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Feeling The Recovery; Presidential Business; The Muppet Manifesto: Taking On Goldman; Fixing Healthcare; Will.I.Am's Initiative

Aired March 18, 2012 - 15:00   ET


ALI VELSHI, HOST: As the economy recovers, are you getting left behind?

Welcome to YOUR MONEY. I'm Ali Velshi.

Stocks are soaring. The Dow hit its highest close this week since 2007. The S&P 500 the highest close since 2008. The Nasdaq its highest close in more than a decade. The economy has added jobs. That's the most important thing, for 17 straight months, more than two million jobs in the last year alone.

So there are real signs the economy is improving, but gas prices have been soaring. The cost of living rising. The most in more than ten months. Some Americans may be feeling left out of this recovery.

Diane Swonk, is a chief economist at Mesirow Financial. Diane, as gas prices have increased over the past month, the president's approval rating has decreased. I'm not often one to make these direct correlations, but the fact is there's been really nothing else that might have caused this.

There's a clear breakdown based on where Americans fall in the economy. Your thoughts -- let me show you a poll first. A CBS/"New York Times" poll shows among those making more than $100,000 a year, the president's approval rating has remained relatively flat over the past month.

Maybe suggesting they don't feel the pain at the gas pump as much as others do. Meanwhile, the approval rating for those making 30 to 50,000 a year dropped by 16 points.

Diane, is this a clear illustration that we've got two Americas on two very different recovery tracks?

DIANE SWONK, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MESIROW FINANCIAL: I think we've got at least two Americas on two different recovery tracks. I do think there is a different -- a very big difference between those at the very high income strata and what they feel they're very insensitive to changes in gasoline prices.

Where those at the lower end of the income strata are not only having to deal with gas prices every week, day in and day out, most of them don't have the alternative of mass transit, most major cities don't have that as an alternative. In fact I've known people who have had to turn down a job when they need a job because the cost of the gasoline alone was more than they would earn in that job.

VELSHI: Will Cain is a CNN contributor. Will, there maybe two or more distinct sentiments within the economy, but there is only going to end up with one president. How does this divide play out in the elections?

I mean, should people be holding the president responsible? Should his approval rating go down by 16 points because gas prices went up? I think you agree there's nothing else that happened in the month that was likely to affect the president's ratings.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. No, there are legitimate reasons to begrudge this president for how he's handled the economy specifically you could talk about the length of the recession and how quickly it's recovered.

That being said it's virtually certain, it's virtually obvious as you just point out, the numbers are pointing up over the past month. It's not the ones you talked about commercial and industrial loans. There are so many factors.

Vehicle sales that are pointing up and yet, some people don't feel good about the economy. And in short term polling, suggests that. Just over the last month his numbers have gone down. How is that possible?

Gas prices. Should people hold the president responsible for gas prices? No. If you want to take a longer term view, I welcome you to do that and look at how he's handled the recession overall, but this short-term stuff is nonsense.

VELSHI: It's unusual. Roland Martin is a CNN contributor. Roland, it's not just in the wake of the financial crisis that people get left behind. There are counties in America that have faced persistent poverty levels for decades.

They get -- they have been hit worse off in this recession, but we want to talk about solutions. You recently spoke to Representative James Clyburn about something called the "Clyburn Amendment" in the stimulus plan, which he thinks could be implemented in other programs in help reduce chronic poverty. Let's listen to this.


REPRESENTATIVE JAMES E. CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: It was called the "Clyburn Amendment," 10, 20, 30. I believe that all of these resources coming out of these programs, at least 10 percent of it ought to be directed into these communities where 20 percent or more of the population has been stuck below the poverty level for the last 30 years.


VELSHI: So if we're talking about two Americas or more, this idea, this is James Clyburn's idea to try and at least give the worst off in America a leg up. What do you think of this idea?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I love the idea and I was a little upset that when he told me on my show on Sunday that I hadn't heard about it for the last three years.

He said that it was part of the stimulus bill that was put into effect in 2009. Here's what's also amazing. We talk about poverty, we have to be honest. A lot of people out there they immediately think about African-Americans and Hispanics.

But the reality is according to their research, there are 474 of those counties. Two-thirds of them are republican counties, largely white, one-third in Democrats. So when people hear poverty, help the less fortunate, they always think in terms of it's a Republican thing.

We're saying there are people who are poor white, who are poor black, Hispanic, who are Native Americans, and so what he's saying is let's target them with the resources.

