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Your Money

Mortgage Meltdown; Gas and Oil Prices Down; The Man Who Caught Barry Bonds's Homerun Might Have to Pay Taxes

Aired August 11, 2007 - 13:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: No letup in the frantic search and rescue efforts at a Utah coal mine. A second wider drill has broken through to the chamber where six miners are believed to have been trapped since a cave in on Monday. Crews plan to lower a video camera into the hole hoping to get answers on the fate of the miners.
Precautions taken in New York after an Internet report about a possible radiological attack on American cities. Police are screening vehicles there with radiation detection devices. But authorities are skeptical of the report. It was based on so called electronic chatter allegedly seen on al Qaeda Web sites.

And two space shuttle "Endeavour" astronauts, you're looking at live pictures now, are starting to walk in space right now. They're adding a new part to the frame of the International Space Station. You see the work taking place or at least you saw a hand there. The crews plan to check a worrisome concern tomorrow as well about a gouge on "Discovery's" belly, a gouge that may have happened during take off.

We'll update the top stories at the bottom of the hour. Now YOUR MONEY.

ALI VELSHI, CNN HOST, YOUR MONEY: Welcome to YOUR MONEY where we look at how the news of the week affects your wallet. I'm Ali Velshi.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST, YOUR MONEY: I'm Christine Romans. Coming up today out top story, the mortgage meltdown. What this mess means for you and how to nail down a home loan in a market where lenders are now scared to hand over money.

VELSHI: You can't make sense of gas prices either. They're down. So are oil prices. We will tell you where they are going in the long term.

ROMANS: Why the New York man who caught Barry Bonds' record- breaking home run may not be so lucky after all.

VELSHI: He may have to pay taxes.

ROMANS: He might have to pay taxes.

VELSHI: A lot of things going on. What a market this last week! It's just once again gyrations, it has been up and down, but the national average more down than up.

ROMANS: That is right and when you look at the volume, its August but a lot of volume on the New York Stock Exchange. This is a credit problem and it's a little bit complicated but what it means is the sub prime mortgages have now been repackaged by the Wall Street bros, sent out everywhere, and coming up in all kind of places and hurting what we call the liquidity of the market, the oxygen the credit markets use to breathe and that is having ramifications across the board.

VELSHI: We're seeing this across the board. Banks are struggling. Their stocks are going down. So people need to sort of think about this in terms of what this market means to them. You have to watch your investments the same way. You have to watch your mortgage, too. We've got a look at how you prevent yourself from becoming part of this.

ROMANS: So we are going to take a look at what the mess is, we are also going to give some perspective on it too when you look at stocks overall. We are going to try to give you all that in the program.

President Bush says the U.S. economy is thriving. President Bush says it is the envy of the world and he says his tax cuts have expanded the economy more than $1.9 trillion since 2001. The president is talking positive on the economy right now even as the markets are reeling from this spreading American housing crisis.


ROMANS (voice over): For sale signs are going up. Housing prices are going down. And the president is supremely confident in the U.S. economy.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American economy is the envy of the world and we need to keep it that way.

ROMANS: If the American economy is the envy of the world, its spreading mortgage crises is not. Mortgage companies sold loans to millions of Americans who weren't qualified. Those loans were packaged by Wall Street pros and sold again and again. And now bad loans are threatening the entire economy.

DEAN BAKER, CENTER FOR ECONOMIC POLICY RESEARCH: Many of us are going to find out, well, guess what, this fund that we had or that fund, it's going to turn out it had a lot of mortgages that suddenly are worth -- maybe not worth less but worth a lot less than thought. We'll see a big hit to just about everyone as a result of the fall out in the housing market.

ROMANS: According to "Money" Magazine for 1.4 million Americans, their monthly mortgage payment will double over the next five years and Realty Track estimates more than 500,000 Americans are at least 90 days behind in their mortgage payments. Some blame unscrupulous lenders. The president recommends more financial literacy.

BUSH: We've had a lot of really hard-working Americans sign up for loans and the truth is they probably didn't fully understand what they were signing up for. ROMANS: This president has consistently hailed record home ownership as the sign of an ownership society repeating often that nearly 70 percent of Americans own their home and the rate of minority home ownership has climbed to above 50 percent since he took office in 2001.


ROMANS: All good news. But experts say at least 1 million Americans may event actually lose their homes. AIG this week, Ali warned that residency delinquency is raising a signal that the mortgage pain could be spreading and it is not just AIG we heard from Countrywide.

VELSHI: Countrywide said almost 20 percent of what it calls nonprime loans, loans to people maybe who don't have great credit or have more of a mortgage than they should based on the value of their home, 20 percent of those mortgage payments are running 30 days late. The problem is, as you said, part of it is the mortgage crises. Part of it is the fact that these mortgages are, as you said, sold up higher and higher. So more than 70 mortgage companies have failed in the last few months in America. Now the biggest of the big companies, the Bernstein's, the big banks are caught holding the bag.

