Return to Transcripts main page
Job Losses; Job Fairs; Coca-Cola; Copenhagen; Health Insurance Coverage; Ben Bernanke's Confirmation Hearing
Aired December 05, 2009 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALI VELSHI, CNN HOST, YOUR MONEY (voice over): 2009, the year of the job loss. But don't despair; from coast to coast we know where the jobs are.
The countdown to Copenhagen and the biggest climate conference in history, 11 days, more than 170 countries. But if a deal gets done, what does it mean for you? We're breaking down the real cost of climate change.
And call 911 for health care. Why millions of Americans could soon lose coverage. Find out if it's Washington to the rescue.
Get ready to get fired up. It's time to talk YOUR MONEY.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Welcome to YOUR MONEY. I'm Ali Velshi. A little good news to kick off the holiday season, unemployment is down in America. America lost 11,000 jobs in November that is the lowest monthly job loss since December of 2007, the month that the recession began. Take a look at 2009; look at the jobs lost each month this year. In January, 741,000 jobs lost, and every month it's been getting a little better. We had a bit of a blip between May and June, but otherwise we have been having fewer and fewer jobs lost every month until we get to November. Take a look at this, the latest month for which we have numbers.
You can hardly see it there. Only 11,000 jobs lost in November. Now, the unemployment rate fell, just a smidge, to 10 percent. It was 10.2 percent a month earlier. But hold on a minute, there's still a long way to go before we actually get people back to work, which is what we have to do.
Lakshman Achuthan is the managing director of the Economic Cycle Research Institute; Leigh Gallagher is the senior editor at "Fortune," welcome to both of you. It's a little good news; we shouldn't really get carried away with it. It's a great trend, but in this economy, people like you always tell us, we actually have to be creating jobs, probably more than 100,000 a month, to really start affecting change in the economy.
LAKSHMAN ACHUTHAN, MANAGING DIR., ECONOMIC CYCLE RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Absolutely, and underneath these net numbers there's a lot of jobs being gained and others being lost, and net, net, we're down 11,000 when you count it all up. If you look at the household survey, we're growing more than 200,000 on overall jobs. I think as you're pointing out, the trend is key here. These numbers will actually change.
They'll be revised again, but the trend is very much in place. We went from bleeding jobs very quickly at the beginning of the year to now just about flat. Very importantly, one of the biggest things I think about this week's report is that we're seeing nonmanufacturing employment grow.
ACHUTHAN: You have 30,000 jobs added outside of the manufacturing sector, that's where more than 90 percent of Americans work. That's really important.
VELSHI: Let's break that down a little bit by looking at the industries which have gained jobs in this report. Professional and business services is one of the big gainers. Now, for people who don't sort of follow this, we are largely a service economy now.
VELSHI: We do a lot of this stuff. So that's good. That means business is being done, 86,000 jobs net created in professional business services. Health care has been one of the leaders for the last -- through the whole recession. We have not seen losses in that area, 21,000 jobs created, education another big gainer in the area, 11,000 jobs created there. But you did mention those job losses and the leader for, I don't know how many years it's been, the leading job loss industry has been manufacturing in this country.
We lost 41,000 jobs there, 27,000 lost in construction and 14,500 in retail. Those are some large numbers. Lee, this is important to remember, that there are jobs gained and jobs lost and we're just losing less overall.
LEIGH GALLAGHER, SR. EDITOR, "FORTUNE:" That's absolutely true. I do think there's an important psychological impact to this number as well. Don't forget, jobs have been the single biggest overhang in the economy for years now. And it's true, while we have some jobs gained, we have a lot of sectors are losing their jobs and some jobs are not going to come back, in the auto sector, manufacturing. These are jobs that are lost forever. And we still have millions of people who are unemployed. So I think while the number is great, I think, you know, we're not out of it yet, its one month. We have to see a trend first.
GALLAGHER: And you have people that are looking for jobs for much longer than in typical recessions and, you know, hours are coming back a little bit, but it's going to be a long time before we're out of the woods. And people can't borrow their way through joblessness anymore.
VELSHI: You talk about the time that people have been unemployed. That is important it is not just a sheer number, I think we all sort of agree we steer people away from the 10 percent unemployment number. It's not as relevant as what is happening in terms of jobs being lost or how many people are actually unemployed. Take a look at the breakdown of people who are unemployed. The number of people, who have been unemployed for more than 6 months, 27 weeks or over, has now increased to 5.9 million. That's more than a third of all of the people unemployed right now, 38 percent have been unemployed for more than six months, a very small proportion have just been recently unemployed. What does that mean Lakshman? What's the consequents of that?
ACHUTHAN: Look, it's the great recession. It's the longest recession that we've seen since World War II. It's much more severe. There are permanent job losses that have occurred inside of this recession. All of those things add up to people, who lost jobs at the beginning of the recession which started in December of '07, right, they've fallen off the rolls.