So what I think what should happen, President Barack Obama should be sounding this and saying we should make this a part of all our appropriations when it comes to grants.

When it comes to the cabinet departments as well because we can't keep saying rising tide lift all boats if the people in these poor counties are always left behind.

VELSHI: This is back full circle to the beginning of our conversation, Diane. There is very clearly a rising tide in America. We have seen that for several months now on a whole lot of economic indicators, and it is very clearly not lifting all boats.

Is there an effective way as an economist that you see that we can disproportionately lift the boats at the lowest end, the smallest, the poorest boats so that we share this recovery a little bit more evenly and people feel better?

SWONK: It's one of the most difficult things to do. You know, certainly a compassionate thing to do and something that I understand. That said, you know, over the long haul, the only way to fundamentally change the poverty situation relative to the rest of the economy is education, and education is critical. Funding for education takes time.

It does also mean though funding for chipper who are being educated to have preschool education, to have food before they go to school and at school so all these things are important. There are a lot of different aspects of poverty that need to be dealt with in order to deal with the whole poverty problem in general.

I think that's something not many people pay much attention to. Although we noted earlier this these may be mostly white americans and many of them Republicans at that, a lot of them still don't vote because frankly they don't even have the time to do that given the time they're trying -- VELSHI: Roland, hold on. Because that's a good point you make. You're very connected to the idea of who votes and who doesn't. So we're talking about education.

Diane is talking about education because obviously education leads to better unemployment or lower unemployment and the suggestion that James Clyburn has got.

Hold on all three of you, Diane, Roland and Will. We want to continue this conversation. We also just learned this week how secure your bank would be in the event of another downturn.

We want to find out whether the financial system is more secure than it was three years ago. We'll continue this conversation and look at the banking system next on YOUR MONEY.


VELSHI: Roland Martin, Diane Swonk and Will Cain, we're having a conversation about how to lift those in America who are not feeling the effects of this recovery right now, often the poorest in America.

Roland, I know you are chomping at the bent to get in here, but I'm going to make you squirm just a little bit more because will has something to say about this whole idea. How do we lift people out of poverty, Will, effectively?

CAIN: I know Roland is going to want to speak because I'm going to say this. I'm going to reject his premise. He said that the rising tide does not lift all boats. The American experience suggests otherwise.

The very, very long-term view is that our whole economy is based on that concept and it has worked. Now, over the medium term, the last 40 years or so, Diane has a very interesting point because people have been left behind.

Charles Murray has written about this. Education I agree has to be the answer to that. Then finally in the very short term, I'm really curious as we see an economy possibly on the road to recovery, but some people are not catching up to it, is that just how recoveries work? They manifest first at the top income spectrums and then later low income spectrums.

VELSHI: Diane, is that the experience?

SWONK: Actually it's not. It's the experience of this particular recovery. And it's dramatically different during this particular recovery than other recoveries. The recovery of the 1980s did go on to take a very long time to get below 8 percent on the unemployment rate.

Once we did, there were cumulative effects that we felt for decades afterwards, where even college graduates had lower earnings potential once they got out, if they got a job while the unemployment rate was still above 8 percent.

So we do know that recoveries are different. That said, the recovery of the 1980s had jobs, 500, 600,000, 700,000 jobs, a month being generated and the unemployment rate was falling rapidly quickly after a contraction.

And I think that's very important is we had a very long contraction and a very slow recovery. That's what makes it so much different. You have a very different dynamic of the long-term unemployed, the impoverished and those being marginalized for a much longer period of time.

Maybe the cumulative effects there we can only guess them, but it looks like they could be much greater.

VELSHI: Roland, we've talked about this. We've talked about how you try and bring these two Americas or however many Americas we have closer together.

How you help the worst of the worst out, those who are really suffering and not participating in this recovery and those who are getting hurt the hardest by these increasing gas prices. Your thoughts.

MARTIN: I think the point to the "Clyburn Amendment" speaks to resources and I totally agree. Look, I'm a huge education advocate. I believe in charter schools, vouchers, public, private, online, I don't care, you name it.

But that is really an 18, 22, 25-year process from the moment a kid is in kindergarten to the time they finish high school or finish college. I think the point here is you're targeting resources. What do we know?

That is the poor. They don't have lobbyists in Washington, D.C. and so when you talk about the ability to be able to provide water treatment facilities, when it comes to school lunches and those type of things. This is a perfect example where you're targeting 10 percent of the resources and it's making sure they are not left out.