ROMANS: Used to be a generation ago, you walked into your bank, your savings and loan and you said I want a 30 year loan and they gave the loan and held it the entire time. They would not give you a loan if they didn't know you would be able to pay it back. If you couldn't pay it back, you could go in and talk to your banker and sort if out. It is not that way at all any more.

VELSHI: You don't know who has your loan.

ROMANS: The people, the banks, the mortgage brokers were giving loans away, they were getting fees right away. They didn't have any kind of vested interest in whether it would last for 30 years and now we're seeing the economic fallout of that.

VELSHI: It's a big problem. How do you prevent it from affecting you? How do you prevent it from actually costing you your house? The impact of this is big. We want to talk about how you take steps now to help yourself. Brad Inman is with us from Berkeley, California to give us some perspective. He's the publisher of "Inman News" a service that provides daily real estate news to the media.

Brad thanks for being with us.


VELSHI: The issue here is for those people who are not part of the sub prime crises or the mortgage crises right now, all of this tightening up; all of these banks that have been burned in the last few months are probably going to tighten up on the rest of us, too.

INMAN: Yeah, absolutely. We have a credit crunch going on. You have banks that are going out of business, you have banks that are underwriting loans radically different today than they did just three months ago. Tighter credit meaning you have to have great credit to get a loan, you have to have a sizable down payment and expect a lot of scrutiny.

ROMANS: It is interesting because these are -- we're talking about people who had nothing to do with the sub prime crisis who are now going out and trying to get a loan and they are hit by the sub prime crises, people with good credit history, with two solid incomes or one solid income, who can't get their loan. Is that going to happen to people? They are going to go maybe in New York or Washington or D.C. or Boston and they're going to try to get maybe a jumbo loan and it's going to be harder.

INMAN: Absolutely. Any financial crises, there's collateral damage. There's no question, the average homeowner, the average home buyer had nothing to do with this. But it's both sub prime and first- time buyers. It's now also jumbo loans. What that means is any loan above $400,000 that cannot be purchased in the secondary market by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Those rates are skyrocketing by some lenders. Some lenders have shut them down. We have a first-time buyer and move-up market that's in trouble, which means more chaos in the housing market, which means falling prices, which means it's harder to get loans. It's really rolling thunder right now and quite scary.

VELSHI: So here's what we've got. We've got home values that may have come down a little bit, but we have high mortgages. So you might be holding a mortgage today that is bigger than the value of your home.

INMAN: Considerably.

VELSHI: Considerably bigger. You might also be paying more on a monthly basis than you were when you took this loan because you took an adjustable rate mortgage. If you're in either of those two situations, what do you do right now?

INMAN: The good news is rates are still low. We have 30 year fixed rate mortgages around 6 percent. Usually, if you're a homeowner and you've been paying your loan on time, you probably have good credit. You probably have some equity. You haven't lost it all, because we haven't seen prices fall that dramatically. So if you are in an adjustable rate mortgage and you are nervous about adjusting rates, first of all, it's probably not adjusting upward right now because rates have come down a little bit in the last couple of months.

But if you're in a fixed rate mortgage, just sit tight. Don't worry about it, we always come through these markets. You'll be fine. It does mean if you have a loan where you're paying an extraordinary amount of your income for mortgage which unfortunately a lot of lenders are too free with money, then you may want to look at your spending habits and just try to control those temporarily.

The adjustable, go to your lender and see if you can refinance it. Refinancings are actually more difficult today than purchase loans, which mean people buying their first house. But it is time to go talk to your lender. More than anything read your loan documents. Too many people did not look at their loan documents in the last couple of years when they borrowed. Now is the time to check out what type of loan you have, when it's due, when it is going to adjust, when your payments are going to change and then go talk to your lender.

ROMANS: The president was talking Thursday financial literacy that too many hard working people made that first home purchase and just really didn't know what they were getting themselves into. Others people say it was unscrupulous lenders who were just giving loans away knowing they would get fees, and packaging it on and moving it to the next place. What do you do, you mentioned something about if you're paying an awful lot of your income or your take-home pay to your mortgage. What is your rule of thumb? Because, you know, I'm telling you it's not what some of those bankers have been telling us the last few years.

INMAN: I'm old-fashioned and I have been several years on this show saying the rule of 20 percent down and a 30-year fixed or five or seven or ten year adjustable is the smart way to go. To own a house it a big deal, particularly today, because prices are high. So you have to be very responsible about borrowing and paying off your debt. If you're in a position to pay down that principal, that's always a good thing because that's debt and interest that's going to the lender and why not send it to your pocket the next month by paying down your mortgage?

