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CNN Money Summit: Money & Main Street

Aired May 17, 2009 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, there. I'm Anderson Cooper.


Two topics in the hour ahead: the economy and you.

COOPER: We're sizing up the recession and meeting the people who are fighting their way through it.

VELSHI: We're going if show you how they're coping, how some are even thriving.

COOPER: And, along the way, through their stories, we hope you will get a better picture of what we are all facing tonight on the "CNN Money Summit: Money & Main Street."

Hey, good evening. Welcome to "Money & Main Street."

You know, so much has been said about the economy, so much of it confusing. Tonight, we're going to be trying to make sense of it for you. We're going to give you a look at how Americans are coping, surviving, and, yes, in some cases, even thriving in these tough economic times.

We hope many of the stories will inspire you to thrive in your own life. You will experience them in virtual town halls, electronic gatherings all across America, in Lake Elsinore, California, where the housing collapse has pushed some homeowners into foreclosure, but given others a chance to buy the home of their dreams, in North Platte, Nebraska, where people battled over a stimulus windfall that city of 24,000 decided they didn't need, neighbor against neighbor in a fight over principle and practicality.

In Spruce Pine, North Carolina, we're going to take you there, a factory town where the factories are shutting down, people there doing a lot of soul-searching, some job retraining and getting help from the government.

And in upscale Summit, New Jersey, just a short commute from Wall Street, where times may not be terrible, but they are tougher, see why Summit is sheltered from the economic storm and what they are doing to try to keep it that way.

Also ahead tonight, stories from our iReport corner, viewers weighing in about the economy as they are experiencing it in their day-to-day lives. We have that and Facebook pulses, quick surveys of Facebook users. If you're on Facebook, you could be asked. The random sampling begins now.

Tonight's first question: When do you think your financial health will make a full recovery from the recession? Do you think it was not affected, it was affected, but it's already recovered? Do you think by the end of the year, next year, or longer? Your answers a little later in the hour.

Now let's go to Ali Velshi -- Ali.

VELSHI: Anderson, thanks so much.

Also with us throughout the next hour, a distinguished panel of experts with a lot to say, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, "Money" magazine Donna Rosato, financial adviser, Ryan Mack, also Katie Benner of "Fortune" magazine, economic Stephen Leeb, and Christine Romans, co-Host with me CNN's "Your Money."

The panel is online right now. They will be online from beginning to end in a live Facebook chat session. Check it out at That will link you right to the Facebook chat that you can see our panelists on right now.

The discussion topic we're having now, recovering from the recession. The question, what's the most important thing needed to get the economy going again? Is it jobs, real estate, business? Join the chat session right now online -- Anderson.

COOPER: Ali, thanks very much.

Our first stop tonight is Summit, New Jersey. The Hill City, it's called. This is the main street for the 20,000-plus people who live in Summit, median household income a bit north of $100,000, well- off, no doubt about it, but not doing as well as it has in the past, taking hits from the reception and more directly because a lot of people who live in Summit used to work on Wall Street.

Now, that said, they have also been a little lucky and a little smart in keeping the community together.

With that backdrop, we go to our first virtual town hall of the evening.

Joining us, Summit Mayor Jordan Glatt, tobacconist Abel Flores, Phil Roberts, formerly of Goldman Sachs, and realtor Lois Schneider.

Thanks so much, all, for being with us.

Mayor Glatt, let me start with you.

Many of your residents work in finance and real estate, nearly 20 percent. How has the town been affected over the last couple of months?

JORDAN GLATT, MAYOR OF SUMMIT, NEW JERSEY: Well, in September, we were -- I would say our world got a bit rocked. But in the last six weeks, eight weeks, we're seeing a real turnaround in Summit. Our housing price -- our housing seems to have bottomed out. In fact, we have had more homes sold in the last six weeks than probably in the last six weeks -- six months.

But it's really a sense that the town really had a sense of community that came together in the fall. And what we're seeing is neighbor helping neighbor. But it was -- especially last September through December, things were quite concerning here with the collapse of Wall Street.

COOPER: You say neighbor helping neighbor. How has that helped the community? And what's your advice for other mayors in other towns across the country? I know a lot of folks are trying to sort of eat locally now, instead of maybe going to New York City for restaurants.

GLATT: Correct.

And what you're seeing is, being a resident of Summit is kind of like being a member of the alumni association. We have -- as you have said, we're an upscale community, and what we have, people using their contacts to help other people that were looking for work.

You can come to one of our diners on any morning and you will see people in business suits trading resumes back and forth, trying to help each other. And it's amazing.

I must have had dozens of resumes sent to me. And when I try and hook them up with another contact, all I had to do was say that they're a Summit resident and people would be more than willing to sit down and have a cup of coffee and try and help out a friend. It's really shown the best of our community.

COOPER: Good neighbors.

GLATT: We have had people trying to...


COOPER: Good neighbors make a big difference.

I want to talk to Abel.


COOPER: Sorry.

Abel, you own a family tobacco shop and a private cigar lounge in town. Now, with a lot of people being laid off, with less disposable income, that's got to have affected your business.


The -- our regular client that would go in with their credit card and spend maybe -- possibly a box of cigars for the week now are coming in and buying a half-a-dozen cigars and they're waiting to see how next week is going to affect them. So, they're a little bit conservative and it definitely has affected us.

COOPER: You say that about 15 other stores have closed in the past few months. How do you keep your business afloat?

FLORES: Well, I think a lot -- a lot of the businesses might have been already, you know, in dire straits.