That to me I think is the problem. To Will's point, look who has been earning the money. Look at the income gap the past 30 years. I think we have to own to the fact that poor people have no voice in this country.

I believe the president should stand up and say this is the kind of effort that's not race based, not politically based, it is income and need based that can at least affect people and make some substantive change in their lives every day.

VELSHI: Well, I like the fact that you came armed with a solution to the show, Roland.

Let me change topics for a second here to the banking situation because we've been watching the banks through this recovery. The economy may feel a little better for, as we've discussed, some people out there.

But what if the following happened. What if unemployment soared back to 13 percent, higher than what we ever got to in this recession? What if stock prices, we've been talking about these record highs, what if they were cut in half?

What if housing prices fell another 20 percent? Not something that most people think is likely to happen, but that is the scenario that the Federal Reserve used this past week as a stress test for 19 of the country's largest banks.

Those that are called systemically important banks. The kind that if they failed would cause massive problems in the economy. The fed said that 15 of the 19 largest financial firms are prepared for that situation.

Roland and Will, I want your take on this. Does this give you confidence that we're better off today than we were before the financial crisis because some of them didn't pass that test? Although others say that test is too onerous. Will, start with you.

CAIN: It depends on how much you trust the stress test. Look, we had 200 regulators inside of Fannie and Freddie. They caught nothing. We're very good at regulating past mistakes. How good are we looking into the future and seeing potential problems?

I don't know the answer to that. But I do know that's why some people on all sides of the political spectrum from the left to the right said if you're too big to fail, you're too big to exist. I just don't know where we stand today.

VELSHI: Roland.

MARTIN: I do not trust it completely because I still think the problem is when you have commercial banks that are also investment banks. I mean look, when you saw all of the discussion this week over this Goldman Sachs executive talking about how profit and making money is still more important than the clients' interests, I still think we have to roll some things back.

I do not believe that the systemic change that was need to repair Wall Street has taken place and as long as they still are able to do what they did beforehand, we're going to come back to this problem.

And so I say separate them and I'm sorry, but you want to make more money, look, there's a way to do it, but you cannot continue to have commercial banks and investment banks because they're always going to be clashing there when it comes to the interest of the consumers.

VELSHI: A lot of people share that view. Diane, your thought on the stress tests and what they mean.

SWONK: Well, they certainly were stressful and stressful to the banks. I do think they do actually exhibit that the banks are in better shape now than they were and they're in better shape because we helped them to get in better shape.

That was called a TARP. Interesting four-letter word here in the United States, but it did help the banks get back on track. So I also think it's important to keep that in context. I also think what's very important is the banks are in better financial shape to endure what could be a secondary crisis in Europe, which is one of the reasons we wanted to have these stress tests now.

The other issue is we don't have a shadow banking system where many consumers, most consumers got all of their credit from, particularly their mortgages. Even though the banks are in better shape than they once were, it doesn't mean they're providing credit to as many consumers.

For good reason they're not doing that. But also it means it's much harder for many people to get a mortgage even when they're credit worthy. In fact mortgage capacity has been cut back among the banks.

They got penalized so they're doing even less of it. So now we see less mortgage capacity. We really worry about that as we look to see the housing market recover. It's hard to do that --

VELSHI: Can't do that if there isn't that capital. You're right. What a great conversation always with the three of you. Roland Martin, pleasure to see you back on the show. Will Cain, as always and Diane Swonk, thanks for joining us.

Well, the growth of business in this country is directly tied to the success of the recovery, and just what has the Obama administration done or not done for business in this country? We'll get down to it. Is this an anti or pro-business president next on YOUR MONEY.


VELSHI: This election is about the economy and jobs and the businesses that create those jobs. Vice President Biden campaigning in Ohio made the case that the president supports business.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED AMERICA: Our philosophy, ours is one that values the workers and the success of a business. It values the middle class and the success of our economy. Simply stated, we're about promoting the private sector. They're about protecting the privileged sector.


VELSHI: Will Cain is a CNN contributor, Nick Ragone is a presidential author. His most recent book is "Presidential Leadership, 15 Decisions That Changed The Nation."

Nick, in terms of promoting American business, as you have looked back at other presidents, how does President Obama, notwithstanding all of the criticism he gets right now.

And he's going to get from Will Cain sitting next to you, how does he rank in terms of being pro and anti-business and from a historical context, how has that played in presidencies in the past? NICK RAGONE, AUTHOR, "PRESIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP": Well, two things. One is, and we tend to overlook this, presidents really don't have that much control over the economic cycle. We like to think they do.

