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Health Care Reform Still in Limbo; The Future of Gas Prices; How You Can Cash in on the Stock Market; The Real Cost of Too Many Calories

Aired August 1, 2009 - 13:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: The future of your gas prices, did speculators drive oil prices sky high, and could it happen again?

ALI VELSHI, CNN HOST: The stock market is on a roll. How you can cash in right now.

ROMANS: And all those burgers, fries and burritos add up. We have the real cost of all those calories.

VELSHI: Get ready, it's time to talk. YOUR MONEY. Welcome to YOUR MONEY, I'm Ali Velshi.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. From health care reform delays to deals, to delays again. Your health care still very much in limbo.

VELSHI: CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash has been camped out in the halls of the Capital through all of this. She joins us now with an update. Hi, Dana. They're headed out now for summer recess. Without either the house or the Senate passing health cares reform. Let's start with the house. Where do things stand?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is probably going to be a crude analogy, but I'll try it anyway. You know that game on the boardwalk whack-a-mole, where you hit one. That's what's going on with the House Democratic leadership. Because before leaving for recess, they calmed a revolt among the blue dog conservative Democrats. And they made some changes to their health care bill.

For example, they pared down a little bit, the simplistic way of saying it, but they pared down the government-run health care option. You know what happened? The liberal Democrats, they -- that ignited a revolt among them. So they calmed the conservatives and the liberals popped up.

That's basically where things stand right now in the house. They're still hoping when they come back, they can get everybody together and pass in the fall a health care plan that will pass with the Democratic support that they need. But right now, you know, it's still pretty bloody among Democrats when it comes to this.

ROMANS: And where does it stand in the senate? As bloody in the Senate as well?

BASH: Look, in the Senate, this is where it's at in the Senate. Because you have the one area, the White House, everybody knows, the one area where you have Democrats and Republicans legitimately working together inside the Senate Finance Committee. There are six senators working there. And you know what; they have been saying they're close. They do say they actually have about 95 percent of it done.

However, here's the problem there. The Republicans are bristling at the fact that there has been pressure from the White House, from Democratic leaders, to get actually a deal done before they leave for August recess. The Senate doesn't leave until next week. And Republicans said, huh-uh, we're not going to be rushed here. We do think we can do this, we think we can be successful, but we need more time.

So that was another blow to the president this past week in that he at least wanted a deal, some way to show momentum, much-needed momentum for his health care proposal, and that's not going to happen now, because the Democrats agreed to give the Republicans a little bit more time. Because they are legitimately showing some progress.

VELSHI: All right. When there is progress, when there is movement, when something happens, we'll come back to you, Dana Bash. Thanks.

BASH: Thank you.

ROMANS: And the leading blue dog Democrat said, why are we called conservative Democrats? We're reasonable and wise, fiscally conservative. Our next guest says health care reform; at least he hopes will make him a little less busy. He started out bringing health care to the jungles in Central America before realizing, hey maybe there's desperate help needed here in this country.

VELSHI: Well Stan Brock is the founder of Remote Area Medical; it is a nonprofit volunteer corp. of doctors, nurses and dental professionals. He joins us from Knoxville, Tennessee. Stan, thank you for being with us. What an interesting story. You did this, because you were injured. You were in South America somewhere and you needed medical attention, and it was 26 days on foot to get to a doctor?

STAN BROCK, FOUNDER, REMOTE AREAS MEDICAL: Yes, yes, 26 days on foot. And so it makes you think, you know, when you're lying there all smashed up somewhere, and there's no doctor in sight. And of course, that unfortunately is really the case for 49 million Americans who might as well be in the Amazon jungle for their likelihood of being able to access health care in this country.

ROMANS: Is it really true; if you were injured in this country, it is federal law, you walk into an emergency room, and you have to be treated is the law. Isn't the issue here that it's costly to have health care system like that, and that we need to find a better way to deliver health care to everyone?

BROCK: Well, yes, you're absolutely right; you can walk into an emergency room and walk out without paying the bill. But there are so many millions of Americans who have terrible problems with their teeth, and terrible problems with their eyes, and you can't get your eyes fixed, or your dental problems fixed at an emergency room.

And quite frankly, the greatest impediment to what we do is something that would not cost the U.S. government a cent, and that is to allow these thousands of willing volunteer practitioners to cross state lines to provide free care. And we can only do that in one state in the United States, and that's right here in Tennessee, since 1995.

VELSHI: So you set up, basically what happens is your group of volunteers, and I guess they're volunteers mostly, you set up health fairs really where people come in and get -- what happens?

BROCK: Well, just this last weekend we did something like 2,715 patients in two days up in wise county, Virginia, and most of those people, we pulled out over 4,000 teeth. We made over 1,000 pairs of eyeglasses, as well as all of the other general medical procedures. And those people were just there because they simply cannot afford to get that kind of treatment from the health care system in this country.

