos. Do your homework, make sure your skills fit the job and proofread any follow up. What do you mean?

MERRITT: Well, you always have to do your homework, and you always have to look into what's going on with the company, figuring out what's happening in the market. But this time you've got to go even further. Figure out where the weak spots and strong spots of your company, of your interview are and go in and sell yourself.

You are starting a new business line in x, and I have experience in x, and here's how I can help you. That's what you've got to really do. And then the other thing is, you don't want to put yourself out of the running because you have a typo in your thank you note. So be careful. Make sure you've read what you've written and don't just send out a thank you, customize it. Ask follow-up questions.

VELSHI: We've heard that so many times from people, that's the kind of thing that stymies people. There's an error.

ROMANS: And you know hiring managers, people who I know who are out there in the business world hiring people right now, they tell me that they feel so fortunate in a twisted way because they have such a great pile of resumes right now, they can really pick through. And a couple people have told me they have the b team that when they're ready to start and expand, they already know and have already kind of figured out who they might be looking for later this year when they're really expanding.

So that's something to remember to if you don't get the job but you've got the interview, you still need to follow up and you still need to make a good impression. Because you may see that person again down the road when the recovery begins.

MERRITT: That's absolutely right. You always have to make a good impression. What's more, you are one of hundreds of people competing for a job. And it helps to follow up. If you didn't get that job now, when things start to get better, if you made a good relationship and made a good impression, then you're much more likely to get a job then.

VELSHI: Jennifer, good to see you again, Jennifer Merritt is a career editor at "The Wall Street Journal."

ROMANS: And always a very, very helpful interview.

All right. The bottom line, you can still -- you can still find a job, even in this climate. Another option is to go into business for yourself. A lot of successful businesses have been born and even developed out of a recession.

VELSHI: You're not giving up as much. Some small businesses are in fact managing to thrive in this economic down turn. One Hispanic businessman in Chicago has reinvented himself through his new restaurant.



VELSHI (voice-over): Alberto Gonzales is doing well in this economy.

GONZALES: Two sandwiches.

VELSHI: Only since months ago, this former self-employed mortgage broker opened up his first twelve seats Chicago restaurant. And now ...

GONZALES: Right here this is the kitchen.

VELSHI: Despite the downturn in the market, a second restaurant is in the works.

GONZALES: Very nervous. Very nervous. But then again, it's just all about risk.

VELSHI: A risk he's willing to take.

GONZALES: It kind of fell in my lap of the location became available. A friend of mine brought it to my idea, due to the success that we've had, we figured this would be a good time to take advantage of everything that is going on.

VELSHI: But with a slew of small businesses closing each day, luck isn't a factor in Alberto's success.

GONZALES: I feel fortunate that I had a vision, I didn't hold back from doing it. I risked it all. It's kind of like going to Vegas, putting everything on red, and I kind of did that, based on my research. So far, our research is paying off.

How is everything, guys?


VELSHI: Do his friends think he's crazy you're risking it all in an economic downturn?

GONZALES: Very crazy. It's OK, I feel the pressure. It just gives me that much more eagerness to succeed.

VELSHI: Gonzales was 11 when he left Cuba with his family. He helped his dad sell fish in Key West to make a living. Now, almost 30 years later, after some struggles trying to make it in the mortgage business, he turned to old family recipes and opened his own restaurant. His expansion has a positive ripple for his suppliers, like Daily Meats.

MARIO JAILE, DAILY MEAT: It gives more volume for us. On the pork products he buys and some of the beef products he buys. The volume goes up, which is good.

GONZALES: More bread.

VELSHI: And it doesn't stop there. The Toronto Baking Company supplies the bread for 90 Miles Cuban Cafe.

BILL CARLSON, TORANTO BAKING COMPANY: Obviously our sales rep on the street was extremely excited because there's another new account. But, yeah, it was outstanding to hear.

GONZALES: Just write down ...

VELSHI: And his advertiser Ernesto Reyes of Aztec Design is also benefiting from Alberto's success.

ERNESTO REYES, AZTEC DESIGN: It's good for me in this economy.

GONZALES: We're going to be installing some ovens.

VELSHI: And it is even more good news for Alberto and his second Chicago location.