Owning a house, again, a lot of responsibility. It was interesting what the president said. But where was the president and the regulators two years ago warning people about these ridiculous loans that were made to people? It's so unfortunate. Too little, too late.

VELSHI: Brad, good to talk to you. Thank you for being with us.

INMAN: Thank you.

VELSHI: So good advice from Brad. Read your loan document. I got to tell you, I'm not sure I read mine. Read your loan document; contact your lender if you're getting into trouble, 20 percent down. A lot of people don't do that.

ROMANS: If you're in a fixed loan right now, he says stick it out. If you're not in an adjustable rate loan, stick it out. If you in an adjustable rate and it is adjusting higher you might have to think about refinancing. Harder to refinance now than a new loan he says, but try to get it done.

VELSHI: Tighten your belt elsewhere. If you can't meet your payments generally, don't miss the mortgage. That's the one you don't want to miss because the other things you can miss, it will affect your credit. Missing your mortgage could trigger a bunch of things that you don't want to deal with.

ROMANS: All right. We will leave that there for now.

But up next on YOUR MONEY, why the price of oil, well you hear that price on the news, but it doesn't always determine what you'll pay at the pump. We'll tell you why.


ROMANS: The International Energy Agency said on Friday the need for more OPEC oil is growing. Growing demand should mean higher prices but oil prices actually dropped almost 10 percent in the last week.

VELSHI: About the only thing that's dropping although gasoline prices are dropping, too, providing some relief for drivers. But I've got to tell you, we constantly talk about what oil prices or gas prices are going to do this month or before Labor Day. I don't need that information. I need to know what gas or oil prices look like six months down the road.

ROMANS: Joining us now is Tom Kloza he is the chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service. He doesn't know what's happening tomorrow or the next day with oil price and gas prices. But he does want to know what is going on down the road. So are they going down? Is this the economy going to weaken because of all this nonsense we are seeing in the marker and we are going to reduced demand or is demand going to continue to go up?

TOM KLOZA, OIL PRICE INFORMATION SERVICE: I think demand will continue to go up but very modestly. We are up about 1 percent this year on gasoline. It's about the average you go, too, from year to year. I think if you like big swings and if you like low prices in the fall and the winter and high prices in the spring and summer, that's what you're going to continue to get at least for the next year. Before 2008, it changes quite a bit. We get more refining capacity. There are some big new oil fields that come on and there could be a little bit more downward pressure on prices as we get later in the decades.

ROMANS: If I'm an American consumer and I don't care about the intraday fundamentals of the oil market but I just need to know if I have to pay more to heat my house this winter or pay more to fill up my car. We know mortgage prices are going up. We know some food prices are going up. Are we going to see in my family budget my energy costs going up?

KLOZA: If you use heating oil you're going to see them go up quite a bit. Natural gas probably is not as bad as it was a couple of years ago. But heating oil prices the Energy Information Administration came out and said about $2.85 this winter. It could spike over $3 very briefly. So that is going to be a sore spot. You know the one thing about the oil markets is that the products that are coming into season, in the spring for gasoline and the fall for heating oil, is the product that goes bananas in the futures market. I don't suspect that that will change.

VELSHI: Let's talk about gas prices over the long term, meaning the long term that allows me to make a decision about whether I keep my truck or I buy a Toyota Prius. I want to know sort of five years out, between now and five years, what do you think we're seeing with gasoline prices? KLOZA: I think the numbers that we've seen in the last couple of years and where we're at about $1.1 billion, $1.2 billion a day for gasoline. I think these are going to be looked upon as sort of more the extremes than the norms in the next few years. Later in the decade prices will moderate. But I still think it's a good thing to use less. And it is a good thing to make responsible choices and choices with integrity, not that you wouldn't, when you buy a car. If you want to go buy a big mobile or what ever as opposed to ...

VELSHI: If gas prices are cheap, I must say honestly, I -- I think the American psyche is to buy a nice, big truck because we love the road or a nice big vehicle. The CEO of Ford said this just last week, that Americans don't want to buy these small cars. Some do. But as a rule, we don't.

KLOZA: Right. But, again, I think if you look at it long term, eventually, we have to use less. That's part of the answer. Somewhere in the political dialogue, you're going to have to have someone that asks people to sacrifice. You know, if the price of beef is cheap, that doesn't mean we all should go out and get 20 ounce steaks. We have to recognize that it's part of our duty, really, to use it a little bit more modestly. I mean, China and India and some of these other countries, they're going to be using a lot more energy. They'll probably leapfrog to the better technologies but we need to be just a little bit more conservative in the way we use fuel as well.