And I think that this was, like, the -- the straw that broke the camel's back in their business. And then there's some people that, you know, it's just the -- their leases might have been up, and they might have raised the lease on them. And it affected them that way also.

COOPER: And you're seeing a little uptick now?

FLORES: I have definitely seen it. I'm seeing signs of not going in -- losses in percentage wise aren't going down anymore. We're kind of leveled out and we're seeing spikes in the business. And it seems like positive indication now that things might be coming on the rebound.

COOPER: Let's hope so for your business and a lot of the folks in Summit.



COOPER: Lois, you're a realtor. Finding affordable housing in Summit has always been difficult. How has that changed? Have housing prices come down? And, if so, how much?

LOIS SCHNEIDER, REALTOR: Housing prices have come down, not as much as people might think, probably about 12 percent, 14 percent.

And our appreciation has been about -- the last, even just in this market, has been a half-a-percent-a-year appreciation -- half-a- percent a month. So, housing prices are going back up again. And they didn't take the big dive that a lot of places like Florida and Nevada and so forth did, because we don't have speculators in our market.

You know, we -- we buy homes for families. We weren't buying real estate to speculate with.

COOPER: Right.


SCHNEIDER: And, consequently, it was much more stable.

COOPER: And, Phil, you were laid off from Goldman Sachs back in November. You got a job six weeks later in the same industry. There's people around the country watching right now wondering -- who are in the same boat, wondering, how were you able to do that?


I was one of those people that Mayor Glatt mentioned sitting at the Summit diner table. When I left Goldman Sachs, I called everybody I could think of and wound up six weeks later at Roundtable Services.

COOPER: So, you basically made finding a job your full-time job?

ROBERTS: It was, in fact, a full-time job.

And I think, if I could provide any advice or any glimmer of hope, make it a full-time job. Stick to a routine. Staying in bed until 10:00, it just wasn't an option for me. I had a responsible to my family. I had a responsibility to my clients. And I took that responsibility very seriously.

COOPER: I'm glad it's worked out for you and your family and I hope others around the country benefit from the advice.

Jordan Glatt, Abel Flores, Lois Schneider, Phil Roberts, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Ali, let's go back to you.

VELSHI: All right, Anderson, some great stories that we heard there.,

We have heard a story that we will see many times this hour throughout America, people first coping with desperation, then learning how to deal with it, and now maybe even some -- some hope in the voices of the people that we hear from tonight.

Let me pick up right there with our panel. David Gergen is with us now, CNN senior political adviser.

You have really seen this a few times through some of the administrations that you have been a part of. How do you -- for these people out there in Summit and in so many other places, where are we now in this recession? What do they have to expect in the coming months?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Ali, I think it was you a few weeks ago who first coined the terms that we were seeing glimmers of hope. And it seemed that when you said that, it was about 5:00 in the morning. And we could just start to see the sun rise. And it seems like about 6:00 in the morning. We still don't have dawn. But there are more signs of hope.

A lot of Americans are being resilient. They're being resourceful, the way we're seeing in Summit and other places around the country. And yet at the same time we have to be realistic. The job numbers aren't doing well. We lost almost 600,000 jobs last month.

Consumer spending went down we just learned this week more than we expected. We just got a report yesterday that home foreclosures -- foreclosures hit the highest number in history here in April. So, we're seeing the first signs of dawn, but we're not there, and people have to keep pushing on their own to get there.

VELSHI: Unemployment is a such big part of this.

Let me just take you to the wall for a moment and show you what unemployment has done in this country since the beginning of this recession in December of 2007. Unemployment -- the unemployment rate in this country was 4.9 percent. And you can see very steadily how it increased through the month, especially in the middle of last year, as the credit crisis became more serious. Companies couldn't raise the money they needed and started to shed jobs to the point that we're at 8.9 percent now national unemployment rate, and a number that most people think -- even the most optimistic of us think is going to go higher.

My good friend and colleague Christine Romans, I think David put it very interestingly. We started to see the sun rise and maybe we're a little further into that. What do you think?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're into a new phase of the crisis. The crisis part is over. We have moved into some really hard work and tough territory. That number is going to go higher. You know this. I know this. This is not controversial to say that that number is going to go higher.

Even, Ali, when we see a recovery in the economy, when we really see it and we know it, we know that how we feel and people feel at the kitchen table is still going to be hard, because they're going to lost that job. We also know that 2,180 homes every day are getting a padlock on the front door, because the sheriff or the marshal has to take it, repossess it because it's the last stage of the foreclosure process.

Until we can start to get slow the housing decline, until we can start to get confidence in people again, so they can spend some money, this thing is going to be real -- real tough sledding. If you don't have to job, it's very hard to do that.

VELSHI: Well, we started to hear from the gentleman who worked at Goldman Sachs, Ryan, about what you have to do to take control of your situation. You're a financial adviser.


COOPER: You deal with people who have lost money in their homes, who have lost money in the markets and in some cases have lost their jobs. What do we tell them? Because it's a very hopeless situation. We have seen some people, we will see more across America tonight who are clinging to hope and trying to make it useful to them. What's your message?

MACK: Well, in the city of Summit, I'm glad you guys went there, because actually -- they actually pointed out a lot of key things that they're doing for success.

One of the things was actually responsibility in being aggressive trying to find a job. His full-time job was to find a job. Don't wait until 10:00 to get up in the morning. No speculators in the market. It essentially means, if you're going to purchase a home, you make sure it's your time to purchase a home. You don't want to try to put at risk the most -- largest investment of your life for most people, to purchase this piece of property, without making sure you're ready.