Over long periods of time like Franklin Roosevelt they do. Teddy Roosevelt transformed into President Ronal Reagan, but for the most part presidents of hostages to economic cycles rather than driving them.

VELSHI: Or beneficiaries.

RAGONE: Right. The second point is we tend to look at pro, con, left, right. It doesn't always work out like that. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, one could argue was anti-business.

John Kennedy, a Democrat, was pro business, tax cuts so even Eisenhower was more about equality of fairness and balanced business than tax cuts. So it's not as easy as left, right, growth versus fairness. There are some misconceptions about the presidents and business cycles.

VELSHI: What do you think, Will?

CAIN: I love that analysis. By the way, the presidents are beneficiaries or hostages of the economic cycle, but that doesn't begrudge us the ability to look and see are they pro or anti-business.

I would say this. I think Barack Obama certainly wants to create jobs. I think he knows businesses play a vital role in that process. I think he's pro business in that way.

But a deeper, instinctual level I think he's anti-business, very, very anti-business in fact and I'd offer two reasons for that. One, when I watch his economic policies and how he hopes to direct certain industries, invest in this industry, green energy.

It reflects that essential value to liberal ideology, which is a lack of humility. That you think you have more control over something than you actually do.

And second is -- my second point is on priorities. When we were at a point of crisis, we devoted entirely too much attention on health care and I think that's a big distraction and it reflected his instincts at a deeper level.

VELSHI: And then a year later, we devoted entirely too much to debt reduction when in fact in both instances jobs would have been the thing to do.

RAGONE: You're talking about the Republicans --

VELSHI: The book was about 15 specific leadership choices, not just 15 presidents, but things that happened. Do you feel that that was -- that failure to focus on jobs and instead focus on health care to be his legacy was a decision that suggested that his priorities are not pro-business? RAGONE: No, not really. If you look at it, health care is 18 percent of our GDP, somewhere around there and growing. So one could argue --

VELSHI: That's not necessarily a good thing.

RAGONE: No, it's not. But one could argue there are more jobs tied to health care than anything else. I would disagree a little with will on one point, which is targeted subsidies is something that all presidents have been doing. It's a matter of choices.

The auto industry, one could argue we would have lost a lot of jobs, not just directly but all the ancillary businesses. That was the decision to go in there and do that. Presidents have been doing that for years and years and years. There's nothing new in that, it's just a matter of priorities.


CAIN: You know, that might be a fair criticism, but I think we've seen a disordinant amount of directing this economy over previous presidents. Let me say this real quick and you can rebut me. Maybe the distinction is pro business versus pro market.

VELSHI: I was about to change the question, because the stuff you've pointed out doesn't indicate to me that this is an anti-business president. You're arguing about something else, right?

CAIN: Because the rebuttal would be which business.

RAGONE: There's also big business and small business. There's the fortune thousand and there's markets. Most jobs in this country are still small business, 5 people, 10 people, 50 people or less.

There are different policies that address that. National subsidies and targeted tax cuts go to big business. There are a lot of things presidents do for small business. This campaign I think and you heard the vice president will be more about middle class small business.

VELSHI: This is the place where this battle gets won if you're pro- business. Nobody really cares to hear from a presidential candidate who's pro Goldman Sachs and pro-Citigroup and all that. They want to know what you're doing for them on the ground to hire another person.

CAIN: This is in fact is why I've had criticism for some of the Republican candidates because they favor certain businesses over others. Rick Santorum wants to give a different tax rate, by the way, as is President Obama to manufacturers than the rest of the corporate sector.

That is not to me pro market. Maybe it's pro business if you're inside the manufacturing industry, but it's not pro economic growth in my opinion.

VELSHI: So you've re-evaluated your position on this. You're not saying that you think President Obama is anti-business. CAIN: No, I'm just saying he's not the only one.

RAGONE: Look at President Clinton. He balanced the budget, he raised taxes. People said it was going to destroy the economy and it led to the largest growth since World War II.

Now you can argue, is there a cause and effect relationship? We're not really sure at the end of the day whether they're causally related.

VELSHI: Because the economic cycle is perhaps bigger -- a lot of people argue it's a nice conversation to have, but we all read "space and the economic cycle." All right, guys, great to have a conversation with you.

Nick, it's a great read. "Presidential Leadership," the forward to the book --

RAGONE: It's a brilliant forward.

VELSHI: Will Cain --

CAIN: I wrote the forward.