VELSHI: Let me ask you this, Stan. You've seen tens of thousands of Americans who come for free health care services that you provide. Are these poor, unemployed, are they middle class, are they working but not insured? Who are these people?

BROCK: Well, 88 percent of them are between the ages of 29 and 66. They come from all over the spectrum. These are not just the poor folks that have no jobs or the homeless. These are people that have jobs, have some measure of insurance in a lot of cases, but the co-pay is either too high, or they simply are not covering some of these critical issues that they need, such as dentistry and vision care.

ROMANS: All right. Stan Brock, we'll leave it there. Remote Area Medical. Thank you so much for joining us and for your perspective on what is still pending, health care legislation.

VELSHI: Remarkable work that they do.

ROMANS: It really is.

VELSHI: Thousands of people come in, and they perform the procedure, and there's something remarkably efficient about the way Stan and his volunteers work. That is something that we should all think about. Maybe we can just be more efficient in our health care.

Christine and I heard you loud and clear this week. We were on the radio together, and we were taking your calls and e-mails. You are furious with oil speculators and you're worried that they're going to drive your gas prices through the roof once again. You might not believe what we have to say about speculators, next.


ROMANS: The United States is addicted to oil. Of that, there is no doubt. The United States has 4.5 percent of the world's population, but we consume more than 22 percent of the world's oil, by far the biggest consumer of oil in the world. On average, we use nearly 19 million barrels of oil per day right here in the U.S. Where do we get it? Most of that oil, about two-thirds we have to import.

Such a valuable commodity, the life blood of the economy, so when prices get wild like this, it draws anger and rebuke from consumers. Look at this $147 a barrel last summer, then plunging to $34. Then back to the high 60s this week. Why? Was it supply disruptions? Demand from growing countries like China and India? The sophisticated financial speculators exploiting small changes in markets to make money? Ali, the government now wants to rein in on excessive speculation in these important markets.

VELSHI: Now the Commodity Futures Trading Commission which regulates oil trading in this country held hearings this week about speculation in the energy market, and to see whether new restrictions would need to be created. Speculative traders have been blamed by some critics, as you said, Christine, for causing the record run up in oil prices last summer. But it's important to realize that speculating, the s word is not necessarily a bad word. In fact, it happens all the time. You probably speculated whether you realize it or not.

Let me show you a little about this. Let's get that out of here, the s word. You want to buy a house. You are buying a house on the hope that it's going to go up in value. You are also going to live in that house. So it's a purchase. You're getting some use of that house. But you're speculating when you buy a house. That's on a personal level.

Airlines speculate all the time. They buy oil futures, because that's a way of budgeting; it is a way of understanding how much they're going to pay for oil in the future. Some airlines take the delivery of oil, most don't, but they are hedging their bets so they know what oil prices are going to cost in the future. That protects your airfares in many cases.

Now let's take it to the personal level again. Some people speculate not because they need the house, or the oil, they speculate just to make money. For instance, let's say you buy a stock in a company, Apple or Google or something like that. You don't need a say on the board. You're not going to be involved in the running of the company. You're buying it so that the stock that you buy hopefully goes up. That is speculation. Without that, we wouldn't have a stock market. Again, that's a personal level.

Let's take it to a bigger level. Mutual funds, hedge funds, banks, they all speculate, they buy oil futures, they don't want that oil, they don't want it delivered to them, they buy it so that they can get the money. That's why people speculate. So speculation is necessary for financial markets. It's just that excessive speculation could have been responsible for some of that run-up in the markets. We still don't really have an answer to that.

ROMANS: No we don't. And CMTC actually had a very exhausted analysis of this last time and said it was supply and demand. It was not raw greed and speculation that causes energy prices to go up. But many of you do not believe that. You continue to say that speculation should be clamped down in the energy markets. And the effects of excessive speculation, something they're considering does it drive up costs? Should the government regulate it? Our next guest Stephen Leeb says no, we don't need the government anymore messing around in the energy markets. Do you think that this whole outcry about speculators in energy markets is overdone?

STEPHEN LEEB, AUTHOR, "GAME OVER:" I think it's totally overdone, Christine. I mean for one thing, it wasn't just energy prices that were going up, it was all commodities. If you look year-to-date, copper has way outperformed oil. Oil has been a very, very strong commodity. Go back to mid-2008, oil at $147. How did they know they were coming online? None.

Oil supply wasn't increasing. One function of the price of oil is to balance supply and demand. And it was really clear, even at $145, in the context of a major growth in the world, I mean, everybody was growing at that point, we didn't have enough oil. So the only way we could have balanced how much oil there was, and how much oil we needed, is to get prices so high, that we curbed our demand for oil.

VELSHI: By the way, while there weren't new oil projects coming online, there were projects for all sorts of alternatives. Boone Pickens was talking about alternatives.