VELSHI: And according to you and other economists, the recession is probably over.
ACHUTHAN: The recession is over. This report should push back a lot of doubters on the fact that there is actually a recovery; they are always saying where the jobs and now we're showing the jobs. But we've lost well over 7 million jobs. We're recovering. It does not mean we've recovered. It will take years to get those jobs back, and I don't think the unemployment rate is going to come down as fast as some people are hoping.
VELSHI: Leigh, this week the president at his jobs summit was discussing the extension of unemployment benefits, this is an issue because of what you just brought up, the long-term unemployed. Tell me about that.
GALLAGHER: I think that is a really important because the length of which people are unemployed is so long, the benefits are really important, because it prevents people from slipping into poverty in some cases. Once you do that, it sets off a whole cataclysmic effect that lasts forever.
VELSHI: But it doesn't help the underlying problem, and that is we've still have got to create more jobs. Are we seeing enough being done on that front?
GALLAGHER: It doesn't, but that was the point of the summit this week, I think at least to show publicly that the president is taking a step in the right direction, because this is a big, big deal. I think, you know, it remains to be seen what ideas actually came out of the meeting this week. We'll see. But, you know, I think it's a step in the right direction. I think, you know, the president is looking toward the private sector. You know, when are you guys going to start creating jobs?
VELSHI: That's the reality. Right Lakshman? The job growth really does need to come from the private sector, I'm not even sure that summits help, because it is the economy causes jobs to be created.
ACHUTHAN: Absolutely, it's the economy, it is the private sector, and Washington doesn't have that much control. Although I was looking through data about the regional job growth and the one strong spot of jobs growth in this country for many months has been Washington, D.C. Go figure. But everywhere else it's slowly starting to stabilize.
VELSHI: In a free market economy we don't love the idea that the government is the biggest employer.
ACHUTHAN: It's a poor joke here, OK? What the real issue is is the overall business cycle. If we want to see the unemployment rate down to full employment, say, 5 percent or even closer to where it was before this recession began, you're going to have to have an expansion like you had in the 1990s. That was a ten-year expansion.
ACHUTHAN: That is what you need to have if you want to create the number of jobs to bring those numbers back.
VELSHI: And really, we're not -- there's nobody who's predicting that.
ACHUTHAN: Not that I know of.
VELSHI: We're all thinking that the recession's over and there's going to be some growth at some point, but we're not sure we're going gangbusters in the next few years.
ACHUTHAN: Not that I can see. But to be fair in the early '90s no one thought it would be a ten-year expansion either. .
VELSHI: We are going to wait for the new internet or alternative energy, something of that nature. Leigh good to talk to you, we'll see you a little later.
GALLAGHER: Thank you.
VELSHI: Lakshman always a pleasure to talk to you.
Planning a job in this economy as we know is difficult if you're older and unemployed it even gets harder. So the next thing we're going to talk to you about is how you can go about your job search in a very different way.
VELSHI: If you go to a regular job fair you're likely to get lost in the crowd. Go to a meeting of the Long Island Breakfast Club in West Hempstead, New York, and you're treated like a rock star even if you're over 40 and unemployed. Landing a job is the ultimate prize there, but the way the club and its members go about that it's kind of neat. Christine Romans paid them a visit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Are you ready? Are you ready? Let's get it on! CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST, YOUR MONEY: This isn't "fight night" but there's no pulling punches either.
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): You are unique, and you are a warrior. Get up and move forward. Go after that job.
ROMANS: Landing a job is the ultimate goal here at the Long Island Breakfast Club, but the way they go about it --
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Arrgh!
ROMANS: Is, well, different.
CHRIS FIDIS, LONG ISLAND BREAKFAST CLUB: Go to a regular job fair and most of those things are stuffy. They are one-sided and narrow minded and they want you to feel, OK, this is what you did wrong. Makes you feel like you have a climb a mountain. Here you don't have to climb a mountain. Just be yourself.
ROMANS: For example, Jim Altamore, construction manager turned professional singer.
JIM ALTAMORE, TURNED HOBBY INTO SECOND JOB: Take a look at your hobbies, your passions, because they could become an income stream for you. I've got the world on a string.
ROMANS: The Long Island Breakfast Club was started by a small group of friends who mid career suddenly found themselves out of work and seemingly unemployable.
VALENTINA JANEK, LONG ISLAND BREAKFAST CLUB: We were so experienced that we had felt that we were a product of age discrimination and that we couldn't get beyond the brick wall. There were some days where we needed a lot of support from each other.
ROMANS: That was three years ago. The unique approach of networking, counseling support and laughing has helped grow the club to more than 800 members today; they say 102 of them have found jobs.