Is your FICO score 725, 750 or higher? And lastly unity in the community, I think that can't be overplayed enough. He said, when individuals are going out, if you're from Summit, we're going to sit down and have a cup of coffee with you. We need to look out and walk down our streets and really realize, this store's out of business or could be going out of business. What can we try to do to support this local community business and try to support our community businesses more?

VELSHI: Stephen Leeb, a great view of what you can do in your community. But you're an economist. You have a much higher view of the situation. And where do you think we are?

STEPHEN LEEB, ECONOMIST: Well, I hope that we are seeing lots of glimmers of light.

I think it's a little too soon to say we can really see our way out of this tunnel. I think there is some tough sledding around. And just to comment about Summit, they are a fairly high-income community. And they did not really face the kinds of subprime problems that so many of these communities did face.

And I am -- I'm -- you know, unfortunately, I don't think that they are typical of America, but you can still take a lot of wonderful lessons from what you heard from these people.

VELSHI: Well, we have a lot more places to visit.

I want -- Katie, I want you to look at this. I want to just tell our viewers about some expressions they're going to hear over the next few months as we talk about recovery. You're going to see these four letters coming up a lot.


VELSHI: A V-shaped recovery, it goes down fairly quickly, which we know this has happened in our markets, and it goes up fairly quickly, a quick bounce-back because of all that money we have put into the stimulus, stimulus money that we have put into the economy.

A U-shaped recovery, that means it goes down fairly quickly and takes a little longer before it starts to go up. You will have some people talking about an L-shaped recovery, went down very quickly and then doesn't really go anywhere for a long time.

And a W, which is down quick, up again, down again, and then up again after that.

Katie, which one? BENNER: Well, I think that we're most likely to see some form of the W. And it's difficult because that will be the one -- that will be the letter that is psychologically is the hardest for the American public to take, when we see the economy go up, and we hope, and then it goes down, and it goes up and down.

And the reason behind that is that we did throw a lot of money into the system in order to fix things. And everyone kind of agrees that, if we hadn't done that, job losses would be worse. The recession would have been worse. We could have slipped into a depression, et cetera, et cetera.

But eventually we will have to take some of that money out of the economy or we will face rampant inflation. And to do that, the Federal Reserve, the government, will have to slow the economy by raising interest rates. It is what happens. And it's fine.

So that will then -- we will see a downturn. Whether or not that is terrifically horrible for us depends on how strong can we become before...

VELSHI: Right.


VELSHI: If you haven't prepared yourself, now is the time to do it.


DONNA ROSATO, SENIOR WRITER, "MONEY": Well, if you're going to prepare yourself, I think -- I will disagree with Katie just a little bit. I think we're going to see more of a U. I am not sure the inflation picture is really going to be as dire as people are worrying about now.

Consumers aren't spending, and that's a good thing. This is how you can prepare yourself. You can act like what people are doing now, which is saving more, paying down debt. And that's why I think we're going to see this U shape.


VELSHI: And your point is, even if you're not in trouble, even if you haven't lost your job.

ROSATO: Even in you're not in trouble, you're going to need to build up big savings for a long term. And that's going to keep inflation modest. People are not going to be able to raise prices.

So, I think we're going to see a long, slow recovery, and maybe some more, but not really rampant inflation down the road, because people are not spending. They're saving and they're paying down their debt, which is what they should be doing.

(CROSSTALK) BENNER: Well, we're part of a global economy now, so whether or not U.S. consumer spends, if the rest of the world is also slow, you know what I mean. It's no longer just a U.S. story.


VELSHI: Well, let's leave it there for a minute, because we have got a lot of communities across America, a lot of Main Streets to go to where you're going to see that the disagreement that we have got at this table is playing itself out across America. We will do more of that through the course of this hour -- Anderson.

COOPER: Ali, thanks very much. There's no doubt about it.

Here's another take. Our first iReport comes from TROY DAVENPORT, a senior at the University of Alabama. He's the first in his family to attend college. His hometown is being hit by layoffs. And people there are having trouble finding new jobs. Listen.


TROY DAVENPORT, CNN IREPORTER: I think it's the sad truth now. College students, we don't know -- we don't know what jobs are going to be out there for us in the future.

And it's scary. It's very disheartening not knowing what's going to happen in the future. But I did get this class ring not too long ago, and I hope that this class ring is not going to be more valuable than my college degree. I hope not.


COOPER: Let's hope.

Troy comes from a small town in Alabama. Some of what he is seeing is also happening in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. You're going to look at the center of the town. We're going to go there next to talk about jobs and job retraining, the options for keeping your head above water when a town's big employers shut down, our next stop as the "CNN Money Summit: Money & Main Street" continues.


COOPER: We're back, "Money & Main Street," Ali Velshi and I and all of you, iReporters, viewers online, friends online at Facebook.

We told you about our new Facebook pulses at the top, quick surveys. Here's the first question. When do you think your financial health will make a full recovery from the recession?

We just got some results. Let's take a look at these results on the screen right now. Let's see, next year or longer, 59 percent -- 21 percent say it was not affected -- 17 percent say by the end of the year. And 3 percent say it was affected, but has already recovered.

Our next pulse, have you or has someone you know lost a job? The choices, no, yes, I lost a job, yes, a friend or family member, yes, I lost my job and know others who have, too, which takes us to jobs and retaining as it's playing out on Main Street, North Carolina, the town, Spruce Pine, North Carolina.