LEEB: You're so right about that. And because of that, even though oil did go down to the low 30s, we're still talking green. Thank goodness. The speculators, if they had a part to do with this, and I really don't think they did, but if they did, they did the country a favor. What would have been the chances of us still talking about green, which in my opinion we must have in this country-if we didn't have such high oil prices in 2008, it would never have last.

ROMANS: And speculation is liquidity, you know speculation is the other side of the trade for that person who is the producer of the consumer of oil and no one ever says, oh, the speculators, they took down gas prices to $2, you know? No one ever says that.

LEEB: And to speak, you know, about current prices, high 60s, which I think is unheard of. If you asked somebody seven or eight years ago where would oil be with 9.5 unemployment ...

VELSHI: We've got close to $70 barrel of oil in a recession.

LEEB: In a massive recession. The worst we've ever seen. Nine years ago if you had said to somebody, where oil would be, they probably would have said $8 to $10. Here we are at $60 to $70. The world has changed fundamentally, Goul (ph) who is the head of Slumber Jay, reporting on their earnings the other day.

He said there will be no additional capital expenditures on developing oil unless people get comfortable that oil will permanently stay above $70. Read that as oil as $80 or $90, if it gets up to $70 they are not going to be comfortable. But oil producers have to believe oil's going to be $80 or $90, or they start developing more oil. VELSHI: You think going forward, we're going to be using more oil in the world and oil is going to be more expensive and gasoline's going to be more expensive?

LEEB: Absolutely, Ali. The largest carmaker in the world right now is not the U.S., its China. And they're growing their car manufacturing or car sales by 30 or 40 percent a year. Now, I ask you, ten years ago, 1999, if someone had told you the U.S. was going to increase car sales 40 percent a year, what do you think people would have said would be the impact on oil? It would be dramatic.

Now the biggest car manufacturer in the world is China. And the difference is, China can sustain 30 or 40 percent in growth in car sales. Because their per capital car population is maybe 30 per 1,000. Ours is nearly 800 per 1,000. They have massive room. They've got to grow their economy just to keep it together.

ROMANS: Stephen Leeb, author of "Game Over." Thanks for joining us.

VELSHI: All right. The stock market is rising again. Clawing back some of those colossal losses from last year. And you must be thinking, how do I get in on this?

ROMANS: Oh but you're nervous. We'll tell you how to invest your money, no matter what the stock market does next.


VELSHI: So think Christine, safe to look again, you can uncover your eyes.

ROMANS: I'm really excited about this next segment.

VELSHI: Let me tell you if you weren't looking, you would have missed a remarkable run up in the market, since the low of this market in March to now, and you would have made several times what you would typically make in a year.

ROMANS: In our case, it means you're clawing back some of those horrible losses from the last couple of years. Markets up, but we're seeing what some are calling a false rally, fallacy rally. Is that what it is, a fally? Are these gains here to stay?

VELSHI: Well the bottom line is, what are you supposed to do with your money right now. Our good friend Doug Flynn is back with us, of Flynn-Zito Capital Management. Doug has been sort of advising us all for years on these matters. Here's an interesting thing. Doug, you're not really interested in speculating about where the market is going, your advice is make a decision and gauge the market and have a strategy about what you feel safe with.

DOUG FLYNN, FLYNN-ZITO CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: Yes. One of the things that we've been hearing is that people have e a clear idea of whether they think that the worst is behind us and we're moving forward, or they think this is nothing, we're in for more doom, or they're just really unsure and they think we're just going to move sideways. You can make money in all of those scenarios. So we're spending a little time focusing on not for your core portfolio, but for the outliers, how to take advantage of those.

ROMANS: You need to know what kind of investor you are, first of all. So let's look at that. If you believe the market is headed to 11,000 to 12,000 ...

FLYNN: The argument there is that we were at 11 or 12 before this implosion last September. If we just put depressions off the table, maybe we'll just get right back to where we were. If we're going back there, what you've got to do is get back in. A lot of people did bail in March at the low. They missed this recent run up.

So what do you do? You need to get back to your original long- term allocation. Remember we spoke about that many times. If you have a diversified portfolio, you want to get back to it. If you sold out, it's time to get back in.

ROMANS: You also have stuck in a sideways range. Sometimes I'm all of these things at different times of the day, depending on what's happening.

VELSHI: I would say most people are in that middle category. Not entirely certain the market's going to surge ahead or not entirely certain it's not going to go the other way.

FLYNN: Well you either have that clearly defined, you think it's going sideways or you just don't know. If you just don't know, then you're probably in the middle. What you want to do there is you want to go back to the allocations that you originally had, but in the alternative space take advantage of some of those neutral strategies, bring in more fixed income.