ROMANS: You said something interesting. Eventually we have to use less. It's been eventually we have to use less for 30 years. When is eventually, I guess?

KLOZA: We'll use less if we get a recession. That's one thing for sure. This is a macro economic business. And we will use less if we get a recession and that will probably put things more into the toilet. I think it would be responsible to use less without that. There's some easy things we can do. I always look at 15 and 16-year- old kids driving across the country. The teenage brain isn't formed by that point. You never hear anybody talking about, well; maybe they shouldn't drive at that age. There's some modest things we can do to be a little bit more frugal and energy conservation.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks so much, Tom Kloza, chief analyst, Oil Price Information Service. Thank you, sir.

KLOZA: Take care.

VELSHI: Coming up after the break, why the boss at a big U.S. carmaker thinks it might be a good thing for you to pay more at the pump. We'll have that when we come back.


VELSHI: Jennifer Westhoven join us now. I'm sure you heard the last conversation we had with Tom Kloza saying someone has to ask Americans to sacrifice a little bit in order to conserve gas. We've actually got to do something that's going to hurt us a little bit.

ROMANS: We heard from Ford CEO kind of echoing the theme a little bit.

JENNIFER WESTHOVEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, but woe to the politician who asks the American to sacrifice a little. This was a real big surprise in Detroit. Some people said, boy, this guy is obviously new here when Ford CEO Allen Mallaly said earlier this week a higher federal gas tax, European style is worth discussing and he said it might even change our collective driving habits.

Now Detroit, that really took them by surprise because that's historically been seen as bad for car sales. What Mallaly's trying to do here is get the pressure off of Detroit. Right now Congress's big drive to cut our gas conception has really been under Detroit's shoulders. You know it has been demanding more efficient cars, and Mallaly is worried that that could destroy his company. So he's just looking for some other possibility out there.

VELSHI: We were just talking about this in the commercial break. Where does the responsibility lie? On Detroit to make more fuel efficient cars or on governments to tax people for driving and spending more on gas?

WESTHOVEN: Which in turn means it's our responsibility because we're paying for it.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, Richard Branson news this week. Virgin America. And was that a flight delay on -- I'm not sure.

VELSHI: First morning, first flight out of JFK was the day we had the tornado in -- they wanted -- it was taking off from New York and Los Angeles. Tell us the story.

WESTHOVEN: Well, I'm not going to get into the flight takeoff. But the story with the new airline is that after years of fighting with the U.S. government, Virgin America finally took its maiden flight. It is mixing up cool and cheap. So for a different fare you get all the bells and whistles that Branson always promised. Leather seats, satellite TV, mood lighting, video games and even text chatting with that cute flier a few rows ahead of you. He's always got a little bit of flirting going on. But the success really here could ride on; could he keep prices down and make money? I know I've been on the San Francisco leg and they needed some competition.

VELSHI: Yes, although nobody thinks that these absolute bargain basement prices that people are seeing right now are going to last but maybe people like the experience.

WESTHOVEN: They want to get into the Las Vegas market, too. There's a lot of competition there. It would have to be really cool.

ROMANS: Another story this week that I know Ali must have been fired up about. This is that Nardelli getting a plum new turnaround job.

VELSHI: This is former Home Depot CEO, Bob Nardelli who -- someone will e-mail me for saying this, is the poster child for the overpaid CEO. WESTHOVEN: If he had hair, it would be on fire.

VELSHI: I thought when this guy was done with Home Depot in January he'd find it hard to get another job. But apparently not.

WESTHOVEN: No, a name infamous in some corporate circles and of course Bob Nardelli, former CEO of Home Depot now being put in at the top job over at Chrysler. That of course is probably really frightening to some of the workers there. The stock price at Home Depot languished on his watch but he took home big checks and just to give investors an extra kick on the way out, he got more than $200 million check.

VELSHI: Unbelievable! He should have been shown the door and a bus ticket. And he got $200 million; he got $20 million in cash. He made more money on the day he got fired in cash than you will ever make in your entire life for driving down the stock price of that company over the six years that he was in charge. And now he has a new job. Try -- make that decision when you buy your car next time.

WESTHOVEN: Here is the serious start ...

ROMANS: He's taking like a $1 paycheck, right?

VELSHI: He never gets to, paid again a day in his life. I could take a $1 paycheck, too, if I got that kind of deal.

WESTHOVEN: If I were arguing for the guys at Cerberus. I'm not arguing this. They want someone that knows that is the GE way and they don't care where he came from and they don't care what happened to him at Home Depot. They want what he did with manufacturing; they want him to do that over at Chrysler.

VELSHI: He wasn't a particularly good retailer. I need a big book or video on Sigmund and I could get a job. I enjoy my job very much actually, even without the $20 million paycheck.