This is a nice resume.
ROMANS: Maryellen Shpak is among those still looking.
MARYELLEN SHPAK, JOINED JOB CLUB FOR SUPPORT: Because the stock market took such a hit. The amount of income that we thought we were going to get was a lot less.
ROMANS: How much less?
SHPAK: Like, we were afraid to touch it.
ROMANS: Oh, wow. Huge losses forced Maryellen out of early retirement at 53 to start working again or so she thought.
SHPAK: There were no jobs. ROMANS: So, she connected with the Breakfast Club, and although she's still looking for work, the club and its members have at least helped her stay positive.
SHPAK: You jest get involved with people who are in your situation and people who were in your situation and have become successful.
(UNIDENTIFED FEMALE): How many people in the room are employed? That is great. OK.
ROMANS: Maryellen hopes she, too, will soon be putting her hand up, but for now with the help of the Long Island Breakfast Club, she's at least keeping her spirits up.
Christine Romans, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: And we're so happy to report that since we first met Maryellen, she has found a job, although it's only temporary. She's working as a consultant for her old company right now.
Job clubs could be one way to go if you are looking for work, but connecting with the right one is important, here to tell us how, Tory Johnson, she is the CEO of Women for Hire and the author of "Fired to Hire." Tory good to see you again, thank you for being with us.
TORY JOHNSON, CEO, WOMEN FOR HIRE: Thanks for having me.
VELSHI: I heard about this club before and it sort of sent shivers down my spine, in a good way. This is people who are not going there to gripe about their situation. They're really trying to be productive and find a way out of it and help everybody else out of the situation. Is it practical and does it really work?
JOHNSON: Absolutely it works. Absolutely it's practical, and I think having a designated person to say, this is not a grave session, because before you know it your hour is up if all you do is sit around and complain and I think it is really important that job clubs are a place to be positive and to encourage accountability and camaraderie and support among everybody. Maybe you have your ten seconds where we go around the circle and everyone gets to say sort of the one thing that didn't happen this week, but the rest of it has to be spent on very positive conversation.
VELSHI: It seems obvious if you're looking for a job, you join a job club. Who really benefits from this?
JOHNSON: Anybody who participates, so a lot of the job clubs that I have helped to form include a mix of people who have jobs and maybe are a little bit concerned --
VELSHI: When I saw that, when she said how many people are employed and a bunch of people put their hands up so why are you at a job club? But you could be looking for a new career. JOHNSON: You could be having a part-time job and you're concerned that it will not be full time, so people who are not only unemployed, but underemployed this is a great place for them to be. Somebody who is returning to the workplace after time off, somebody who is concerned that they are not so sure how things are going at their own place of employment and then there are people who have been helped by job clubs, who choose to stick around to pay it forward. Those are the people who hopefully continue to raise their hands saying, yes, and are helping others.
VELSHI: The uniform -- you've studied this a lot. You really got into the idea of job clubs back in 2006.
JOHNSON: I did. Because I know that they really work. I think it's very difficult to job search on your own. I think it's incredibly difficult.
VELSHI: But is this networking or is it support? Which is it?
JOHNSON: It's a little bit of networking, but it's a lot more about job search strategy and accountability. So for example, networking we think everyone gets together and hey, how are you doing and it's a lot of more informal conversation. Job clubs are very specific about we're going to teach you how to job search. We're going to give you leads. We're going to share leads among one another.
VELSHI: What do you mean by accountability?
JOHNSON: Accountability means so I'm going to tell you at the end of this meeting, listen Ali you have to make these three cold calls this week and then keep all of us posted on how those go. You've got to show up at this particular event, even though you don't like going to events and it's difficult to do that on your own, you're going to do this, and next week we expect to hear the results. When you know that everyone is counting on you, when I also tell you, you know what, I want you to come back with a lead for me, you better do some digging and come back and help me. That accountability is what helps get people hired.
VELSHI: One thing you have noticed about job clubs is some of them fizzed just because it's not led properly or it's not structured properly. You've actually created a manual or a guide for people?
JOHNSON: Yes. Waggleforce.com. Waggle is something that bees do honeybees in terms of how they communicate the location of the best resources to everybody else in that hive. That's what job clubs do, help to communicate the best resources. We've laid out on the website who should become a job club leader and how you know if you're really cut out to do that and then ultimately how to help do it.
It's really not just career management professionals that are taking the lead, it is people who are all kinds of, a mortgage broker just contacted me yesterday and said you know what my business is really suffering, but I love the mortgage industry but I want to do something to just get out there and help other people right now, a lot of my customers have lost their homes. I want to be a job club leader. VELSHI: Excellent. Tory thank you for coming and sharing that with us.
VELSHI: Tory Johnson is the CEO of Women for Hire and the author of "Fired to Hire." The website is Waggleforce.com.