GONZALES: I like to believe that we're an inspiration to all those, that it is possible to make it happen in a down turned economy.

VELSHI: An inspiration that's having a ripple effect on the local economy.


VELSHI: And now one positive trend in the small business world, Christine we were talking about the fact that Alberto Gonzales, is a Hispanic business owner, it's an estimated that 2 million Hispanics own small businesses, contributing almost $400 billion in annual gross receipts.

By next year, the number of businesses could grow even in this economy, to more than 3 million, and, of course, the revenue for that will be even higher. Now obviously Hispanic businesses or any small businesses are suffering and having troubles in this tough economy, but sometimes that's an option.

ROMANS: Nice to see a story of somebody who's making good and it's good to hear back from small business owners who are saying, actually, I have found a niche. Or yes, I am growing. So that's always nice.

Meanwhile, a veteran business that is no small business whatsoever, Chrysler is preparing for the worst General Motors unveiled some summer plans this week, what that could mean if you're in the market for a car.


VELSHI: Lots of news for the American auto industry this week. Chrysler is said to be preparing for bankruptcy and that could come as early as next week.

ROMANS: And General Motors announcing it is shutting down more than half of its North American plants for at least several weeks this summer. What's the endgame here for GM and Chrysler?

VELSHI: Well our good friend Peter Valdes-Dapena covers the auto industry for and he is joining us now. Some serious things happening here, Peter, and I don't know which is more serious. Chrysler has got less than a week to go before its deadlines to some how restructure or it can face bankruptcy. General Motors shutting down plants across this country for nine weeks this summer and saying it's going to miss a key payment on June first.

Tell me what the landscape looks like to you?

PETER VALDES-DAPENA, SENIOR WRITER, CNNMONEY.COM: All right. Well right now I think the more serious situation right now is Chrysler because they are really in the last few days. It's not surprising at all that we're hearing they've prepared a bankruptcy filing. Because clearly that's not something you want to do at the last minute and we're almost down to the last minute.

What's interesting about that is some of the information that we're hearing about that bankruptcy filing that the interest in some cases of the United Auto workers are going to be somewhat protected in that and that there may be arrangements for Fiat to do its deal with Chrysler out of bankruptcy.

So I think part of the reason we're talking about this now, part of the reason it's out there is I think Treasury Department is sending a message to folks who aren't willing to make some sacrifices to say, look. Some folks are going to be protected here. Some of you aren't. So you folks that aren't, you better pony up.

ROMANS: Is that message being sent to the bond holders, the people who are owed money by this company?

VALDES-DAPENA: I think so. That's why part of this is they're trying to get some of these folks to realize, look we are getting down to the wire here. We are preparing to file a bankruptcy, and you're probably better off taking what you can now or get ready. Because you're going to be taking your chances in a bankruptcy filing.

VELSHI: Tell me Peter one of the reasons I love talking to you about this is we have all sorts of people who cover the auto industry. You're a car guy. You actually understand what happens with the cars. What happens if Chrysler goes into a bankruptcy? Do we see the brands that Chrysler has go to somebody else? What happens for car buyers?

VALDES-DAPENA: A couple things here that could happen it seems from what we've heard about the bankruptcy filing is that there is a plan for Chrysler to continue as a company, for Fiat to step in and take over as a partner, and perhaps even maybe take control of Chrysler. So there is some plan for this company to continue.

If it does not, and there's an orderly winding down, then, yeah, we probably will see brands like Chrysler and Dodge go away. We probably won't see Jeep go away. Jeep has actually survived several owners over the years. It's a very strong brand with a very strong heritage. That brand will probably get picked up. The warranties on the cars would be covered under the government plan to do so in just this sort of instance.

ROMANS: Let me ask you about General Motors because a lot of employees this week learned that they're going to be having more time off this summer than they had bargained for, maybe up to nine weeks. These are some of the factories closing down. Stamping facilities, assembly lines, Missouri, Texas, across the country.

VELSHI: Thirteen plants in total they'll be shutting down for more than two months.

ROMANS: Is this the beginning of some kind of unwinding for GM? Is this also a move to pressure the quote, unquote, stakeholders as they get closer to their own deadline? What is this about?

VALDES-DAPENA: No, I don't think it's about any of those things. Also, by the way a couple of GM plants are actually going to be adding work time. The plant that makes the Chevy Malibu is going to be adding an additional week of work.