We've been saying for a long time that we think we're in this range of 7500 to 9500 on the Dow. We're not clearly breaking out above or below that. If you bounce around sideways, portfolios are doing great if they're diversified. They didn't do well at the end of last year, now they're doing really well relative to the market.

ROMANS: If you are in that second category, I mean I just saw that screen there and it said you should be dollar cost averaging. If things are going sideways, you should still be putting money in ...

VELSHI: Every paycheck, you're putting, whatever it is ...

ROMANS: $2, $5, it has been a rough couple of years.

FLYNN: Also if you're out in cash, and you don't know, today, do I put it back in, you can set it up to move that chunk of cash in in portions.

VELSHI: Over how much time?

FLYNN: I would say 12 to 18 months is always the ideal time. Shorten it up if you want. VELSHI: If you think things are moving faster?

FLYNN: Share accumulations, building up shares by getting it in and higher dividends. Those things are the things you want to focus in on. You can move it in with a chunk of cash. You don't have to take today to do it. You can simply set it up with your fund company or your 401(k) provider.

ROMANS: I have a friend whose oldest daughter is going into college and he has another daughter 2 years old, and he said boy he just got killed on the money he saved in the market for the older daughter, but the younger one, he was piling money in that one. But that's what the whole point is.

VELSHI: I think that is important because you deal with a lot of people when it comes to financial planning, people are planning for their immediate future, they are planning for the kids and for their education. You don't want to get derailed by what happened in the last year and be scared of the markets.

FLYNN: If you're thinking about last year and what's going to happen in the next week or the rest of this year you're talking about being a speculator you are not talking about being an investor. You need to get back to being an investor. And investor is long term; it is one of your goals.

VELSHI: If you're one of these people who think the market is going down, and there are a portion of people who think this is false, you can bet against the market. You mentioned market neutral strategies, there are funds that are market neutral, and there are some funds and you've got some of them here that are inverse. They bet the opposite direction.

FLYNN: True.

VELSHI: The Dow goes down; you can make money on these.

FLYNN: I would say you'd probably want to use this in the alternative space in lieu of the other ones.

ROMANS: But this shouldn't be your whole portfolio. This is just an extra spot to give yourself some hedging.

FLYNN: That is how you do it. You keep the core in place, you play with the explore part of it. If you're firmly convinced, and I got to tell you in all the years that I've been doing this, 20 years, I've never had more people tell me they really think it's going back down. It is kind of interesting.

So what we do now is we talk about that. How do you put your money behind what your belief is, and make money in? You could be wrong, which is why you don't want to do all of it. But if you're right, how do you take advantage of it. One of the ways if you are conformably convinced is short the market. You don't have to do it yourself; you can do it with a mutual fund or ETF. If you are really convinced short it once, short it twice, that's what some of these funds do.

VELSHI: A two-times selector. So something goes down 5 percent, your fund gains 10 percent.

FLYNN: Exactly and vice versa. So that's ...

VELSHI: That's not a long-term strategy.

FLYNN: These are trading strategies, they are short term. I would put to you that all of these, we're going to hell in a hand basket kind of scenarios, unless you really think we're going there for good, have an end game. It's not a buy in whole and forget. You have to think about it.

ROMANS: Do you know what I love about Doug Flynn from Flynn Zito Capital Management? Flynn got his start in the business during the 1989 debacle, so he knows what it's like to be true. He's got a lot of experience.

VELSHI: For real people who come with their real problems and tell us how to fix it. Doug great to see you as always, thanks a lot.

ROMANS: Thanks Doug.

All right. There is some real signs the housing market is at least stabilizing here. We'll tell you what it means for the value of your biggest asset, your house.

VELSHI: And why a photocopy could save the U.S. government half a million a year. It is all in the ticker next.


VELSHI: Welcome back to YOUR MONEY. Now it's time for the ticker. Every week we go through the headlines so you don't have to. We invite some opinionated friends of ours, smart opinionated friends to give us their take on this week's stories.

ROMANS: Amy Holmes is a political analyst at Interim, and co- host of WNYC Take Away. And Alfred Edmond is the editor in chief of Black Enterprise. Starting the list, housing headlines, getting all the prime real estate, newspapers this week.

VELSHI: Because they weren't all gloomy.

ROMANS: That's right. Here's what the headlines we're referring to. What everyone's talking about around the water cooler. You're looking at home prices. Those red bars show the catastrophe that has happened to the biggest value you have, your house over the past year. But look at the little tiny ...

VELSHI: Move over to the right side of the screen there and take a look at that little blue box. It's not red.

ROMANS: It's not much, but it's something. According to the FNK Schoul (ph) Index, for the first time since 2006, home prices in May actually rose, yes rose, although you can barely see it. In addition new and existing home sales were up in June. That should be good news. Let's not get too giddy about the glimmers of hope, right, Ali?