Next, he is in charge of one of the biggest, oldest and the most well know brand in the world. And he says if you are simply optimistic about economic recovery, you're thinking too small. We'll give you some insight into how the world is fundamentally changing.
VELSHI: Just in time for the holidays. Taxpayers are going to get a $45 billion check, with a "b." Bank of America is set to return the entire $45 billion it received in federal bailout money. Some people suggest the move is motivated by a desire to get out from under the government's restrictions on executive pay, because Bank of America is searching for a new chief executive.
AIG also took steps to pay back its T.A.R.P. money this week. The New York Fed reduced AIG's debt by $25 billion in exchange for two life insurance companies. However, the insurance giant still owes $62 billion.
Well, Coca-Cola is one of the most recognizable brands in the world, but its namesake soft drink is just the beginning. The Coca-Cola Company sells over 3,000 products in over 200 countries. Last week when I was in Atlanta I met with Coke's CEO Muhtar Kent to get his take on the world of beverages, his very global view on the economy and his concerns about the direction of health care reform. We also talked about what some have called the obesity epidemic in America and whether people should be pointing a finger at Coke and its products.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUHTAR KENT, CHAIRMAN & CEO, COCA-COLA CO: Obesity is a complicated issue that needs to be dealt with. It is as important as sustainability. But it is a complex issue. And it is very wrong to single out a single industry or a single company or a single product and say, that is the cause of obesity. Sugar is contained in multiple products that we eat and drink and consume.
And it is absolutely wrong to suggest that there is a culprit, and it is singled out and there is one single source for the problem. I believe, and I've said it very clearly, that both business and government and civil society need to get together, hold hands, and create the environment for consumers to be aware of the importance of calories in and calories out.
VELSHI (voice over): Let's talk about the experience that Coca-Cola has, and it's really it's a unique company in the exposure you have to so many different parts of the world, which gives you probably some very good sense of where things are going in this economy. Give me a sense of both 2010 in the United States and the rest of the world and what you see happening.
KENT: What we see happening, I think, is countries out there like India, like China, like Indonesia, and many, many others, just to name a few, that are really moving out of this current tsunami, economic tsunami, rapidly. Then you've got Western Europe, United States, I wouldn't necessarily put Australia in that category, because they're also -- they've also weathered the storm very well, but the developed markets of Europe and the United States, much slower recovery. And I believe what we're seeing is in Europe is going to actually trail the United States, Western Europe I'm talking about, but also eastern Europe has its issues.
VELSHI: Obviously Copenhagen is in the news, the idea of climate change and sustainability; I know it's something that you think about a lot at Coke. You've got basically two issues when it comes to sustainability, and one is that you use a lot of packaging, and two is you use a lot of water. How do you deal with these? How do you confront that reality?
KENT: We start from a very simple premise. We say in our world of Coca-Cola, that together with our bottling partners, our total system around the world, that unless we can meaningfully contribute towards creation of sustainable communities around the world and helping to also create a sustainable planet, we will not have a sustainable business. And through that belief, we also believe strongly that we can grow our business, but not our carbon footprint, so that strategic agenda calls for us to become water neutral globally by 2020.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Well it could be history in the making, or it could be a historic dud. Officials for more than 170 countries converge on Copenhagen for a week and a half to try and solve global warming.
VELSHI: This week representatives from all over the world will go to Copenhagen for what could be the biggest climate change conference in history. The goal of the U.N. Conference to create a global climate change agreement that will take over for the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012. Now, before we take on Copenhagen and what it means, it's important to understand Kyoto. Here's CNN Anna Coren.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): More than a decade ago leaders from around the world gather at this building behind me to form what would become the Kyoto Protocol. It' was the first time the international community had come together to tackle the issue of climate change. After ten days of discussion and sometimes heated debate, the treaty was signed on the 11th of December, 1997.
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Decided.
COREN: The agreement called on industrialized nations to cut emissions by an average of about 5 percent by 2012. There were disagreements, but it was viewed as an important move by the international community on climate change. But the treaty failed to gain transaction. The Kyoto Protocol depended heavily on the commitments of the so-called annex one countries who were seen at the time as the biggest polluters.
The United States was responsible for one-third of the world's emissions in 1990. But Washington refused to sign, and other key members, like Australia and Russia delayed passing the treaty. So, the Kyoto Protocol sat idle for eight years, it needed industrialized countries to commit to a global cut of more than half the emissions from 1990 levels.
It was only in 2005, when Russia signed on that the Kyoto Protocol officially came into force. Today, with only three years left on the treaty, the EU is the only major player expected to meet their targets. Another shortcoming of Kyoto was that developing countries, like China, India, and Brazil, weren't required to meet the same cuts. The upcoming Copenhagen Summit was intended to pick up where Kyoto left off. The Copenhagen agreements would reflect a growing awareness about climate change and a new world dynamic.