Spruce Pine grew up around the railroad, which still runs through downtown, did well for decades, sending local textiles and furniture to the rest of America. Recently, though, the town and surrounding area have lost more than 2,000 jobs as manufacturing went offshore.

Now, with local unemployment nearing 14 percent, Spruce Pine is rebuilding around tourism and local crafts and is rebranding itself as the home of the perfect Christmas tree.

Four residents of the town join us now for our next virtual town hall.

Vickie, let me start off with you.

After you lost your job three years job at a factory in town, you decided to go back to school. And you're graduating as a certified medical assistant on Saturday. What do you think your prospects are to try to find a job now?

VICKIE MURDOCK, LAID OFF IN 2006: Well, right now, it doesn't look very promising, but I'm not going to give up hope. I'm going keep searching.

COOPER: How are you going about looking?

MURDOCK: Just trying to contact local doctors offices around Spruce Pine and local areas around here.

COOPER: It's tough, though. Are you able to keep your spirits up?

V. MURDOCK: Yes. As you probably know, we're devout Christians. And, without the lord, I don't know that I could. But, through him, I'm able to keep it up.

COOPER: Keith Murdock, after your first layoff, a hosiery mill, you went back to school. You retrained as an auto body mechanic, but then you got laid off again from that job. Given all you have been through, is retraining worthwhile?


If I could find another job, it would be real good. But I really enjoy what I do, but just trying to find somebody that is needing help out there is what the problem is right now.

COOPER: So, are you going to stick with the auto body work? Or are you going to try to retrain again?

K. MURDOCK: Well, the last time I got laid off, I got -- they -- unemployment paid for me to go back, because where -- my job went overseas. But, this time, it was just due to the economy that I got laid off. So, I'm not able to go back right now.

COOPER: Right. Well, we wish you luck.

Vickie, I know you have three daughters. And I know your oldest is going to college in the fall. What do you hope for their future? Do you think they're going to be able to find jobs and stay in the community?

V. MURDOCK: That's my wish. But I don't know that that will actually happen. Keith and I were both raised around the area, and it's a good community. And it would be sad for them to have to move away from here to have a job.

COOPER: Keith Holtsclaw, your community has lost thousands of factory jobs over the years. As head of the Economic Development Commission, you are trying to bring in more tourism. You're trying to grow your crafts industry.

Can those industries, though, employ as many people as the big manufacturers once did?


The cottage industry is something to grow here, and we have a lot of artists around here which have -- create some jobs. But clearly that's not enough. And we are looking at other areas. We just recently employed a new economic development director. And they're looking at green industries.

We have Valspar (ph) here, which is one of the materials that is used for making a lot of energy-related items. And so we hope to expand into some of those.

COOPER: Silvia, you're director of Centro Latino, which is a community service group helping Hispanics in the area looking for work. Are they having a harder time with employment in your area right now?


The economy actually is affecting everybody, but the Hispanic community are the ones that are -- they are struggling I believe more than anybody, because they are no jobs for skilled people, as you would say. But, for unskilled workers, there are even lesser jobs.

COOPER: And, Vickie and Keith, I know -- I guess some people may be wondering, you know, might you be able to move to a different town with more jobs available to you or are you determined to just stay -- stay where you are?

V. MURDOCK: Well, right now, the lord hasn't showed us that it was time to go. We haven't ruled out that possibility, but we're just waiting to see what we can do until then.

COOPER: Keith Holtsclaw, what's your outlook for Spruce Pine? HOLTSCLAW: I think things are starting to look up somewhat. It's just -- again, as you pointed out, since 19 -- mid-'90s, we have lost about 2,300 jobs, manufacturing jobs. And we live up on a mountain, so the interstate isn't immediately accessible, but we do have natural resources, which we hope we can parlay into additional manufacturing-type jobs which we can hopefully get done here.

COOPER: Well, I appreciate you joining us tonight and giving us your perspectives, a lot of people around the country listening in the same boat, a lot of communities suffering in the same way.

Vickie and Keith Murdock, Keith Holtsclaw, and Silvia Peterson, thank you for your time tonight. We appreciate it.

There are 100 counties in North Carolina, Ali, many of them like Mitchell County and thousands of towns around the country like Spruce Pine, a lot people basically just trying to make new lives for themselves, either in their communities or maybe thinking about moving elsewhere -- Ali.

VELSHI: Anderson, thanks very much.

It's the biggest issue out there of all, really, the issue of jobs. And that's the one I want to get our panel's take on, the bigger job picture, especially the question of finding a new one. Is it getting easier or is it getting tougher? That is the current discussion online right now at


COOPER: We met the people in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, a moment ago, where local manufacturing went overseas. But it's not just factory jobs and it's not just small-town America.

Meet another iReporter, Ryan Basilio of Los Angeles. Listen to what he says.


RYAN BASILIO, CNN IREPORTER: The question that CNN posts was, are people in your area hiring? And the answer is no. Where are all the jobs? Where have they gone? They disappeared. They went somewhere else, to another country. To Mexico? I don't know. (INAUDIBLE)

The answer to that is, there are not jobs anywhere. This is Los Angeles. We have a service economy. We have no service jobs at all. The jobs that were in Hollywood, the jobs that were in banks and things like that, they're gone. They disappeared. They flew away.


COOPER: Well, many did, at any rate. That's iReporter Ryan Basilio.

In a moment, a more detailed picture, good, bad and ugly, from Ali and the panel.