VELSHI: Why not. The mortgage rates are still at a 50-year low. There is this $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers. Is this turn-around in the housing market which started this whole mess as we all recall, is this real? Or is this a glitch in the data. Amy.

AMY HOLMES, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, looking at the magic 8- ball, maybe so. Some real estate agents are saying things are looking up. Buyers are sort of wading into the home markets now. But there are a couple things to think about, which is that home values have decreased significantly, 17 percent over the past year. This may just be a temporary plateau. You talked about that tax incentive for the first time homebuyers that could be explaining this.

ALFRED EDMOND, EDITOR IN CHIEF, BLACKENTERPRISE.COM: It's like a boxer, they got really hard, it's rolling around on the floor trying to get its bearings. I think it's a good sign it's going to get back up. But it's not going to be next month. It's going to take some time.

ROMANS: There are some economists who even go back in and put other bubbles over the housing market. And when they do that and when you look at a chart, things are not going back to where they were in 2006. No return to the peak in bubbles.

HOLMES: If you bought your house before 2003, the value between 2003-2006 ...

VELSHI: When you're looking at housing, it's not the same picture across the country. At this point it depends on where you are, so if you were from California, let's pretend for a moment; you're doing better than you were. California took a big hit early on, like Nevada, Arizona, Florida did. Some places will start to recover. In the places like Detroit and places in Ohio, we're not seeing that recovery.

EDMOND: There are more fundamental difficulties like Detroit, when you talk about the housing problems compounded by the significant issues to the domestic auto market, employment in those areas. It's a lot more fundamental issues besides, oh, my house is over-valued.

ROMANS: I think the winner so far in the housing market in this little up turn, I think has been investors mostly. I mean I think first-time home buyers are still pretty nervous.

HOLMES: One little thing to pay attention to, though, is that interest rates might be going up, because the Treasury bond option is under performed, we might have to raise interest rates to entice those Chinese to buy up all of our debt. Of course, it influences the housing market.

ROMANS: It sounds like cash for clunkers ...

VELSHI: At least one person at the stable, I'll admit, I didn't think this was going to be a big deal. ROMANS: Most people didn't think the cash for clunkers was going to be a big economic driver, a big bailout for the consumers.

VELSHI: You can trade your car in; the government gives you money, if you buy a more fuel-efficient car. I thought this was kind of ...

HOMES: If you talk to conservatives, they did predict this. If you look at gun buy-back programs, for example, a lot of people they turn in those rusty old rifles that haven't been working for 20 years and take the cash. The same can be said for the cars.

Also, there's a way to game the system. Take that money, you go and buy an econo box, you resell it as a used car, you have some money in your pocket to go get the gas guzzler you really want.

ROMANS: I hadn't thought about that. Do you think it's a good thing?

EDMOND: I hadn't thought about that either.

VELSHI: Crafty, you are.

EDMOND: I'm not surprised as well. Because you're also taking advantage of another trend. People, even if they don't really feel it in their hearts have everybody else think they're an environmentally conscious, this is a great way to seem that way. Have the government help you out, gets a new car, get rid of your old car. I think it took advantage of a psychological frame that people are comfortable with.

ROMANS: And it ran out of money. We've got ...

VELSHI: We're not sure whether or not ...

HOLMES: We're not clear about this, too. Remember, these clunkers have to be destroyed. That's going to cost the government. The cost of this program is even bigger than the $1 billion and environmentally speaking, is it really going to help the environment, to be destroying the old cars?

ROMANS: There's the scrap value of the car. The scrap value, the consumer gets a little bit of that, and the dealer gets 50 bucks for every scrapped car. So you would think that we're not going to be paying for the scrapping, I don't think. I think that is going to be something that is going to come out of the value of the scrap metal.

EDMOND: It's something when a dealer is happy with $50 on a car.

VELSHI: You have to image what the administration must be sitting around and saying that they've got all these heavily worked- out system programs, that we're not sure whether they are working. This one all of a sudden ...

EDMOND: It does work. First of all, with the problem that we have as a nation, nobody really knows what's going to work. Simple works, people get that. I trade this in, I get a $4,500 voucher, and I get this.

HOLMES: Right. But we're seeing this wasn't predicted by the White House, because the White House and the Treasury Department have been on different pages with this. The Treasury Department doesn't know if it can go forward. The White House is seeing this is so politically popular, how we keep this program going.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the White House and mission, $100 million mission. All cabinet secretaries were told they had to get some money out of their budgets and they did. They came up with some chump change. Some of the things, Ali, that the cabinet secretaries found, were for example, using double-sided paper. Getting rid of an old helicopter you didn't need. You have a little camera on the big dam all the time anyway.

VELSHI: $320,000 in unused phone lines.

EDMOND: I think it's great. Every penny they save is wonderful. But using both sides of the paper in the copy machine? That's like ten years old.