TIM FLANNERY, ENVIRONMENTALIST: We're seeing a big shift in the politics and in the economics and in the business sentiment around this. I'm quietly confident that we'll get to where we need to get to, and as I put it, we've got every reason to be confident but not a second for complacency.
COREN: But at the recent APEC meeting in Singapore, leaders agreed to finding a successor to Kyoto at Copenhagen would be highly unlikely.
Anna Coren, CNN, Kyoto, Japan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Representatives from more than 170 countries will be in Denmark and some of the most powerful leaders of the world are expected to attend. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and French president Nicholas Sarkozy to name a few.
But a big question is, power players or not, is anything important going to be accomplished in Copenhagen. Howard Gould is an eco entrepreneur and the co-founder of the Clean Economy Network and Patrick Michaels is a senior fellow in environmental studies at the CATO Institute, he's also the author of "Extremes, Global Warming Science They don't want you to know."
Patrick, let's start with you. That's quite a title for the book. What is it that they don't want us to know and has that got something to do with why we are not likely to have a deal in Copenhagen?
PATRICK J. MICHAELS, SR. FELLOW, CATO INSTITUTE: Well the fact of the matter is, is global warming itself has been running below the average rate of projection from what we all the midrange climate models of the United Nations there's a lot more science that you've seen coming out with this climate-gate issue. That having been said, the president said that he would go to Kyoto or Copenhagen, I'm sorry, with what he calls a politically binding commitment from the United States to reduce our emissions by 83 percent. He can't do that.
The Senate has to act and the Senate has not acted. And as a result, Senator Webb from Virginia, a Democrat, wrote a rather terse letter to the president reminding him of that. The president doesn't have anything concrete. He's got four cards in a five-card stud game.
VELSHI: Let me get Howard into this thing. Howard, the fact is, you agree this is not going to be the historic conference that it was going to be. This was going to be in some people's mind the conference that sort of turned the corner on climate change and carbon emissions.
HOWARD GOULD, AMBASSADOR, THE GLOBAL OBSERVATORY: It should have been. It should have been. But unfortunately we in the United States didn't get to discuss this issue because health care has taken up so much of our time. But this was the one that people were looking forward to. This was the one that was meant to change the way the world views climate change.
VELSHI: All right. And part of what was going to be discussed was an agreement on how to cap carbon emissions. We should sort of discuss that a little bit. In fact, Patrick, you wrote in a column that you feel it's not health care that derailed -- that derailed this but that, in fact, the anger about this administration might be rooted in, in fact, its efforts to cap carbon emissions.
MICHAELS: Well, it began. The town hall meetings began in July with cap and trade, health care was not on the radar screen. And, yes, it is quite a problem because, you see, the Chinese and the Indians, they're not going to go along with any emissions reduction, if the president doesn't have anything solid, and, in fact, the Indians just said yesterday, we're not agreeing to any emissions reductions unless we're paid a lot of money, that's not going to be popular.
VELSHI: Howard, does America have to be in on this, does America have to take a leadership position before everybody else gets on board?
GOULD: Yes, I think they do. But I think what Patrick is missing is the fact that the head of the U.N. Climate Change Group has basically said that right now since they know there is not going to be any hard targets laid down in Copenhagen, the fact is that if we come with the incentive and we say look we want to participate, we're going to play ball, Barack Obama is saying this is something this country will do, yes, there's no definitive answer because the Senate needs to vote on this, but the fact is that now the world understands that America is taking a seat at the table.
VELSHI: Patrick, tell me this. We may have disagreements on the pace of global warming. Are there really people, including you, you don't really believe that we shouldn't be capping emissions, do you?
MICHAELS: No, I really believe that we should be making sure our economies grow, because we don't have the technology to do these 83 percent reductions. And if we are going to reduce emissions, we're going to have to have technologies and invests that we don't have.
VELSHI: We have technologies to reduce emissions. I just want to get a sense from you --
MICHAELS: Not even close.
VELSHI: Do you think they need to be reduced or --
MICHAELS: I think emissions will reduce themselves naturally over the course of the century, because the future belongs to the efficient, people will produce efficient technologies and people will produce things more efficiently in a more competitive world market and you will see that the great global warming scare was quite the blip in history.
GOULD: I want to respond to that. I think that Patrick is missing the boat a little bit on this one right now, because I think that we do have the technologies. I mean, energy efficiency gets us to where the targets that we're talking about in the United States. That gets us a significant portion of the way there. The fact is that we spend about 300 times the amount of money on oil and gas than we do on any sort of renewable energy yet we're still basically approaching parity in terms of costs with certain types of renewable energy systems, so if we were even to get close to that amount of money that we spend there, we would have significant co2 capture systems.