WESTHOVEN: I will never make a paycheck his size.

ROMANS: I knew that Nardelli story would cause him that.

VELSHI: I thought it was great that Jennifer was handling that story. But the bottom line is ...

ROMANS: All right. Jennifer Westhoven, Ali will go take a break. Do some yoga here. Thanks guys.

All right. Coming up on YOUR MONEY, we'll look at what it will cost to update our nation's roads, bridges and tunnels.

And later, you know Ali is a great guy, but he just won't put down that Blackberry, even during dinner, even during my reads. We're going to give him a crash course here on electronic etiquette, Velshi.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield with these top stories. We're awaiting word from Utah where rescue crews may begin lowering that camera deep into the Crandall Canyon Mine any moment now or perhaps they have done so but have yet to update us on what's taking place in their ongoing search for the six men who were inside the mine when it caved in on Monday.

A space walk is continuing at this hour outside the International Space Station. "Endeavour" astronauts are installing, as you see in these live pictures, a spacer between two of the arrays that generate power. Later they'll do some work involving a radiator panel on the top of this space shuttle space station.

President Bush plays host to the new French President Nicolas Sarkozy who took off three months ago, has been vacationing in New England. He visited the Bush family home in Kennebunkport, Maine today for lunch and a little discussion as well.

Coming up at the top of the hour, the "CNN Newsroom" with the latest on the rescue efforts at the Utah mine. Now back to more of YOUR MONEY.

ROMANS: After the Minneapolis bridge collapse, the governor of that state is considering raising taxes to repair roads.

VELSHI: Now, it's an idea that other states might want to consider. Here's Mary Snow with the story.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A change of heart following disaster. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty now says he'll consider raising the state's gas tax to pay for road and bridge repairs. It's an idea the Republican governor has vetoed twice. But after the Minneapolis bridge collapse, a spokesman for the governor says, all funding options are on the table. It's welcome news to a Democratic state lawmaker who has been pushing for the tax for road repairs. Still, he says, it should have happened sooner.

STEVE MURPHY, (D) MINN. STATE SENATOR: That's what I'm outraged about. We should have never gotten to this point. And we should have never gotten to the point in the country where we're at.

SNOW: But the move comes with a price. The governor hasn't put an estimate on any proposed gas tax but some say it could cost drivers in Minnesota more $700 a year.

MURPHY: This is going to cost them, say, $750 more a year that just means that they can't have that Starbucks coffee five times a week. They'll have to cut down to one or two. And people will have to make some sacrifices in their budget.

SNOW: Many states are looking for alternatives to the ever unpopular gas tax. In Oregon there's a pilot program to tax drivers according to the mileage they drive in the state. In Indiana, a revenue-generating idea tested was leasing a toll road to a private entity.

MATT SUNDEEN, NATL, CONFERENCE OF STATE LEGISLATURE: I think Minnesota taught us that a lot of states have infrastructure problems. And we need to invest a lot of money into the transportation infrastructure.

SNOW: And there's an urgency to find that money to invest since many states spent money on new projects and not repairs and now they're facing shortfalls.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


VELSHI: Now, the bridge collapse probably has you thinking about the condition of the infrastructure where you live.

ROMANS: And it's one thing to just identify the problems. It's quite another thing to pay for the keeping of the bridges, the tunnels and the roads. And are they safe the way we're maintaining them? Joining us now is Kate Ascher, the author of the book "The Works: Anatomy of a City." Welcome to the program.


ROMANS: You say we're living in yesterday's city today. We have a lot of very old infrastructure that we spend a lot of money just to repair the older it gets.

ASCHER: Right. It is old infrastructure. It's not bad infrastructure, its just infrastructure that needs maintenance. The problems come in when you don't maintain it and then it can't sustain itself without that kind of injection of capital regularly.

VELSHI: How bad is it? Have we gotten past the point where we really need a lot of replacement of roads and bridges and tunnels or is it maintenance?

ASCHER: Well, I think some of it is maintenance but what we're suffering is the lack of maintenance in the past. If we had maintained them properly we probably wouldn't need to replace as many as we need to now. It's really both, it is replacement and it's ongoing maintenance as well so we don't have to replace as much in the future.

ROMANS: The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates $1.6 trillion to fix everything up, all our infrastructure problems, dams, roads, tunnels. We did a little bit of math, that's about $5,000 for every man, woman and child in America. That is an awful lot of money. Politicians don't win elections by saying; you're not going to notice anything I'm going to do but it's going to cost you a lot of money.

ASCHER: You know that estimate is a very big number, but it's made up of lots of component pieces. I think if you look into it you'll see some of the types of infrastructure that they're gearing monies towards are really important to you and me every day. Other things are things that could be handled better by the private sector, they would be invested in better so I think you really want to get past the big number and start looking at the components.