HOMES: This goes in the category, why weren't they doing this before. The DOJ now telling its employees that they have to go online to make their travel arrangements, like all the rest of us.

EDMOND: Keep up the good work, that's what I say.

ROMANS: I think when they save $102 million, what is that like .0006 of the budget deficit?

VELSHI: Like getting $1 off of a car.

EDMOND: The mind-set is the point here. They're really serious about it. Hopefully we'll get some modern thinking in terms of how to operate --

HOLMES: The 90-day deadline just to do this. I think this is actually a glimpse into the inefficiency and waste of government.

VELSHI: But it just makes them think a little more efficiently.

HOLMES: Perhaps. We'll see.

EDMOND: Normally they would have tried to do this and they would have found they were deeper in the hole by $300 million.

ROMANS: Exactly.

EDMOND: This is a good sign.

ROMANS: All right. Alfred Edmond, editor and chief of Black Enterprise. Amy Holmes political analyst. Thank you both for joining us for the ticker this week.

All right. Health care costs are expanding as fast as America's waste lines. Is it time to tax our way out of a growing obesity problem?

VELSHI: Why are you looking at me?


VELSHI: Whatever you think about China, it's America's banker. It sent 150 of its top diplomats to Washington this week to check up on its investments and talk about the way forward in the U.S./Chinese relationship, outside of this global economic crisis.


TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: The actions taken by the United States and by China have made a very substantial contribution to our collective success so far in blunting the force of this economic recession and beginning to restore confidence.


ROMANS: But our next guest isn't so confident anything was accomplished. In fact they called these meetings one big debutante ball. Scott Paul is executive director of the Alliance for America Manufacturing. Welcome to the program.

You know, the White House was billing this as the first strategic and economic dialog between the two countries. But as we all know, a strategic and economic dialog began under the Bush administration with Secretary Paulson. In fact, we've been talking with the Chinese now for eight administrations. You think we've started over essentially.

SCOTT PAUL, EXEC. DIR., ALLIANCE FOR AMERICAN MANUFACTURING: I think we have. I think that unfortunately this was more about hand shakes and getting to know you than achieving real results. And I think why this matters to the American people so much, as you correctly point out, China is America's banker.

But a lot of the job situation we're having right now is the direct result of our imbalanced trade relationship with China. We've been bleeding manufacturing jobs for almost a decade, and there's nothing that indicates over the last week that's going to change anytime soon. That's a big concern to workers and businesses around the country.

ROMANS: I wanted to ask you a couple of advocates for American manufacture workers this week told me, frankly, that they thought the American worker was not on the agenda at this meeting. The reason why we point out that China is America's banker, because they said much of this time behind closed doors was spent reassuring the Chinese that we'll get our fiscal house in order, eventually and their investments will be in good shape. Where was the American worker on the agenda?

PAUL: I think unfortunately shoved aside or shoved down the road. And I think that's unfortunate. Because President Obama before he took office said that we have a different kind of relationship with China. That we try to engage them more on economic issues and hold them to the commitments that they made, when they joined the World Trade Organization and gained greater access to the market about eight years ago.

But on issues like China's currency rate, which gives its products an artificial advantage coming into the United States, on China's industrial subsidies, that are causing jobs to leave for China, and a myriad of other complaints that we have about trade with China have been left off the table. And I think that we need to make progress, otherwise we're going to face the prospect of a jobless recovery.

VELSHI: Let me ask you this. There are a few issues that the average American has to think about with respect to China. One, it will be the fastest growing economy in the world and there will be lots of consumers there and maybe we can make some money off of that as investors or as people who offer goods and services.

Number two, as you indicate, they are our banker. They buy much of our new debt. And as a result, you don't have a one-on-one relationship with your banker. We all know that. And number three, it is cheaper to manufacture things in China than it is to manufacture things in the United States. If all of those things you just talked about were addressed by China, the currency, the subsidies to bring industry over there, would they not still be cheaper than making goods in the United States?

PAUL: For some things they may be, Ali, but for a lot of things they won't be.

ROMANS: It becomes a political matter, not just an economic matter. You know, people in -- so many people losing their jobs, this starts to matter to them. 2.3 million Jobs outsourced to China, according to your firm. Also 40,000 factories have been closed over the past six or seven years. And I wanted to just bring up what Secretary Geithner and then also the secretary of state Hillary Clinton said in an op ed in the "Wall Street Journal" before this meeting.

They really found this important. They talked about North Korea. They talked about more than just economics. That's why they're billing this as a new kind of dialog. They said both nations must avoid the temptation to close off our respective markets to trade and investment.

Both must work hard to create new opportunities for our workers, and our firms to compete equally, so that the people of each country see the benefits from the rapidly expanding U.S./China economic relationship. Are workers in both countries being served well by the relationship as it is now? I'll tell you, hundred -- millions of people in China have lost their jobs because of the bubble burst here in the United States.