ROMANS: That is what they should be doing, they should be focusing on the cars that are selling and the cars that they are six, seven, eight month supply within the inventory, they shouldn't be making more of them.

VALDES-DAPENA: What they're doing exactly that. We're going to be heading into the 2010 model year soon. They have a lot of cars in inventory right now that just aren't going anywhere. Why make more? So what they're doing is they're simply stopping producing cars for this period of time.

And that's the really big impact here. There's actually not a huge cost savings to GM from doing this, but they still pay salaries and things like that. But they need to give their dealers some time to work through this inventory. Because that big inventory creates its own financial pressure both on GM and on its dealers.

VELSHI: Peter speaking on GM, real quick answer on this one, but you got a chance to get into that new Camaro from GM. I didn't get a chance to ride with you, I really wanted to. What do you think of it?

VALDES-DAPENA: That's a great car. That's a terrific car. Really handles well. Actually right now I'm driving the Dodge Challenger.

VELSHI: Which is another powerful American car.

VALDES-DAPENA: I got to tell you my nod now goes to the Camaro. I think it is more fun to drive, it handles better, it has a nicer interior, that's a really good car.

VELSHI: Thanks Peter. Peter Valdes-Dapena, auto expert from

We've got to get in a little race.

ROMANS: Roll down the window, let the wind blow through our hair -- I mean my hair.

VELSHI: Wind through someone's hair.

ROMANS: OK. How going green can help you sell your house, I'm not kidding, and how you can negotiate your next medical bill. You can.


ROMANS: OK. I know you can't believe it, it seems like it was only yesterday, Ali, the 39th anniversary of Earth Day was this week. Yeah. 39 years. Hundreds of millions of people celebrating our planet across 175 countries. VELSHI: Things have changed I think in the 39 years. These days helping the earth is an important part of the economy; it's an important part of the environment. The business world, all sorts of companies are focusing on their global impact, even the ones you may not think have anything to do with the environment or being green.

ROMANS: And we wanted to ask a couple of questions too, two sorts of companies that are in the news and that are really powerful drivers of the economy, a bank and a real estate company. How do they go green? Frank Baldassarre, Jr. the president and CEO of e3 Bank and Chris Bartle is president of Green Key Real Estate.

Gentleman thank you for joining us. So the view from the top where you sit let me start with you, Chris, first, about real estate. Selling a house in this market, you think that going green is going to help you get the green and sell that house?

CHRIS BARTLE, PRESIDENT, GREEN KEY REAL ESTATE: Well, we do. Green Key Real Estate was founded to green every home that we sell, and we do that in a couple of different ways. All of our agents, we have 30 agents and three offices in the Bay area. All of our agents are trained eco brokers and green building professionals. That means they're knowledgeable in green building and green remodeling. And they can advice their clients ...

VELSHI: What would you do? If I'm thinking of selling my home, what can I do, because it's going to cost me some money, that's good for the environment and good for my bottom line?

BARTLE: There are a range of things you can do and some of them are very low hanging fruit, like simply repainting. Which many people do any way when they sell, you can you choose a low toxicity paint to do that. You can certainly change your light bulbs and things like that as well but you can also do larger projects like changing your windows or insulating. Things like that.

ROMANS: You know green used to not be that cost effective. Is it cost effective if you do these small projects, when you start talking about geothermal heating and swapping out things, that costs a lot of money.

BARTLE: We believe it is cost effective, and so much so that we're contributing 10 percent of our gross commissions to our houses that we sell. So after every house that Green Key Real Estate sells it will be greener. We're helping clients before they sell prepare their home in a green fashion, or after they buy their home, preparing it greener for them to move into.

VELSHI: Frank, let's talk about the banking business. I can immediately see if we didn't have the papers that are done at a mortgage closing we could be a lot greener, but tell me what else can be happening to be greener in the banking business.

FRANK J. BALDASSARRE, JR., PRESIDENT & CEO, E3BANK: Absolutely. First of all, E-3 Bank is a new bank coming to the metropolitan Philadelphia marketplace this summer that is being designed specifically to provide financial tools to make it easier for people to incorporate sustainability in their lives, hopes and business.