VELSHI: Will Cain is a CNN contributor.

A Goldman Sachs executive told his bosses to take the job and shove it. He did it, by the way, through an op-ed in the "New York Times." Why this could be a big start to weeding out the worst of Wall Street next on YOUR MONEY.


VELSHI: Any headline involving Goldman Sachs tends to get noticed, so it should come as no surprise that when a company executive quit his job through "The New York Times" op-ed page it made big news.

Now former Goldman VP Greg Smith called the company's culture toxic and destructive in his much-talked about letter.

He lambasted Goldman for not putting clients first. He also offered these solutions to fix the investment banking giant, quote, weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm and get the culture right again.

So people want to work there for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm or the trust of its clients for very much longer," end quote.

Christine Romans is the host of CNN's "YOUR BOTTOM LINE." Christine, Goldman is a company that's seemingly never really cared that much about PR, at least in recent years at least as you know.

Is there any expectation this high-profile resignation is actually going to lead to any change at the company or more importantly for Goldman a loss of any of its clients? CHRISTINE ROMANS, HOST, CNN'S "BOTTOM LINE": Do you believe in a guy nobody ever heard even a few days ago has done more to hit the reputation of Goldman Sachs than high-profile congressional hearings.

VELSHI: But has it? That's my question.

ROMANS: It really has because it came from inside, Ali. It came from somebody nobody expected. It went off like a bomb inside Goldman headquarters. No question they didn't see this coming.

Here's a guy that has a resume who looks pretty sterling. He used to run the interns for crying out loud, right? So here's a guy who looks like he's on the straight and narrow who had maybe his Jerry McGuire moment.

We don't know what sparked this other than what he said to the "New York Times." Will it change Goldman? I think Goldman is already changing, but it doesn't matter what we think, it matters what the clients think.

And that has always been the most important thing for Goldman, what its clients think.

VELSHI: And they have never had a Rush Limbaugh moment where clients have dropped them in droves.


VELSHI: Richard Quest is the host of CNNI's "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS." Richard, I want to read you a quick excerpt from a letter that was quickly sent to Goldman employees from CEO Lloyd Blankfein and the Chief Operating Officer, Gary Cohn, both of whom were mentioned in the op-ed in the "New York Times."

Quote, "We are far from perfect, but where the firm has seen a problem, we have responded to it seriously and substantively and we have demonstrated that fact. To the outside world, Goldman Sachs has long stood for unapologetically making money."

Richard, I have to wonder about this Greg Smith who wrote this op-ed, was he living under a rock?

RICHARD QUEST, HOST, CNNI'S "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": No. There are two very distinct views that have come out this week. There are the big, bad Goldman and the place should be turned into a not-for-profit charity and do good works in the community and hallelujah, off they head into the distance.

And then there is the argument that goes as in the financial times columnists this week that says the people who sit at the table with Goldman are not widows and orphans usually, they are other risk-taking gamblers in the market, and that all clients are not equal in that sense.

Most of the clients that they're talking about are traders and they are people who really, frankly, on the other side of the deals do not need protecting against. Now, where do I stand in this?

Somewhere in the middle because on the one hand Goldman is perhaps perceived to be the biggest of the bad, but frankly, if you are doing a deal, you want them on your side. And you go into this with open eyes and you're not some naive that doesn't know what's happening -- Ali.

VELSHI: Well, Goldman Sachs, and remember this guy who resigned had been there 12 years. So 12 years ago, Goldman Sachs was still thought of as the gold standard in the industry and to some it still is.

Goldman Sachs has endured a lot of negative PR in the last few years and if the anti-Goldman Sachs forces had to have a spokesperson, here he is. Matt Tiabbi, contributing editor for Rolling Stone.

Matt has been relentless in his criticism of Goldman. You wrote about Goldman Sachs two years ago, Matt. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. He really said this. Did anything in this resignation letter, first of all, Matt, surprise you?

MATT TAIBBI, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, ROLLING STONE: No, not at all and it shouldn't have surprised anybody actually because pretty much everything that Greg Smith said in this letter was also in the Levin report.

VELSHI: The Levin report came after the hearings on Capitol Hill. That subpoenas fabulous five, those e-mails -- and Lloyd Blankfein to the Senate very heated hearings and they wrote a report.

TAIBBI: And those hearings and that report were entirely what Smith was talking about, which was that Goldman was selling out its own clients and that they denigrated them behind their backs and sometimes broke the law according to the Levin subcommittee, in their attempts to unload these toxic instruments on their own clients.