PAUL: I think the least we can do right now, Christine, is to hold China to the standards that it agreed to when it entered the World Trade Organization, to stop manipulating its currency, to open its market to American goods, and it's industrial subsidies, then we can talk about a balanced relationship. ROMANS: All right. Scott Paul we have to leave it there. The executive director for the Alliance for America Manufacturing. Thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.

PAUL: Thank you.

VELSHI: You have a lot of differences on the way we do things. I think we have one thing in common. We both like junk food. You know, we want to talk about why a fat tax, a tax on foods that make you fat, just might curb America's appetite for junk food. And cut back on health care spending.


ROMANS: OK, here on YOUR MONEY, we do this little thing called the Romans Numeral. Get it? It's the number XVIII for those of you who can't use roman numerals, who I actually can't. Look, this is how long it takes; 18 minutes to jog off the calories in one can of soda.


ROMANS: Yet we drink it, and in large quantities. When you have that can of soda, do you really -- I actually call it pop where I'm from. Do you know it will take 18 minutes? The bigger bottles, those are two and a half servings. That's like jogging 40 minutes.

VELSHI: That's more than I do in a month. Obesity related health spending, this is an incredible number, and it has reached $147 billion a year that is double what it was nearly a decade ago, according to a study that was published by "The Journal of Health Affairs." Why do we eat the way we do? And what can be done to cut down on America's obesity? And the related health care costs.

ROMANS: Dr. David Kessler, real excited to have him here, is a former FDA commissioner, the author of the book, "The End of Overeating." And boy isn't that almost like the end of overeating.

VELSHI: It is like the end baseball or something like that. In America, it is our national pastime it seems.

DR. DAVID KESSLER, AUTHOR, "THE END OF OVEREATING:" What we've done is we've taken fat, sugar and salt; we put it on every corner in the United States. We made it available 24/7. We made it socially acceptable to eat anytime. We've made food into entertainment. Go into a mall, watch the people eat at a food court.

ROMANS: You've done this, for the book, you went and you were diving through dumpsters to look at the ingredients at processed foods at restaurants. You went to the food court and watched how people shoveled processed food into their mouths.

KESSLER: We're living in a food carnival. The reason I wrote the book is to understand why that chocolate chip cookie has such power over me.

ROMANS: Because it tastes so good. KESSLER: It tastes so good. But it's also activating your brain. And in fact, the millions of Americans, their brains are literally being hijacked by fat, sugar and salt.

VELSHI: You were the former commissioner of the FDA. What do you do about this? You know this is a serious problem, what can we actually do? There was a discussion we had earlier this week about taxing some of these foods that make us fat.

ROMANS: Like cigarettes.

VELSHI: Cigarettes, you know, are made of tobacco and they are meant to be put in your mouth and burned and we know what they do. But fat, sugar and salt can be used for good purposes, too.

KESSLER: Once we understand that our behavior is becoming conditioned and driven, it is not just our behavior, but the behavior of our kids; does the food industry have to change? Absolutely. Does the government have a greater role for disclosure and education? Absolutely. But just because our brains are being activated, just because we are being manipulated doesn't mean we shouldn't take steps to protect ourselves and fight back.

VELSHI: What are those steps?

KESSLER: Diets are not going to work. Sure, you can lose the weight, but you really have to change how you look at food. If you look at the huge plate of fries and say that is my friend, that is going to make me feel better, there is nothing I can do in the way between you and finishing that whole plate of fries. You have to look at food differently. You can't just say I want to lose weight. But I want the food. You have to look at food differently.

VELSHI: Here in New York they started listing calories when you buy things. I have experienced this but I heard from people say it has affected their behavior. When they are confronted with the fact that the thing they are about to order is this many hundreds of calories they think twice about it. You could have figured out what it was before it was posted on the sign.

PAUL: It has a real effect. I was in the Google cafeteria there in front of every dish; either there is a red sign, a yellow sign or a green sign. It had an effect. Green, red just have a little bit. Yellow, eat moderate amount. Green eat as much as you want. It really works.

ROMANS: You talk about this not having control over this plate of fries, this beautiful plate of fries that you want that is going to make you happy. You went through this. You lost weight, struggled with weight. You had a -- you looked at weight and this lust for food with a real scientist's eye but also from an emotional standpoint.

PAUL: I have suits in every size. But I really wanted to understand why so many of us, it is so hard to resist. Let me give you three characteristics, a hard time resisting your favorite food. A lack of feeling full when you are eating, a preoccupation. Thinking about foods when, what you are going to eat next.

Some times eating something as you are eating it you are thinking. Those three characteristics loss of control, lack of sensitization, preoccupation. That is the evidence of a conditioned and driven behavior and millions of Americans have that and it is because their brains are being hijacked by fat, sugar and salt.