ROMANS: Walk us through the life of a check. You've brought along a very interesting sort of visual, visual aid, if you will, about a check and how a check is not that green. Is it?

BALDASSARRE: No. Most people don't really know and understand the impact that the choices they make have. Such as writing a check, if you think about it, you get a check mailed to you, you drive it to the bank, you deposit it into the bank, the bank sends a truck everyday to all the branches to pick it up the check, drive it back to headquarters, process it further, drive it to the Fed or a central processing area, put it back in a truck and drive it to an airport if it is an out of state check, put it back on a plane, put it in another truck and hopefully get it bank to bank of origin.

VELSHI: Wow. I would have never thought about that.

BALDASSARRE: If you use electronic banking two things occur, a, it's much more convenient and easy for you to do, and b you save money. Because you don't have to write the check or use a stamp and the environment wins, and the bank wins as well. So it's win, win, and win, all the way through.

ROMANS: All right. Gentlemen we have to leave there. Happy Earth Day to both of you. Chris Bartle the president of Green Key Real Estate and Frank Baldassarre, Jr., president and CEO of e3 Bank. Gentlemen, thank you.


VELSHI: Worried about those doctors' bills? You may have a little less to worry about. We've got a top doctor to spill the secrets to negotiating your medical bills.


VELSHI: Well, you can't put a price tag on your health, but you can actually negotiate your medical bills when money is tight.

ROMANS: You really can. But should you be haggling with your doctor? Let's ask a doctor. Dr. Jacques Moritz is the director of gynecology at St. Luke's Hospital right here in New York. Can you tell your doctor, listen, I can't afford to pay this bill, and can you give me a little bit of a discount?

DR. JACQUES MORITZ, DIR. OF GYNECOLOGY, ST. LUKE'S HOSPITAL: Well, sure. Doctors are human beings, we understand the economy is bad, we're a service industry and there's no problem in explaining to your doctor that you need a break.

VELSHI: I worry about this. I worry that at the time that you need a medical professional's help you could be sitting there thinking, if I even hint that I'm looking for a better price, is Dr. Moritz going to spend less time with me? How do you negotiate -- if you negotiate for the car, you still are getting the car. If I am negotiating with a doctor, am I still getting the same service? MORITZ: You are going to get the same service; you may even get better service. Because don't forget we're all restrained by the insurance companies. When somebody wants to come in and actually pay us, we're willing to negotiate. You will probably get better service, believe it or not.

The one thing that's different then a car, is don't come in and tell me somebody down the street was willing to do this operation for that much. Are you willing to do it for the same? That's going to set up a really bad relationship and I'm going to say, you know what, just go to the other person.

VELSHI: What's the way to approach it? I don't know if people are price comparison shopping but if they want to discuss whether or not there's some negotiation, some leeway, what's the best way to approach that with you?

MORITZ: I think the best way to say is I don't have a job. I would like to pay cash. I understand your rate is this, because I called the office beforehand. What's the best that you can do? I'm under economic hardship, or even, obviously, the easiest one is I have known you for so many years, in that case I think most doctors are saying, you know what, let's just forget about this visit. When you get a job, it will all work out in the end. I always tell me wife in America, the worst that somebody can say is no or I can't do it. Then they can't do it.

ROMANS: And more and more people are going to fit into this category, 46 million people don't have health insurance. As more and more companies start laying people off, many of your patients who have health insurance today might not by the end of the year. You say speak up, be respectful. Are there -- is it common -- I mean is my doctor going to be surprised when I say, can I have 20 percent off?

MORITZ: No, I don't think your doctor is going to be surprised. I will tell you what, I'm an ob/gyn, and it's a little different. If anybody out there needs plastic surgery. This is the time because the plastic surgeons, as my understanding of it, are in desperate shape. That's a cash business anyway. They are really willing to give discounts because some of them are sitting idle right now.

ROMANS: I have not thought about that. Plastic surgery is a casualty of the recession.

VELSHI: I have been thinking about getting my nose down.

ROMANS: I like your nose the way it is.

VELSHI: Suits my face, doesn't it? Doctor what about payment plans? What if somebody says, I'm strapped for cash, what about a payment plan? By the way, should they be having it with you or the front office somewhere?