You know when, Smith talked about Muppets, in the Levin report there was an instance where they were trying to unload Timberwolf, which was a really bad deal, and they found somebody to take a piece of the deal. They said we found a flying pig, a white elephant and a unicorn all at once.

VELSHI: The idea that Goldman internally would make fun of clients that they felt they had taken advantage of.

TAIBBI: Exactly. So none of this stuff is new. What's different about the Smith thing is this is somebody who was from the company coming out with this information.

ROMANS: Goldman has a huge settlement with the SEC.

VELSHI: That was probably money that came out of their vending machines.

TAIBBI: It was only for abacus. Even the Levin talked about other deals, Hudson, Timberwolf, Anderson, there were lots of other deals.

QUEST: All right, all right, hang on all of you. If they are so dreadful and they are so awful, why do so many people still use them? Why do so many clients still go to them?

All the clients that you're talking of are not some blinded children walking into the Garden of Eden? They know what Goldman is, as anybody. Ali, you and I have covered this industry with Christine for years.

VELSHI: I hear you. So back to Matt on this. Matt, you have written for years. This is stuff you have said. Basically you pointed out that Goldman can be creepy and unethical. As Richard points out, and we know, sometimes their clients can be creepy and unethical. Should the rest of us care?

TAIBBI: I think we should care. I mean, if that's the defense of the bank, everybody knows their creepy and unethical, if that's as good as it gets in defense of Goldman Sachs, I think that speaks very poorly of that bank.

ROMANS: Even in the letter I felt like there was one line that looked like legalese to me. He said I'm not saying anything illegal happened here, I'm just saying this is a toxic culture.

QUEST: You won't going to turn Goldman's culture around in the time it takes to print "The New York Times" editorial. It is going to be a six-month to six-year to 10-year job to turn around a perception like that. If they have started, you and I will be talking about the results of it.

VELSHI: Matt, do you ever think they have started? Do you think they care enough to do something about it?

TAIBBI: I haven't seen any evidence to say they have started. I think the Smith resignation points to they haven't changed. He talked about that in the op-ed. What was most striking to him is they didn't change after all this negative publicity.

That's what I hear from people on Wall Street that, there really isn't a change in the culture at all. I think they will change, though, if they do start losing clients and that's the only thing that will make them change.

ROMANS: I want to know what happens to Greg Smith. Do you think he becomes a -- I don't know.

VELSHI: As Richard says, they may not lose any clients. We'll have to watch this and see very carefully. Matt, always good to see you, thank you. Christine Romans, the host of your "BOTTOM LINE" and of course, our good friend, Richard Quest.

Well, you pay top letter, you expect the best products. So with the U.S. health care being by far the most expensive in the world, are you getting the best health care in the world? Fareed Zakaria stops by to show us how it all works next on YOUR MONEY. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Health care in America, it is the costliest in the world, but is it the best? Not according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund, which actually ranked the U.S. dead last in a study that included seven nations.

The report looked at factors such as quality of care and access to care, but look at the cost. If you combine the per capita, per person costs of the top two nations on this list, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, you still don't equal the per capita cost of health care in the United States.

Now, the challenge here in the United States is not an easy one. Improving the quality of care while lowering the cost and expanding coverage to all of those people who don't have it.

It's why Fareed Zakaria is devoting his first GPS special of the year to laying out a road map for saving health care. Now, the special debuts Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Fareed, you have searched the world for a solution to this health care issue to try and map that onto the United States. What have you found?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN'S "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Well, you know, in Taiwan, which is a free market country with a very vigorous free enterprise system, they had a totally free market health care system in the 1990s.

They asked themselves we want to go from scratch and build a new one and they studied all the models in the world. We asked the guy who designed the Taiwan health care system what did you learn from America? He said it was very easy. From America you learned how not to do it.


ZAKARIA: He said there was really nothing they could get -- borrow from the American case. Our system is just a total mess. In Taiwan, what they decided to do was they decided to go for a single insurer.

But private providers so hospitals are private, the doctors are private, but you have a single essentially government-sponsored insurer, in other words, Medicare.

VELSHI: Paid for by tax dollars?

ZAKARIA: Paid for by tax dollars. Not surprisingly, they have the lowest health care costs in the world. They're up there, among the best in terms of the outcomes, but they only spend 7 percent of their economy on health care. We spend 17 percent.