ROMANS: Here is the thing. You could have a piece of broiled fish or a piece of broiled chicken. But you can go to a restaurant and get the same size of fish. In four bites you get to 900 calories in no time. Because the, the piece of food has been deep fat fried so that the water in it has been replaced with oil then it has been put through sauces and different kinds of things. Tell me what happens to this food you are eating?

KESSLER: You pick an appetizer in a modern American restaurant. Pick buffalo wings. What are they, the fatty part of the chicken; you usually fry in the manufacturing plant first, refried in the restaurant, so you load in about 30, 40 percent more fat into the product, red sauce, fat and sugar. That white creamy sauce on the side, fat, sugar salt. What are we eating, fat on fat on fat on sugar on fat and salt, fat and sugar? Fat and salt. Fat, sugar salt. They stimulate us to eat more and more.

VELSHI: If you were one of these people who does this.

ROMANS: 2/3 of America.

VELSHI: Do I need therapy? Do I need knowledge, do I just need discipline? What is it that I have to do to break out of this?

KESSLER: Once you have that neurocircuitry, that old neurocircuitry laid down. Once you have that old learning. Diets are not going to work. You have to lay down new learning. You know what that is called? It's called rehab. You have to change your relationship with food. You have to change how you react to food. You have to change what you want. Food has to be pleasurable. It's very personal. We have to change how we look at what we are eating.

ROMANS: America needs food rehab. That's the takeaway.

VELSHI: It will make a big difference to health care costs that is one thing we are all learning. That this is actually something we all end up paying for. Dr. David Kessler, former commissioner of the FDA and the author of the "End of Overeating." Good to see you.

KESSLER: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. As you know we are tracking the stimulus money and where your taxpayer dollars are going. Next we are heading out to Washington State to see why some of the stimulus is being spent underwater.


VELSHI: The stimulus package. It is your money and it is paying for everything from old clunkers to new roads.

ROMANS: To see another of its programs we are about to take you to the ocean floor. We get the details from one of our all platform journalist Patrick Oppmann in Washington State.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Killer whales, in Washington State's Puget Sound. Now they in this unique eco system are about to benefit from a sliver of the federal stimulus money. I am about to find out how. Sixteen miles from Oak Harbor, I am meeting up there with a local group that has about $5 million in stimulus money to recover lost fishing nets.

Fishing nets? A much bigger problem than you would think. The Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative has struggled for years for funding. It says the stimulus money will help recover an estimated 3,000 fishing nets discarded or lost in Puget Sound.

GINNY BROADHURST, NW STRAOTS MARINE CONSERVATION INITIATIVES: Taking something out of the water that will no longer kill fish, birds or pose a danger to humans.

OPPMANN: If this is such a big problem though how come it took till now to clean it up.

BROADHURST: Imagine if you had nets along the streets catching that were bunny rabbits and squirrels. We wouldn't be discussing whether we should remove the net, we would be pulling them. It would have been immediate. When the threats are down under water, it is so much harder to know what kind of impact they're having.

OPPMANN: Diver Kenny Woodside takes to the water; 80 feet below he begins the painstaking task of cutting free a net bigger than a football field by hand. Over the ship's communication system he can tell me what he sees.

Kenny how long do you think it will take to get the whole net up?

KENNY WOODSIDE, DIVER: Maybe two days.

OPPMANN: The pieces of the net he cuts free are pulled to the deck. So is their catch.

This is a case in point for -- for what we have seen out here today. This is a Puget Sound, king crab, very rare crab. Not supposed to be catching them. The net doesn't know that. This just got pulled out of the net. We are going to put it back in the water now.

And by restoring the environment, the divers are also earning a wage. The net's removal project will create 40 new jobs.

WOODSIDE: We know we have days of work anyway.

OPPMANN: Many of them for fishermen who once sold sea cucumbers and urchins to Japan. That exotic market employed several hundred people on these waters. Work now gone with the economic decline.

JEFF JUNE, BIOLOGIST: Blue-collar divers who taught themselves this profession. They depend on their own abilities to earn a living. This is exactly the place the money ought to get spent. Because it is going to stay in the local community and it is going to support these families.

OPPMANN: Your tax dollars at work underwater.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Puget Sound, Washington.


ROMANS: A really diverse set of uses for all that money. I mean it is crazy all the different things that they are doing. And getting people to work that is the whole bottom line. How long those jobs last is another story. But at least putting people to work.

VELSHI: Even if the jobs don't last as long. Those people earn some money are able to, stimulate the economy may create new jobs. We can only hope. Thank you for joining us. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter and Christine. Christine is at Christine Romans on Twitter, I'm at Ali Velshi. We're both on Facebook. Make sure you join us every week for YOUR MONEY.

ROMANS: It is Saturday, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, Sunday at 3:00. You can log on 24/7 to Have a great weekend everybody.