But, first, results from another Facebook pulse, the people at Facebook randomly asking users the following question. Have you or has someone you know lost a job? Twenty-two percent say no -- 10 percent say, yes, I lost my job -- 58 percent tell us, yes, a friend or family member lost their job -- and 10 percent say, yes, I lost my job and know others who have as well -- Ali.

VELSHI: Anderson, this is one of the hottest topics around.

There are some things in the economy that affect you. The stock market, you can't do much about that. You can get a plan together, but it is still something else that is affecting that. The housing market, same thing.

But, with the job, this falls to you. This is your responsibility to try and figure out what the trend is and what you're going to do about that.

I want to go around the table with our table to discuss this.

First of all, Christine, there really is a point that you made in the break that I think is really important. This recession has not hit everybody equally. If you're a blue-collar worker with a lower education level, this has hit you much harder than it has higher- educated white-collar workers.

ROMANS: If you have a college degree, the unemployment rate is 4.9 percent, I think. That is essentially full employment. It's always been that way. It's always been that a college degree is the best buffer against the economic downturn. If you do not have a college degree, it is really ugly out there.

And for towns like that, I would just to say it is an American tragedy that some of these towns for 20 years have been losing jobs. And we have talked about innovation, we have talked about retraining, we have talked about moving, we have talked about all these things to try to gear up these towns to deal with the new reality that we're not going to have factory jobs, low-skilled factory jobs to rely on, and nothing has worked. It hasn't worked.

VELSHI: That's right. So, in other words, we have lost the factory jobs. What have got in its place?


LEEB: Ali, two of the three fastest-growing job categories in this country, A, do not require a bachelor's degree. You can get these jobs with just a high school degree, in some case, not even high school degrees.

And they're in the health care industry, home health aides, home health care aides. These are wonderful kinds of jobs, which is -- which are very, very satisfying. And I think people just have to realize.

And what Christine says, I totally agree with her. But this is the way it's always been, not just in recessions but out of recession.


LEEB: College degrees, graduate degrees. They pay more.

VELSHI: Let me pick up on that. The unemployment rate for people who dropped out of high school is 19 percent. The unemployment rate for high school graduates is about 10 percent higher than the national average, and as Christine says, under five percent if you have a college education.

But here are a few of the jobs and this information is out there. This is what you need to be looking at if you're out of a job or you're fearful of losing a job.

Network systems and data communications specialist, you need a bachelor's degree for that. These are still the fastest, growing jobs, the top five fastest growing jobs according to the government on a two-year study.

Personal and home health aides. You just talked about that. On- the-job training, not even an associate degree required. Computer software engineers, you need a bachelor's degree for that in high demand.

Veterinary technologists, you need an associate degree for that. Another high-demand job, personal finance advisers. You need a bachelor's degree although Ryan Mack will tell you, you need a lot of common sense and a lot of experience in order to do that.

You can get this full report on Please do yourself a favor and go there.

Ryan, I don't want everybody running out and being a financial adviser if they know nothing about money, but you are one.


VELSHI: What do you tell people who come to you? They come to you to manage their money but the bottom line is, now they're out of a job.

MACK: Well, the first thing they'll say, you know, I have no job, but can I invest in the market? Of course, you can. The first thing you have to do is try to find a job and find some sort of income.

There are only three things that we can do in this economy. That's either earn more, save more or do both.

VELSHI: Or marry a rock star or a professional athlete.

MACK: So we have to figure out exactly where the jobs are at. I mean, one of the things that the lady struck me with was that she was almost losing faith, you know. And as a Christian myself, I think that my part of faith is actually working. We have to be just as aggressive in believing as we are in actually going out and working to find a position. So, you know, the thing that's the most fear, the biggest concern in your environment in your town is the one thing that you might be able to start a business with. Or you might be able to get into.

VELSHI: A lot of -- a lot of businesses are started in recessions.

MACK: Exactly.

VELSHI: Donna?

DONNA ROSATO, SENIOR WRITER, MONEY: That's true. But I want to say one thing about -- it's great that, you know, there is -- you need education and training for these jobs to make that transition. You do need that. But it's not so easy when you lose a job and you're on unemployment. You can't go back to school. And that's one of the things that President Obama asked for states last week to please let up on some of the regulations not allowing people to get unemployment benefits, allowing them.

And I would say people should check out which has a number of -- lots of information about how to get training when you're laid off particularly if you're a blue-collar worker and you can't afford it. Grants are really important because how are you going to get the money to get retrained.

VELSHI: Thirty seconds, David. What do you think of this?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We've got to invest far more in new technologies if the green revolution could bring a wave of new jobs just like the information technology.

VELSHI: And you believe it can?

GERGEN: I believe it can, but I think it's less certain than we -- that some of the advocates (ph) say. But I think it's one of our best hopes.

VELSHI: All right. A lot of good ideas on jobs. Boy, a lot of discussions to have and some great resources for you to look into. Again, go to (ph) for that list of fastest growing jobs.


COOPER: Ali, thanks very much.

That's also the subject of our next town hall in Lake Elsinore, California, where the mortgage meltdown has sent many homeowners into foreclosure but it's also helped create a once in a lifetime buying opportunity for others. Both sides of that story when "Money & Main St." continues. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Hey, we're back talking about "Money & Main St." and we'll talk about housing now where the recession really comes full circle.

The bubble broke. The foreclosures followed. The banks failed, the layoffs came, and even more people lost their homes.