VELSHI: And we're going to take a look at a chart, which shows the steady increase in per capita spending on health care in the United States, or as a share of GDP, let's put it that way, starting at around 5 percent in the '60s, up to this 17, 18 percent that we've got now.

Fareed, let's just discuss this for a second because there are some people who think market-based systems work best where there's competition and yet some of the most efficient health care systems in the world are single payer.

Whether you want that to be a socialized medical system or just like you describe in Taiwan, one payer that has efficiency and has the ability to control costs through negotiation. Square that circle for me because one seems inherently anti-capitalistic.

ZAKARIA: Health care is a very weird field. There was a Nobel Prize- winning economist, Kenneth Arrow, who in 1963 wrote a brilliant paper predicting that health care wouldn't work on regular market economics lines and here's the reason why.

You don't know when you need to buy health care, and at the moment you need it, a heart attack, a stroke, a hip replacement, you don't have that much money. So you can't -- the normal market can't function. You need an insurance system of some kind.

Now of course it's possible that you were to say, well, look, the market would work if you were to just say you had a heart attack, you can't afford it, sorry, you die. But every rich country in the world has decided that's not how we want to run things.

We want to give people some basic access. Once you make that decision, you have to have an insurance system. You talked very correctly about the issue of access and cost.

What I found is that every other system in the world found in order to bring down costs, you have to have universal coverage because otherwise, you have a downward spiral in insurance where basically the insurers try to kick all the sick people off the system.

VELSHI: And keep the healthy people on.

ZAKARIA: And the healthy people don't want to buy insurance. So it's a weird game where everyone is trying to game the system.

VELSHI: So these countries that use a single payer system that take the money out of taxes, by doing so that means everybody pays into the system, sick or healthy.

Here in the United States, that's the part that's under challenge at the Supreme Court, the idea that this health care -- this administration's health care reform plan wants to compel people to buy insurance in the same way that Taiwan taxes, in the same way that Canada taxes or the U.K. taxes.

ZAKARIA: We actually have a perfect example and we talk about this in the program. Switzerland 20 years ago had exactly the system we do, again, Switzerland, a very free market. Actually Switzerland ranks higher than the United States on the index of economic freedom, which the Heritage Foundation puts out. The Swiss realized 20 years ago, they were having all the problems we have. The ones we were just talking about. The healthy people don't want to buy it. The sick people keep getting thrown off by the insurance companies so they went for an individual mandate. Pretty much reformed the system along Obama care lines.

The result is they have had lowered costs, higher quality, huge customer satisfaction. So I can't speak to the constitutional issues. But what I can tell you is that every system has found that if you don't create some kind of either individual mandate or, as you say, just a simple universal system.

The model can't work because you have to bring everybody in to spread the costs, to spread the risk and then you work on the really tough part, which is cost control and that means you've got to have somebody.

You can call it what you will. It's been demagogued as death panels, but you've got to have some board of experts saying this is covered by insurance and this is not.

VELSHI: And again, that is something that happens in many countries.

ZAKARIA: Every other country.

VELSHI: Where a 93-year-old person who is in the hospital with some what would be a terminal illness isn't necessarily deemed to be chronically ill at that point.

There are decisions that are made about whether or not this is worth spending. Sanjay often says we spend most of our health care money in the last months of life, the last year of life.

ZAKARIA: The two crazy statistics about health care, 5 percent of the patients account for 50 percent of the cost.

VELSHI: Right.

ZAKARIA: So when people say high deductible plans will work, no, they won't because the real costs are in those chronically ill, who would be covered by catastrophic insurance or anything.

And the second part is we fight death. Most other societies at some point accept it. And at the end of the day, nobody is saying you can't at 93 get that second hip replacement. The point is insurance won't pay for it.

VELSHI: Right. You do what you want.

ZAKARIA: You can do what you want. The point is your insurance program can't pay for it. Otherwise, the whole system goes bust.

VELSHI: You're prepared for the fact that you and I are both going to get hate tweets about this, right?

ZAKARIA: You know, what I have tried to do is really ground this in fact. What I have been struck by is the whole argument against some government involvement, first of all, ignores the fact that we have huge government involvement in Medicare --

VELSHI: You remember that sign during the objections to Obama care which said government, get your hands off my Medicare.

ZAKARIA: And the second part is that everyone who makes these arguments against the government, there is some fantasy theoretical version of health care that they talk about. But you know, I'm a practical guy.

What I say is you can reason from principle but you also have to reason from facts and reality. We have 20 other countries in the world that do this. All of them are able to do it better and substantially cheaper than us.