VELSHI: That discussion, the private sector that has come up a few times, the idea of having private companies run roads and bridges and tunnels and things like that. How practical is that and where has it worked?

ASCHER: Well it has worked overseas, I mean if you look at places in Asia and Europe, I think in the UK about 15 percent of the roads and bridges have been privatized, they are toll brides, they are toll roads. I mean it certainly worked in Latin America. It's worked in a number of places. It's been the political environment that's not here. The politics is so complicated nobody has been able to get it off the ground.

ROMANS: When people are asked if they're worried that a bridge they might drive across might collapse, they're not very worried, only about 31 percent are worried. When they're worried that a bridge somewhere in the U.S. might collapse, then more than half think that well somewhere in the world. I guess when we have a bridge collapse like we had in Minnesota and people are killed, do we see a rise in concern about taking -- and translates into spending money and taking care of infrastructure?

ASCHER: I think you will but not because of the people that are going over the bridge, because of the politicians. Because you've already seen in the past week how many politicians have risen to the occasion, I don't want to cynical to make political capital out of it but because they genuinely feel like now is the time after this bridge collapsed to allocate some money for infrastructure going forward. I think you'll see it allocated and then of course you will see it dwindle away in the future if we don't have another steam break or bridge collapse.

VELSHI: Kate Ascher, so good to talk to you. Kate Ascher is the author of "The Works: ANATOMY OF A CITY:" A book I depend on a great deal actually to just understand infrastructure.

ASCHER: Thank you.

VELSHI: Coming up ahead on YOUR MONEY, why you could owe big cash for catching a record-breaking baseball from the moment it lands in your hand. Stay with us.


ROMANS: Talk about 15 minutes of fame, Matt Murphy, a college student from Queens, New York, made headlines this week after snagging Barry Bonds' 756th home run ball. It broke the all-time record previously held by Hank Aaron.

VELSHI: I would not go anywhere near that ball if it were coming toward me in the stadium. I would do one of these.

ROMANS: Me too, in fact ...

VELSHI: Because everybody is going to be going for that ball. ROMANS: I don't know what it looks like at the bottom of one of those scrums but I'm pretty sure no amount of money in the world I'd want to be down there.

VELSHI: This ball was going to be worth a lot of money. Murphy says he's going to be smart about what he does with the ball. He's going to give 49 percent of what it deals to the friend he went to the game with. Sounds like a good financial plan, that is until the IRS comes knocking.

ROMANS: I'm going to give it to the IRS after I give it to my friend or before my friend, not quite sure. Grant Sandground is here to explain all this; he is the senior price guide editor of Beckett Media, a sports collectible publisher. Thank you for joining us.


ROMANS: OK, first off your best guess, what in the world is this ball probably worth? And, yeah, I guess Uncle Sam is going to get a payday if he sells it.

SANDGROUND: That's true. Even if he doesn't sell it, Uncle Sam may get a payday. The industry experts, some of the leaders at the auction house that buy and sell this type of high end sports memorabilia on regular bases are pretty unanimous pegging the value of the ball around $500,000.

VELSHI: Hold on a second. Did you just say the IRS might get a piece of it even if he doesn't sell it?

SANDGROUND: That's what I've been hearing, yeah. It's -- for a long time, it's sort of been a gray area with taxation on some of these valuable baseballs that have been hit into the stands over the past five or ten years. And I think the IRS is kind of getting a little more finite with how they want to judge this stuff, whether it's a $12 ball or whether it's estimated value of a $500,000 ball.

VELSHI: Or the ball that Mark McGuire, I guess it's 70th in the season 1998, $3 million for that ball. Wow, because I don't think the kid from Queens necessarily has -- I don't know. I don't know anything about him but I wonder if he has the money to pay for that.

SANDGROUND: You're right, I would question if he does have $150,000 or $200,000 to pay the taxes because they're discussing a tax rate as high as 35 percent on that ball even if he keeps it. And that's been a problem with a lot of people that have kind of gotten valuable home run balls or there was a t-206 Wagner card that Wal-Mart gave away in 1996. The recipient, a lady named Patricia Gibbs had to pretty much immediately put that card up for auction because she couldn't handle the taxes either.

ROMANS: You mentioned the $3 million ball, the Mark McGuire ball, are we not going to see those kinds of numbers again? Has it changed, that frothy market comes down a bit? SANDGROUND: Well it really hasn't come down because what you saw with McGuire's ball was a complete anomaly in a very healthy upward move in market. What happened was and Todd McFarland, he was the comic book and toy figure magnate that purchased the ball for $3 million; he's gone on the record saying it would have sold for $1.3 million if it wasn't him and another bidder just going crazy bidding that up to the higher level. But even $1.3 million represents is a high watermark for some of these game-used, game event baseballs. But the industry itself has had a long history of these baseballs having values in the hundreds of thousands of dollars level.