VELSHI: Real quick, 30 seconds, if we did get a deal that satisfied you, for instance, at Copenhagen, would it cost consumers more in the end? Would cap and trade be something where the costs end up being passed down to the consumer?
GOULD: Cap and trade will probably cost people more in the end, but the fact is you can't necessarily look at it just as the cost for the consumer, because co2 emissions and the kind of coal in specifics are also costing people in health care. You have a 70 times higher chance of getting lung cancer if you live near a coal-fired plant. Now the fact is we shouldn't be using coal, we should be using renewables. So whether or not you believe in cap and trade, we should be getting on to renewable systems, regardless.
VELSHI: Very good conversation. Howard Gould, eco entrepreneur. Patrick Michaels, Sr. Fellow in environmental studies at the CATO Institute. Great to talk to you both. Thank you so much. We'll continue to follow what's going on in Copenhagen, because they're still having the meeting and important things are going to be decided.
Now, we know there are tens of millions of Americans who for whatever reason don't have health insurance, but millions more are on the verge of losing theirs. How and why and what is being done about it next.
VELSHI: Millions of Americans without a job and desperate for health coverage are running out of time. The average American family is receiving an unemployment check of about $1,333 a month. Now, when you lose your job, you typically can keep your health coverage for up to 18 months afterwards by paying for Cobra, it's called Cobra, but Cobra is too expensive for some people. As part of the stimulus bill last year, the administration decided to subsidize the Cobra payment to pick up 65 percent of the costs of your monthly Cobra premium. Now, without that subsidy, here's how it looks, $1,333 is what the average family gets in unemployment. Take a look at that, Cobra would take $1,111out of that check leaving the family with $222 a month. Clearly that's not working for a lot of people.
That's 83 percent of this entire monthly check. So, the government, under the stimulus bill, came in with a subsidy, as I said. And the subsidy basically takes care of 65 percent of the Cobra payment, which means for the average family, the monthly payment now drops to $389, leaving $944 available for the family. That makes it a lot easier. If you compare the pre subsidy Cobra expense of $1,111 to the post- subsidy Cobra expense of $389.
Now the bottom line though is that there is a problem with that, because that is going to run out. This subsidy was only meant to be temporary. That means that millions of unemployed Americans relying on government aid toward their Cobra premiums are about to see their health care costs soar. Congress is looking at two bills with proposals that would not only extend the Cobra subsidy but would also increase Washington's contribution to 75 percent, up from the current 65 percent. Also at issue, the present subsidy only covers workers who are laid off, between September of 2008, through the end of this year.
And then there's health care reform. Both Republicans and Democrats seem to agree that the current system of health care, whether you look at it from a cost or an insurance coverage perspective, needs fixing. But that's largely the only thing they can agree upon. The biggest disagreement, what government should do, what role government should play in providing health care coverage.
Now, on this show each week, we want to listen to reasoned arguments from both sides and arm you with facts to make up your own mind on the issue. Alan Miller is the CEO and founder of Universal Health Services a Fortune 500 hospital management company which owns and operates 132 facilities. He's also the author of a brand-new book called "Health Care Reform that Makes Sense, a detailed plan to improve the health care system by America's leading health care CEO." The book lays out in plain language Allen's long-standing conservative views of how health care should be handled. Alan lets start with what do you think is the biggest problem is in health care right now?
ALAN MILLER, CEO, UNIVERSAL HEALTH SERVICES: I would like to see people have policies on their own, so it would be affordable policies for everybody. The government covers a lot of people, as you talked.
MILLER: The government covers Medicare, Medicaid, C.h.i.p. program, the veterans, talking about 61 percent. But the rest are covered by employers' insurance, and I'd like to see people who fall through the cracks be able to buy policies.
VELSHI: What's the best way to do that?
MILLER: The best way to do it to make policies more affordable, in my view, and it's been discussed now a lot, and I don't understand why we don't get to it, well, I do, but it's tough, is to allow insurance companies to sell across state lines. There are 1,300 insurance companies in America. But if you go state by state and I have a table in my book, you find that in some states, it's only three companies, because the states want to control it. And they mandate what the coverage has to be, and they don't allow insurance companies, us to receive all kinds of proposals.
VELSHI: So you and Barack Obama agree that greater competition would result in lower costs of insurance for people.
VELSHI: You don't agree with the president's proposal and the Democrats' proposal that there be a public option.
MILLER: Well, when they talk about competition with a public option, I don't think it's really fair competition to think that the government will have a program where they have unlimited funds, they have the ability to legislate the competitors and then you have the insurance companies who are prey, who are out there.
So, it's not really good competition. What I would like to see happen is open it up, so the 1,300 companies could compete all across the board. And I would agree with the president on that, but they're not doing it. It's not even in the proposals.