In a moment, the view from Lake Elsinore, California, hard hit by this vicious cycle but also right now a place of great opportunity.

First, another Facebook pulse question. In the neighborhood where you live, do you see more "for sale" than "sold" signs? More "sold" than "for sale" signs? Equal amounts of both or very few of either? Your answers coming up.

In Lake Elsinore, California, surrounding Riverside County, the situation is improving but still pretty bad. Fewer homes falling into foreclosure last month, but the number is still up, up 35 percent from April '08.

Talk about money and Main Street, this is Main Street in Lake Elsinore. People move here for the small town main street vibe. They come for peace, quiet, until recently for home values rising like the neighboring Ortega Mountains. Not anymore which is a hardship for many, but also as we mentioned, a chance for some.

Both sides of that equation now with new homeowners, Shane Latham and Kathy Valdez, Jesston Turner, who is behind on his mortgage, and realtor Rachel Morales.

Shane, you and Kathy just bought your house for half of what it was worth just a few years ago. Had it not been for this market drop, would you have been able to afford it?

SHANE LATHAM, BOUGHT HOME FOR $199K: Most likely not. I didn't see me buying a house any time soon, and I guess the economy was a great opportunity for me.

COOPER: And, Kathy, what's the neighborhood like these days? Are there a lot of first-time buyers moving in?

KATHY VALDEZ, BOUGHT HOME FOR $199K: Well, we just recently moved in. I just want to say three weeks ago. And I hadn't really gone around to see who's around us.

COOPER: Did you expect to be able --

VALDEZ: I just walk my dog so --

COOPER: Did you expect to be able to find a house like this for that price?

VALDEZ: No, never. Not any time soon at least.

COOPER: An opportunity for you. Jesston, while the meltdown in the housing market has been good news for some people like we just talked to, it's made things a lot harder for you and your wife. What happened to the value of your house?

JESSTON TURNER, HOME WAS WORTH $575K, NOW $199K: Well, I'm -- I've been an electrical and general contractor since 1986 and I built our house and I finished it in '05. And when I finished it, it was appraised at $575,000. And now, they say it's $198,000 and by the end of the year, they say it could be down to $150,000.

COOPER: Wow. What are you doing to avoid foreclosure?

TURNER: Struggling.

COOPER: It's a real struggle.

TURNER: Yes, it is. I -- well, we're in, I guess, classified what they call a hardship case. My wife about a little over a year ago had a stroke breakdown and she hasn't worked since then. And a couple of years ago or about a year -- almost two years ago now, I was working on a relative's house and I fell off a two-story ladder and broke my back.

COOPER: Oh, my gosh.

TURNER: And I haven't worked since then. So, you know, it's been tough. But, you know, like, we're doing -- we're trying to do the best we can.

COOPER: Stay strong.

Rachel, you must hear a lot of stories like this. What kind of people are able to buy houses from you right now in the area?

RACHEL MORALES, REALTOR: Right now, it's a variety of buyers. With the programs that are out right now, especially FHA that Shane and Kathy were able to utilize, you know, they do have programs that only require 3.5 percent down. So the programs are there for first- time home buyers. The criteria isn't as strict as some people may think.

I guess a lot of people had the preconceived idea of needing 20 percent down. You know, the only setback I can say is that you do need to have two years of tax returns and if you've just, you know, recently got a job, you know, if you lost one, then that can -- that can definitely be a setback. But Shane and Kathy were two of many people that are able to buy right now because the prices are so low.

The banks are actually doing second appraisals that are kind of cutting the values which benefits Shane and Kathy but for someone like Jess, it's not beneficial. But as far as buyers, it's definitely a great thing for them right now.

COOPER: Well, Shane Latham, Kathy Valdez, I'm glad things worked out for you. Jesston Turner, I'm so sorry for what you're going through. And I wish you and your wife well and wish you strength.

To Rachel Morales, appreciate your expertise. Thank you very much.

Up next, we're going to be back with Ali and the panel busy who are busy live chatting right now. The live chat going on right now throughout the hour and right up to "AC 360" at 10:00 Eastern Time.

Go to The topic right now, the housing meltdown. Should the government be doing more to help stem foreclosures? "Money & Main St." will be back after this.


VELSHI: We're back with CNN MONEY SUMMIT, "Money & Main St." Anderson was just talking to people in Lake Elsinore, California. That is about an hour southeast of Los Angeles in Riverside County.

Before I bring the panel back, I want to show you some hard numbers on the housing situation in California and then nationwide. We often use California as an example because it was so exaggerated.

Let's start with Lake Elsinore. This is actually the house that we were talking about that Shane and Kathy have been able to buy for $199,000 presumably at very low interest because we've got interest rates that are as low as they've been for the last 50 years or so.

Let me show you a bigger picture now. Let's talk about all of California. Back in 2000, let's go back almost a decade. Back in 2000, the median price for a single-family home was about $227,000. A median price is the price at which half of all homes are sold for less than that amount and now are sold for above that amount.

Now let's look at this trajectory. Look what's happened over the course of the last -- you know, from 2000 to about 2006, 2007, we talked to Jesston because his house was appraised at over $500,000. The median price for a home in California was $595,000 -- the median price. That didn't do a lot for housing affordability. It did a lot if you owned a house and it had gone up in value.

Then look at what happened. Look at this precipitous drop now in 2009, where the median price for a home in California is now $253,000.

Now, that's California. We often use it because it's a good indicator of what's going on.

Let's look at the whole nation now over the same time period. In 2000, the median price of a single-family home, that's the one that most of us live in, an existing home, that means a used home as opposed to a new one, was $140,000. $139,600.