VELSHI: I was at a Yankees game the other day and there was a game-used ball signed by some guy. I got to tell you I've never heard of. And it was $500 bucks.

ROMANS: Really?

VELSHI: The interesting thing here is that with Barry Bonds, home run 756 and 757, until you know it's the last one, that's going to be a new record. So it's not worth as much just because he beat this record. Would you agree with me?

SANDGROUND: Ali, that's a great point. Yes, absolutely. What a lot of the auction houses are saying is that the be all end all Bonds ball is going to be his last ball. I will tell you what McFarland has gone on the record saying he's ready to go all in bidding on the last home run ball.

VELSHI: Yes, a number of collectors have said that is the one we will go heavy on. So that will be the thing to watch. But as you say, it's like a market. You don't know that that's the last ball until Barry Bonds tells you it's the last ball.

SANDGROUND: That's correct. And we don't know what it's going to sell for because nobody would have estimated $3 million would have been the price tag for the McGuire ball.

ROMANS: One last question with an asterisk, if there is an asterisk next to his name, steroid allegations. Does that do anything to the value of the ball?

SANDGROUND: Absolutely, it does. That's a good point. Because when everyone is pegging the value of this current 756 ball around $500,000, the reason it's not even higher than that is because of two reasons. Not just the steroid allegations. It's also the nature of Bonds' character being seen as kind of a surly guy. If this is he this was Cal Ripken or just a beloved national figure that hit the ball, you could assume that ball would be worth a significant amount of money.

ROMANS: All right. Grant Sandground, senior price guide editor, Beckett Media. Thank you for joining us.

SANDGROUND: You are very welcome.

VELSHI: Well coming up on YOUR MONEY, what you're really saying when you tack on a cell phone or type a message on your Blackberry. Christine tells me I'm going to get an etiquette lesson when I come back because she doesn't think I should do this.


VELSHI: You know, people think -- and I'm glad they do, that we -- because we're friends, that we really do spend a lot of time together. But we don't get to. In fact, very rarely do Christine and I get to sit down. We were together the other night having a lovely dinner and I was on the Blackberry.

ROMANS: He was. I was having dinner with Ali and his Blackberry. Cell phones, Blackberries, PDA's, I-phones, the list of gadgets available to distract you from your present company.

VELSHI: I wasn't looking for a distraction really. It was work. It's a 24/7 job.

ROMANS: I'm sorry. It's a nice restaurant. There was a linen tablecloth and Ali's. Anyway, our next guest joins us now to teach us -- to teach Ali some text etiquette. Harriette Cole is creative director on "Ebony" Magazine. An etiquette expert.

VELSHI: I'm just going to take notes. Not e-mailing, I'm just taking notes.

ROMANS: Oh come on. Is it ever OK to be sitting at dinner and working on your Blackberry when you're having dinner with other people?

HARRIETTE COLE, ETIQUETTE EXPERT: Oh boy, I want to say it's never OK but there are a couple of exceptions. If the babysitter is calling and you know there might be an emergency. If there's an emergency at work and you let people know in advance, I might be receiving a very important call or message. In those circumstances, it's OK. But even then, as soon as the call comes in, you excuse yourself, get up from the table, take care of it and come right back. But leaving all of your electronics on the table during dinner, especially a fancy dinner. Come on. That's not very nice.

VELSHI: It was only a mildly fancy dinner. All right. You know what. What you need is a little bit -- I'm sure I need something akin to therapy, because I feel very, very attached to my electronic devices. I feel sort of out of contact. I'm sure it's not just bad habits. It's the sense of attachment we have to always being reachable and reached.

COLE: Remember when we didn't have these things. So the challenge is balancing technology with our own humanity. And, really, that means who's in front of you? The living being in front of you needs to be more important than the communication that's happening from afar. And I'm like you. I have two electronic devices. I often have them with me. People joke about when is she ever going to put it down. So I have to remind myself on a regular basis.

And I think this is what we all to do about what is the most important thing that's happening? It should be what you're doing in the present moment. It becomes almost like an addiction. We are so accustomed to having these, they become appendages of ourselves. And we need to reel ourselves back in and figure out what is more important. If you want to be in a relationship, you need to make that relationship a priority. You know, it's funny. My husband used to tell me, I'd be talking on the cell phone coming home from work, open the door, still on the cell phone. I'm thinking I'm efficient; I'm going to finish my call, put the phone down and be with my family. He said, you're coming home and you're still working. I can't even greet you because you're on the phone. So it's that balance. When he told me that, I said OK. And then I have to remind myself. This is what we all need to do. Remind ourselves of the people in our lives who are important, who are right there in front of us first. They deserve first priority.