VELSHI: Let's talk a little bit about something you talk about in your book, and that is tort reform. You say that part of the reason our health care costs are as high as they are is because we practice or doctors practice defensive medicine.
VELSHI: Your hospitals do the same thing, you say.
MILLER: The hospitals don't do it. The doctors in our hospitals do. Doctors prescribe.
MILLER: We just do what they tell us to do by order. But the issue is that because of the litigious nature of the society, doctors have to protect themselves, and so they order many, many extra tests. The estimates are upwards of $100 billion to $200 billion that goes to these tests that are unnecessary.
VELSHI: So they are protected if it goes to court.
MILLER: Yes, if it goes to court, then they have a wonderful record. They papered the record. I have done every single test on this patient that could be done. And something may have happened, it wasn't my fault. So, that means that we're paying thousands of dollars every time we go to the doctor for this defensive medicine. Now, there are three -- well, there are 28 states that have capped punitive, non economic damages. There are two parts for malpractice case. One part is economic. If someone is injured and, in fact, someone's at fault, they should be recompensed for the care they need going forward. I support that. Most people that I know of don't argue with that. The other part is the non economic damage, the pain and suffering. And that cannot be estimated actually, so what happens is it goes into the feelings of the jury. This poor person, look at them, there's a big insurance company, a wealthy doctor. We're going to punish them. We're going to teach them a lesson. So, you wind up with $10 million, and the estimate is that 54 percent of that goes to the lawyer, the expert witness, administrative costs.
MILLER: We don't need that.
VELSHI: Alan good to talk to you you've laid out a lot of ideas very simply in this book. Great timing for it. Thank you for coming in and bringing us perspective to us because we are trying to get some very good perspectives on the show. Alan Miller.
Coming up next, what is this week's big business deal means for the future of media and what it might cost you?
VELSHI: Let's have a look behind some of the biggest business headlines of the week. Joining me now is Ryan Mack, is the president of Optimum Capital Management and Leigh Gallagher is senior editor at "Fortune."
Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke faced the firing squad at his confirmation hearing on Thursday fielding tough questions from members of the Senate Banking Committee which decides whether he gets another four-year term. Now many Democrats said they would vote Bernanke but some Republicans question whether they could support him. Vermont independent Senator Bernard Sanders issued a statement Wednesday night that he had put a hold on Bernanke's confirmation, that's a technical move that allows a single Senator to delay Senate confirmation of Bernanke. Take a listen to what he had to say on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VERMONT: In my view, if an institution is too big to fail, it's too big to exist. We've got to start breaking them up, not allow them to get even larger. The Fed has chosen not to do that. Mr. President, we need transparency at the Fed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right, Leigh, first of all, is Bernanke going to get confirmed?
GALLAGHER: He will get confirmed, yes. It would take an awful lot for him not to at this point. I think a lot of this ire is directed at the Fed. It's not Bernanke, he has been very accessible behind the scenes, people like him in general, but there's this populous rage that we are seeing against everyone who is involved in the bailouts and I think that's what we're seeing here.
I mean, what you forget about is that everybody missed the warning signs, the Fed included. They let the institutions take too much risk. What Bernanke is lobbying for now is a very mechanism to do what Bernie Sanders just said that he didn't do, which is to make sure there's a mechanism so that the banks can be -- some bank who is too big to fail can be unwound, so there is a procedure, which there wasn't.
VELSHI: I suppose it's not a bad thing that when he comes for confirmation all of this is coming out. I mean we want our legislatures to be holding Ben Bernanke's feet to the fire or any one else that they are pointing.
RYAN MACK, PRESIDENT, OPTINUM CAPTIAL MANAGEMENT: We have to. We absolutely have to. I don't envy Ben Bernanke or Barack Obama for inheriting this first of all. It seems as if people judging you not according to what they don't see or what could have happened, they judge you according to what they do see. Right now we have still have double digit unemployment; we are still in a recession. We have folks that need a job; they still feel the pinch so they are saying that well how is this really helping me. We just saved our self from the destruction of the economy. The recession still seems like it is going all right now so I really don't envy them.
VELSHI: But do you think he should be reappointed?
MACK: I think he should be reappointed. I kind of look at the Fed like that, they are like that cousin that you really don't trust that comes over to your house at Christmas time and before he leaves you kind of want to pat his pockets down just to make sure he didn't steal anything. So I think that we have to make sure to look at these assets. We need ultimate full transparency to make sure to pat his pockets down.
VELSHI: That's what Congress is doing.
Also this week, call it 30 rocked. Comcast and General Electric announced that they have finally struck a deal giving Comcast the biggest cable operator control over NBC Universal in creating the largest entertainment company in the United States. If the deal is OK by regulators, now the deal values NBC Universal at $30 billion it's going to make Comcast a major player in television, movies, internet, and theme parks. NBC Networks include, NBC Network, Telemundo, USA, Bravo, Oxygen, MSNBC and CNBC. What does it mean for the future of media and your money? Ryan any effect?