The ride up for the country was not as clear as it was in California, but it was up. And between 2005 and 2007, there were some peaks and valleys. But ultimately, we hit a high of $231,000 for a median price of a home and then started coming down.

Again, not a straight road down but all the way down. And look at this. This is the interesting thing.

It started to tick up just a little bit, but the median price now $175,000 for a home. This is the interesting part is that tick up actually going to make a difference? Is that the start of something interesting?

One of the things we've noticed is that with interest rates down below five percent for a 30-year fixed mortgage, if you put 20 percent down on your house, what you're finding is that people are buying some of these foreclosed and distressed homes and that is helping the market out.

But, Katie, I don't know if it's helping the market out enough. We're certainly not seeing prices going up in any meaningful way.

KATIE BENNER, WRITER, "FORTUNE": No, no, no. And it's because people can't really start buying homes if they think they're going to lose their jobs. When there's that much uncertainty, you can't make that large purchase. So I think that's one of the reasons why a job recovery is so important.

LEEB: And, Ali, your two polls showed exactly that. Sixty percent of the people have known someone who's lost a job. Sixty percent of people don't think their finances will recover for at least another year. They don't have the confidence to put down the money.

And also, banking standards have really tightened. I still think we need more help from this government. A lot more.

ROMANS: But in the wreckage of this housing crisis, there are people getting opportunities and we've seen that. And there are opportunities for people with good credit, who have money to be put down.

We've been priced out of these markets. I mean, all of us know people who've been priced out of these markets over the past few years with runaway high prices. There are people starting to wade in there, and that -- it might not, you know, help turn the market, but at least could stem some of the declines in housing prices.

VELSHI: David, this has brought itself right into your wheelhouse, the wheelhouse of politics because ultimately the decision to buy a house even with low interest rates when prices are depressed really depends on your confidence and where this is going, and back to the government and Washington and what they've done to instill confidence in the American people.

GERGEN: I think Stephen is right about the fact that both the Bush administration and the Obama administration have announced plans. They've announced a program to try to stem the foreclosure rate, and they simply haven't been big enough. They haven't been massive enough.

President Obama came up with a new plan yesterday which I still don't think it's big enough. I think Stephen is right. It's going to take a much more massive effort. But the other issue is one Keith (ph) raised earlier in the evening, and that is whether there's a possibility of a "W." One of the reasons we are selling the houses, we're selling today is that interest rates are so low. When the government starts backing out and starts borrowing as it is with this massive deficits, interest rates are going to start going back up again.

VELSHI: Right. Interest rates are low because the fed has injected so much money into the system.

GERGEN: Right. Right. And we're not going to be able to hold these interest rates at this level. The massive borrowing we're doing now which raises all sorts of questions about how much additional debt should the government take on? And is that going to force interest rates up, inflation up, and sort of essentially cut off whatever housing rally we have and go into the "W" that you talked about?

VELSHI: Donna, we've got 30 seconds.

ROSATO: For individuals, I agree with Christine. There is an opportunity right now and it should be seized. If you look at the home sales, actually, half of all home sales today are first homebuyers, and they're buying short sales and foreclosed homes because they're getting such a deal. And if you buy by December 1st, which people are racing to do, you can get up to $8,000 tax credit.

So I think now is the time to seize it. If you do have good credit and you get out (ph), there's that opportunity now.

VELSHI: All right. A lot of mixed messages here. There is opportunity. There are dangers. And we're unsure about what the future is going to hold in housing. It's a great uncertainty, Anderson.

GERGEN: Did this start across the board?

VELSHI: That's across the board. That's right. That could be on anything we're talking about tonight.

COOPER: No doubt about that. Ali, thanks very much.

We've got another bunch of Facebook pulse answers coming in. Quick snapshots of online opinion. And the survey says -- take a look at this.

In the neighborhood where you live, do you see -- 47 percent say they see more "for sale" signs than 'sold" signs. One percent just see more "sold" signs than "for sale" signs. Four see an equal amount, and 48 percent say very few of either.

Coming up, answers to our final polls here. The question, what's your biggest concern about the economic stimulus plan? Either it won't create enough jobs, the money won't be wisely spent, too much debt passed to future generations, or I have no concerns about the stimulus package? Our next iReporter has something to say about housing and the stimulus package. He's an entrepreneur, Zennie Abraham, who sent in this clip from just outside Atlanta. Take a look.


ZENNIE ABRAHAM, IREPORTER, ATLANTA: Regarding home sales, both in Oakland where I live and here in suburban Atlanta, Georgia, where I visit my mother, I haven't seen a large rebound in home sales at all, quite the contrary.

I say to everyone, the stimulus money will be there but it takes time. I haven't personally seen evidence of stimulus money being used, used in Oakland, or out here in suburban Atlanta, Georgia, but then we're in a pretty rural area. So, by and large, I think that it's going to take time for the economy to get better, but you have to work harder and you have to spend smarter.


COOPER: Some advice from Zennie Abraham.

Up next, we'll take you to North Platte, Nebraska, where a battle was fought over taking federal stimulus money. The good people with strong beliefs on both sides of the question for and against accepting the aid. You'll meet them in tonight's CNN MONEY SUMMIT. "Money & Main St." returns.


COOPER: A new report this week on President Obama's stimulus bill. The president's Council of Economic Advisers saying it will create or save three quarters of a million jobs by August.