So to me it feels like the task is not to junk all this and say there's some utopia out there that's never been tried in any actual human society. Rather to say, look, we've got a messy reality with the government and markets working together. Let's fix it.

VELSHI: And that is the role that you play for us at CNN. You have traveled the world and researched systems, in many case, health care and otherwise, things that work and hopefully we can try some of them here. I'm looking forward to the special, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," the special airs on Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

You know Will I Am for his music and dance skills, but the Black Eyed Peas has a range and a devotion to doing his part to help creation and innovation in this country. I'll sit down with Will I Am next on YOUR MONEY.


VELSHI: Welcome back to YOUR MONEY.

One of the things I love about my job is the ability to interact with smart people, folks who will help lay the ground work for business, innovation technology for years to come.

Recently, I went to an event in Los Angeles for Singularity University. It is designed to supplement traditional colleges and universities, their goal is to inspire the development of technologies that will address some of the strong challenges that we face.

Now this is a highly competitive program. Only 80 students were accepted for the graduate course from a pool of about 1,600 applicants. At these events, I often run into personalities you might recognize.

In this case, Will I Am. What you may not know about the music star he is went to a science oriented high school and as I found out, he is quite the tech geek. Will I Am is also the director of Intel's creative information. He supports the "Wouldn't It Be Cool If Innovation" contest for kids and volunteers at events like NASA's curiosity space lab. Now he has teamed up with the Dean Cayman, you know him as the Segway Inventor for a program called "First." Listen.


WILL.I.AM, MUSIC PRODUCER: I've always been, you know, attracted and inspired by science and technology. Music is math.

VELSHI: I was talking to Will.I.Am about how you guys met and he told me about how he went to your place and he was seeing your inventions and you said, wow, I'm sitting here chilling with Dean Kamen. This generation's Edison.

DEAN KAMEN, INVENTOR: He is so informed about how things work and what they can do and what's around the corner and what's coming next. I mean, that guy is a real technologist.

WILL.I.AM: I asked Dean Kamen if he could bring a U.S. first team to the ghetto I'm from. And so he is like, sure. I'm like the only problem is these kids aren't going to take the class. So I called ABC and bought time on ABC and made a program dedicated to U.S. first called "I.M. First."

KAMEN: First stands for inspiration and recognition of science and technology.

WILL.I.AM: So I had Justin Bieber on the show. Bono on the show. Miley Cyrus on the show. Black Eyed Peas on the show. So, I called all my friends to support me on my efforts to make science cool.

KAMEN: I believe that the schools and the educators are capable of dealing with education if kids showed up as passionate about learning math and science as they are passionate about getting on a varsity football or basketball team.

WILL.I.AM: We're performing the Super Bowl this year. Yes, I got a robotics competition in April. I said who is performing the halftime show of the competition? He said nobody.

I said I will. I can perform at team choice awards and these kids are getting Ds and Fs. Why aren't I performing at a competition where kids excel in math and science?

I was like why should they suffer? Why can't they have entertainment like the kids that are flanking? You know what I'm saying.

VELSHI: When did it occur to you that it has to be about the next generation?

KAMEN: By the time I got to be a young adult, I was concerned that there might be a lot of smart kids out there that were as baffled and intimidated and frustrated as I was.

So I thought I'm going to help create an opportunity for those kids to learn a different way and to be involved and to have real hands on experience with things to let them hopefully feel good about themselves, become capable of doing things, creating careers, designing the future, creating opportunities to make the world a better place. And it's fun!

WILL.I.AM: So I raised $5 million, invested my own money to build a community center that is packed with college track and Dean Kamen's robotics program.

And with the four-year plan is see a ninth grader graduate 12th grade and a 12th grader graduate college around this area. You don't want a kid just to graduate college, you want them to graduate college and create jobs.


VELSHI: Next week, I'll bring you more of my conversation from Will and Dean at Singularity University. You want to get inside one of the coolest events of the year? We'll tell you how next on YOUR MONEY.


VELSHI: Welcome back. South by Southwest is wrapping up. Unless you were there, it is impossible to really experience what happens at this festival. We're going try.

Check out CNN at South by Southwest Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Eastern and get yourself inside one of the most exciting events of the year.

Thanks for joining our conversation this week on YOUR MONEY. We're here Saturdays 1:00 p.m. Eastern and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. and you can stay connected to us 24/7 on Twitter. My handle is @alivelshi. The show handle is @cnnyourmoney. You know I read every single one of your tweets. Have a great weekend.