MACK: I think it does. I mean consumers -- this is what consumers want. I think consumers want diversification. They want to be able to go on the right and be able to see a little Bill O'Reilly. Want to go on the left and see Keith Olbermann (ph). They want to come to see you; this makes a good objective for perspective of things. This kind of looks as if it's a lot of control, a lot of individuals trying to change the channel and seeing pretty much the same, maybe hopefully not a slanted viewpoint.
VELSHI: All though, it's a theme we have been seeing for a long time. It's been going on for a long time.
GALLAGHER: Absolutely. I think the deal is a bigger deal for Comcast than it is for the consumer. I don't think the consumer is going to notice that much. But Comcast gets to be a content key not to something that they wanted for a really long time. It's actually it is not the NBC part that's so valuable to them, it's the cable business. Because the broadcast television is dependent on ad revenues which is really troubled right now. But cable they get the revenues from carriage fees, and it is a different ball game and those cable channels that NBC owns are very, very on fire now.
VELSHI: For those people in the country who don't pay a monthly cable bill to Comcast, they all of a sudden become a bigger player in your life. It's probably more transparent than not.
Well coming up next did you know that 9 million U.S. households do not use a bank. We will discuss why when we come back.
VELSHI: Back with me, Ryan Mac and Leigh Gallagher. According to an FDIC report released this week an estimated 7.7 percent of U.S. households, to 9 million households do not use a bank, nearly 21million households are what is known as under banked. That means they use check cashing services, pay day lenders or pawnbrokers rather than a bank. The problem is most acute among minorities. With an estimated 21.7 percent of black households and 19.3 percent of Hispanic households deciding against using a bank. Ryan these numbers are staggering. I don't even understand it.
MACK: You know it doesn't happen every time you turn on the television, you have prepaid cards trying to get people to spend money just to use their own money. You go on the Internet you see Magic Johnson pushing Rent a Center for those individuals who can't get lines of credit, now they have to rent their own furniture. Now, you have to rent your furniture.
It's as if they are exploiting a lot of these individuals who don't have access or at least are not aware thinking that they are actually saving money by going to check cashing places spending between 1 and 4 percent of their check over the entire year. They spend another check to get their own money.
VELSHI: Leigh, it probably doesn't help that we have gone through a year where weekly, you hear complaints about increased bank fees and what they are charging and those kinds of things. So you are not getting people feeling warm and fuzzy about banking.
GALLAGHER: No, and in fact one of the things this study found was the major reason why even before this year they have not done this is because they distrust the bank. If these people distrusted the banks even two years ago, what could they think now?
GALLAGHER: This has to be bad for people. It's bad for a few reasons. Because they are not building credit history, they don't have insured deposits. When you keep your cash in your house, the FDIC insures bank deposits that is a very big deal and it is a real protective mechanism.
MACK: The best thing about it is we need to strive for free. There's a way that you can use banks for free. You can have a debit card that you can use for free. If you need to establish credit history, if you have a ton of checks at check cashing systems and you have been bouncing to many checks. Well first of all stop bouncing checks and contribute to the $40 billion that banks are earning. Because you keep bouncing checks and over drafting.
VELSHI: It's an important point; you need a little responsibility on that side. You can do some searches on the Internet about free banking.
MACK: You might not have access to checks or being able to overdraft, but you can use bank accounts. Credit unions that don't have to answer to share holders, they have great services available to individuals as well.
VELSHI: We do hear a lot of this, we've known that this experience in recent immigrant communities partially because of the experiences that they have had with banking in some Latin American countries for instance that there have been fears of whether the banking systems is secure. So we sort of have two problems going on here. There has to be a logical fix to this.
GALLAGHER: Well I mean one of the suggestions is to encourage banks is to bring these people into the fold by offering no fee checking accounts, accounts without automatic overdraft protection that is one of the most egregious fee.
VELSHI: This might happen a little more next year after some of these rules that the Federal government is putting in about consumer banking. At the moment, this is the year of windfall for banks.
GALLAGHER: Right, exactly. I mean there is talk about using the Community Reinvestment Act, funds from that to sort of start this. But that's also what led us to sub prime mortgages.
MACK: No more putting your money under the mattress. Use a bank and be responsible.
VELSHI: That is a bad plan anyway you look at it. Thank you to both of you, what a pleasure to talk to you.
Thank you for joining me for YOUR MONEY. You can follow Christine and me on facebook and twitter at Christine Romans and at Ali Velshi. Join us every week for YOUR MONEY Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern and Sundays at 3:00. You can also log on 24/7 to CNNMONEY.com. Have a great weekend.