Now, officials say the estimate is based on conservative assumptions. So far, only a tiny portion of the $787 billion in stimulus money has been spent. And some of it has gotten tied up in controversy.

That's what happened to a little more than half a million dollars for the public housing authority in North Platte, Nebraska, a city about halfway between Denver and Omaha. Now the agency rejected it on principle, but others just as passionately took the other view.

Both sides now from North Platte. Ed Rieker is the chairman of the Board of the Housing Authority. Dee May is a commissioner. Debra Morgan is executive director, and Dave Harrold is a former commissioner.

Ed, let me start with you. You didn't want to take the stimulus money. Why not?

ED RIEKER, NORTH PLATTE HOUSING AUTH.: Well, we had plenty of money in the bank. And I guess I just didn't think that we needed to burden the taxpayer with additional expenses. The money -- the money that's paid... COOPER: Sorry.

RIEKER: ... paid in taxes is hard earned. And I just wanted to be -- from my standpoint, I thought it was my responsibility if we didn't need the money to not take it.

COOPER: Critics, though, say that the money would have helped the residents of public housing and also in the town. You disagree?

RIEKER: Well, we have about two years of money in the bank right now to operate the housing authority and we continue to get money from HUD. So, again, I just didn't think it was prudent to accept the money when we didn't need the money.

Our housing authority is in very, very good condition. We continue to get high marks from HUD on our housing authority, and so there was no urgency to accept the money. We had the money to use in the bank.

COOPER: Deb -- Deb, you wanted to take the money. By all accounts, as you just heard, the housing authority is in good financial shape. Towns across America are in bad straits. Why did you want to take the money?

DEBRA MORGAN, NORTH PLATTE HOUSING AUTH.: I just felt that our housing authority could use that money to do some of the upgrades that we've been trying to get done throughout the years with the capital fund program. It would have benefited the residents, and it would probably have brought money into the economy and help those people that are not working or are unemployed at this time.

COOPER: Dee, you didn't want to take the money. You say it was a very difficult decision, though, and that is actually for you a moral issue. How so?

DEE MAY, NORTH PLATTE HOUSING AUTHORITY: Well, our authority is in very good shape, and there's many, especially with the situation financially that our country is in, and I felt it would have been pure greed to take that money when there are so many that need it more than we do.

COOPER: Dave, you disagree. You're the former commissioner of the housing authority. You didn't have a vote in this, but very vocal about the decision. Why do you think it was so wrong?

DAVE HARROLD, FMR. COMM., PLATTE HOUSING AUTH.: Well, I think the big thing is, misunderstanding of what the stimulus package in this particular case was. It was not money to be used to help operate the housing authority. So it didn't matter how much money you have in the bank for operations, this money didn't apply to that.

This money was specifically targeted for rehabilitation, energy conservation, and creating more efficiency and then, of course, ADA accessibility issues. So my objection is, one, the money rather than looked at in a way it was intended as an investment in low-income housing, ADA accessibility, energy efficiency that will pay back over time, it was about a 45-minute discussion. It was rejected as a political statement. Because you have to remember, the stimulus money, whether you take it or not, does not save the taxpayers one dime.

There's a current grant pending that will increase taxes by $450,000. Now that one hasn't been rejected. So I think the main thing is the stimulus money was intended to -- from a capital point of view, rather than an operational point of view...

COOPER: Right.

HARROLD: ... it was intended to save energy and create jobs. That didn't happen.

COOPER: This is one of the debates that's happening in towns like this across America.

Ed Rieker, appreciate your time. Dee May, Debra Morgan, Dave Harrold, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

If you got more to say about the stimulus, log on to the live chat happening now with Members of our panel are online. I'm going to stay online throughout the hour.

The topic right now, too much or too little stimulus? Ali and I will be right back after a short break.


COOPER: We've got results from tonight's final Facebook pulse to bring you now. Let's take a look at the board.

The question, what is your biggest concern about the economic stimulus plan? The answers -- 39 percent say too much debt has passed to future generations. Another 39 percent say the money will be spent wisely. Fourteen percent say it won't create enough jobs. Only eight percent say I have no concerns about the stimulus package.

So final thoughts now from Ali.

VELSHI: All right, Anderson, let's get final thoughts from our panel. Some great blogging going on, some responses, some great chat.

Katie, let's start with you.


VELSHI: Your final thoughts.

BENNER: A lot of uncertainty because we are essentially redefining America. We're redefining who we are as people who work, and that is very scary.

LEEB: Ali, I think there's still too little confidence in the people in this country. I think we have to do something to build that. And I think the government has to do still more, though they have done a lot already.

VELSHI: Christine?

ROMANS: Jobs are key. And I think there's a lot of things you can do for yourself, for retraining, for trying to maybe even move for the job situation. But the fact of the matter is that we could be heading into a recovery where we still have fewer jobs than we did before we left it.

VELSHI: Real quick.

MACK: I think the government needs to take the foot off the gas, stop spending money. The recovery comes from the people, not from the government.

VELSHI: Donna?

ROSATO: I think the worst may be behind us, but it's not clear sailing (ph) look for a modest recovery. And consumers should keep saving and put down their debts.

VELSHI: And finally --

GERGEN: Glimmers of hope are growing. I worry that the recovery may look less like a "U" and more like an "L."

VELSHI: And the sound voice that this could be coming to an end.


COOPER: Ali, thanks very much. Thanks to all our guests. Everyone who made our virtual town hall possible, everyone on-line as well, where the conversation continues at And as always, thanks to all of you for watching.