ROMANS: I think people don't realize that when they're using something like that, that they are distracted and that they have just, like, shut the other person out because it's just them and whoever they're talking to at the end of that connection. You say not in the place of worship, not on a date. Don't do it like in a movie theater, don't even send text messages when you're in a crowded event because even though you think you're just doing it, it is distracting to other people.

COLE: It is. A text message if you're in the park or something, that's fine. If you are at the opera or at the movies, people can hear it.

ROMANS: One last minute. You're in a meeting with your boss and other people. Do you turn it off? Do you put it on the table? Do you not even have it anywhere? Is it important when you're with your superiors, to make sure they have your undivided attention?

COLE: I think with your boss, you leave it in your office and don't take it in the room. The only thing that would make that different is if your boss has established that you should have it with you at all times. But even then, yours should be turned off, on vibrate. And you don't respond to it if you're in a conversation with your boss. You're responding to your boss.

ROMANS: Harriette Cole, etiquette expert. Thank you very much. I just won ten bucks.

COLE: Thank you.

VELSHI: We didn't bet. You did know you were the most important person at that dinner.

ROMANS: Tell me again.

VELSHI: I'm sorry for being distracted and I'll take this to heart and try to change.

ROMANS: It wasn't that big of a deal but it got me thinking there are people who use technology a lot.

VELSHI: I certainly do. If you are kind enough to tell me about it, someone else may not have been.

Still to come, the story of one retiree who is giving back in her new life after work. Stay with us.


ROMANS: In the event of disasters like last week's bridge collapse in Minnesota, search and rescue teams are often the key to locating survivors.

VELSHI: Now in this week's "Life after Work," we met one retiree who is training from first responders that know what it's like to be rescued.


WILMA MELVILLE, FOUNDER, NATURAL DISASTER SEARCH DOG FOUNDATION: Move just a little at a time. That's easy. Slow him down.

VELSHI (voice over): Wilma Melville is a rescuer, saving dogs so they can save people.

MELVILLE: The Search Dogs Foundations mission is to provide the most highly trained canine firefighter disaster search teams to the nation.

VELSHI: Melville is a 73-year-old retired phys. ed. teacher who after training her dog in search and rescue discovered an alarming fact after an early assignment.

MELVILLE: It was shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing where my dog, Murphy and I, were sent. We were a FEMA advance certified team and I recognized that 15 or so canine search teams for the nation will not do. In training and even in deployments ...

VELSHI: So she started an academy to boost that number.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've got to be a little careful with this.

VELSHI: The process begins with a rescue.

MELVILLE: The Search Dog Foundation finds its dogs at shelters or among breed rescue groups. And it's just like going to the trash heap and coming away with a prize. Because those dogs have a limited amount of time to be adopted. And if they're not adopted, very often they are euthanized.


VELSHI: Once a dog is found, it goes into six to eight months of training before being partnered with a handler.

MELVILLE: The responsibility of the dog is to search the area that the handler is given. And hopefully locate live human scent, do the bark alert. VELSHI: Melville's graduates have assisted rescue operations at the World Trade Center after the 9/11 and in New Orleans following hurricane Katrina.

MELVILLE: It was fascinating to be able to use a dog for such a worthy cause. Find a person who is likely unconscious after a disaster. And there she goes. I mean, I am really taken with that notion that it would be a terrible thing for that person to be left behind.


VELSHI: What a great story, she's taking dogs she helped and she is giving them a bit of a new lease on life and she is helping people in a way that is very unusual. That's a great story.

Well thank you for joining us for this edition of YOUR MONEY. You can catch Christine later today at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "Lou Dobbs This Week."

ROMANS: And you can see Ali every weekday morning on "American Morning." We will see you back here next week.

VELSHI: Saturday at 1:00 and Sunday at 3:00. Make a note in your Blackberry.


WHITFIELD: Families in Utah are waiting for word on the fate of their loved ones and efforts to rescue those six trapped miners. Hello I'm Fredricka Whitfield and you are in THE NEWSROOM. Where we continue to follow this breaking news at this hour. Anxious hours in Huntington, Utah. Rescue workers drilled the second larger hole into the Crandall Canyon Mine earlier today. They said they were getting ready to send a camera down that hole to search for the six missing miners. We are still waiting for further word on that effort with the camera.

CNN's Kara Finnstrom and Ed Lavandera are both in Huntington with the very latest. Ed, let's begin with you.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Fredricka, just a few moments ago, Bob Murray the co-owner of the Crandall Canyon Mine returned back here to the school where families have been gathering after their initial meeting here this morning.