MORITZ: I think two different things. I think that if it's going to be on the actual fee that's paid, that should happen with the doctor. What's the best can you do? That's usually, I think there's an understanding of -- that you're going to pay now for that. This payment plan idea, you know, the doctor's not really a bank and how are we going to know if you paid and everything else like that. If you need to be on a payment plan, you need to put it on your credit card basically.

VELSHI: They don't have the accounting.

MORITZ: We really don't. You have seen our offices. They're full of papers everywhere. We don't really know what's going on very well. So payment plan is really not in the doctor's lea.

VELSHI: I hope a lot of potential visitors are listening to this and I also hope a lot of doctors are listening to this. That makes it a lot more approachable. Doctors can be intimidating. Medical practices can be intimidating and it's one of the biggest causes of bankruptcy in this country.

ROMANS: It's also important to point out, that doctors get it, too and understand too that a lot of people will be in this. You don't anyone to not go to the doctor because they don't think they can pay for it, especially if there might be some wiggle room there.

VELSHI: Very good. Doctor Jacques Mortiz, director of Gynecology at St. Luke's Hospital, thank you for joining us.

MORITZ: You're welcome.

ROMANS: Is Corporate America made up of more red apples or green apples? Sour apples, poison apples? CNN's Richard Quest will explain.


ROMANS: In the break, Ali just told me he would love to do a show with Richard Quest. I said what about me?

VELSHI: You could have Quest & Ali, Q and A.

ROMANS: What about me?

VELSHI: I said it. If your name was Christine, we could do it too. Welcome back to YOUR MONEY. Time for the ultimate quest, Richard Quest, host of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" on CNN International. He joins us from London with what he calls the q-25. This guy is always up to something. I'm not even going to guess what this is. What are you doing, Richard?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS:" It's very simple. The q-25 came about because we've got so many companies in the S&P 500 reporting results, and substantially how do you work out which are the good ones and which are the bad ones? Which are the good apples, and which are not so?

So we chose 25 of those companies that reported over the last week and we looked not just at the numbers. Did they beat or meet? Were they under? Did they make a profit or a loss? But we looked up the guidance, Ali that they gave us. And this is the result. Roughly 25 apples. For instance, for instance Apple Computer itself, that was an obvious green one, great results.

Boeing that was a red one. It's got problems with the 747 dash 8. Kimberly Clark. The problem with Kimberly Clark is its got good products but people are shunning branded products at times of recession. A red goes into it. And on it goes. Caterpillar got a red; Bank of America got a red. Now, what is fascinating about the q-25 is that the greens are actually in the larger number. There are more greens than reds.

VELSHI: You know, one of the things about their guidance, about these earnings, is the reports for investors who depend on retirement, this is the one thing that you can look about the guidance is important. Moving forward, you talked about Caterpillar that was the first negative report they had in 17 years. That was the fist time they had been a red apple in a long time.

QUEST: And that's exactly why we were really impressed to see that when all was said and done, there are actually more green apples in here because what it tells us is that companies are cutting back. They are making cost-cutting. They're getting leaner. They're getting meaner. And those companies like Yahoo! Like AT&T, that also got green apples, they are the ones that are positioning themselves for when the recovery comes. There are a lot of companies out there that know there's not much you can do at the moment.

VELSHI: Right.

QUEST: But as the q-25 says, you look after your knitting, you take care of your apple pie, and you're ready when all is ready to move forward.

ROMANS: When Richard Quest and a bowl of fruit have more sense --

VELSHI: That's it.

ROMANS: And understanding than all of the economists I talked to all week, we know we're in a parallel universe.

VELSHI: Richard, we are going to keep an eye on that. Just refrigerate it so when we update it every now and then, they don't all become rotten apples.

QUEST: I assure you guys, by the time this weekend is over, we will be moved from economics to home economics, and this will be apple crumble.

VELSHI: Richard Quest, you can follow him -- you can watch his show "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" on CNN International and you can follow him at twitter at Richard Quest. You can follow Christine at Christine Romans and you can follow me at Ali Velshi and we hope you do but I don't think we'll ever catch up to Richard.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us, make sure you join us every week for YOUR MONEY, Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, Sundays at 3:00.

VELSHI: You can also logon 24/7 to Have a great weekend.