Back by popular demand is a segment where Frank (author of value site frankvoisin.com) and I discuss a few news stories that caught our interest. Please provide your feedback; should this be a monthly segment, or would you prefer a discussion of a boring value stock in its stead?
Frank: State budgets are still in rough shape following the recession.
Saj: Obviously, states have to reduce their deficits by cutting spending and/or raising taxes.
Frank: Or, they can just steal from their citizens:
New Jersey lawmakers voted to allow the state to seize any gift cards that remained unused two years after their purchase.
Saj: That seems pretty fair. If you don't use something for 2 years, it really should belong to "the people".
Frank: Yeah, it can't be government spending that's causing the deficit problem, this is the fault of those patient people who don't immediately use up their entire gift card balances!
Saj: Why stop at gift cards? I have a savings account I haven't spent in a while...maybe that belongs in government coffers too!
Frank: Of course it does, along with that bike you're storing in the garage, and Grandma's jewelry set.
Saj: Oh well, at least they're giving us fair warning. From now on, I'll use my gift cards ASAP.
Frank: Actually, it's too late:
A key element of the legislation was that it would be retroactive, allowing the Treasury to seize money from travelers checks as far back as 1994.
Frank: Speaking of overzealous governments, it looks like China is looking at ways to ban Skype:
The Chinese move appeared to be aimed at protecting three government-controlled phone carriers -- China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile -- that provide the bulk of China's telephone services.
Saj: "Er, yeah we realize the average income of a Chinese citizen is $7500, but we're trying to run a business-I mean government here."
Frank: Besides, the average citizen has enough on his plate what with food inflation. He shouldn't be burdened with all these tough decisions that free markets provide!
Skype...has been growing in popularity among Chinese users and businesses to make cheap or free international phone calls over the Internet.
Saj: "Well sure, you can make those calls for cheaper...but calls through us are of higher quality! That's what you really want!"
Frank: If you'd like to experience the restrictions of communist rule without having to actually live under such a regime, try this board game.
Disclosure: Chatters have an ownership position in a couple of gift cards.