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Five 'Gifts' We'd Like to Give Back

Jason Stipp

Jason Stipp: I am Jason Stipp for Morningstar, and welcome to the special holiday edition of The Friday Five.

You might get a lot of gifts this holiday season, but there's usually one or two stinkers in there. The kind of gift where you say, "You really shouldn't have," and really mean it.

Here with me, with The Friday Five, is Morningstar markets editor, Jeremy Glaser.

Jeremy, thanks for joining me.

Jeremy Glaser: Glad to be here, Jason.

Stipp: What do you have for The Friday Five this week?

Glaser: As you know, Hanukkah came early this year. So, I had plenty of time to evaluate the presents and see what I want to give back.

I think this year, I'm going to try to return some leather-bound data, an almost useless membership card, some show tickets, an airplane, and finally a new job.

Stipp: There's a lot of data that we got throughout the year, but there's a particular set of data that maybe you didn't want to unwrap throughout 2010. Tell us a little bit about that.

Glaser: I'm not quite sure why my sister got me a leather-bound volume of the unemployment reports for the whole year, but it really is a depressing read. Seeing that we haven't really added a ton of jobs, and even though we might have turned the corner, unemployment rates continue to be very high across the entire country. That there's lot of structural unemployment, that it's not just that people can't find the right jobs, those jobs just don't exist. It's kind of depressing.

I think, in order for us to see a really robust sustainable recovery, we're going to need to see that recovery in employment. That's something we haven't quite seen the light at the end of the tunnel yet. A lot of people are focused on it, and I think it's something that's a depressing read.

Stipp: Hopefully, you can re-gift that next year and it might be a little bit of a better read.

Jeremy, the second gift you want to give back is a card that probably hasn't gotten a lot of use recently. It's a weird one that you got for Hanukkah this year. Why are you giving that one back?

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Glaser: A thrifty friend of mine thought that he would give me a free membership card to Blockbuster video, which isn't a great gift to begin with, but particularly a Blockbuster card is not going to have a lot of use. The company is not doing so great, as you may know. They've announced that they're going to have to close even more stores than they initially expected, and I'm not sure that through 2011 how many of those stores are going to be able to remain open.

Between Netflix and being able to stream all sorts of videos through Netflix itself, and through Apple and Amazon, and a bunch of other players, it's hard to justify the overhead of having a huge video store open. I don't think I'm going to get a lot of use out of this card. I'd mail back to them, but I'm not sure there's any stores that I could even return it to.

Stipp: Okay. The third gift, show tickets, always a popular one, but this particular show from overseas, you might not want to have a front row seat for.

Glaser: I usually like them as well, but the tickets to the European Debt Crisis: Live on Ice, were a little bit strange. We all lived through the European debt crisis earlier this year. The riots in Greece; the austerity measures in England, and people protesting those; the Irish getting very upset about a potential IMF-EU bailout; the potential of the same thing happening in Spain and Portugal. I think living through it once was enough. I don't necessarily need to see the show.

Unfortunately, I think there might be a couple of sequels or even spin-offs of this particular event that we might also be forced to see through 2011, even if we do return these tickets. A lot of the underlying problems haven't been solved. These debt levels are still there. We're kicking the can down the road, but we haven't solved them yet. We could be hearing a lot about it, and hopefully, we'll always be able to return those tickets, or at least get some of our money back.

Stipp: So, Jeremy, sometimes you will order a gift, and you wait and wait and wait for it to get there, and then when it finally arrives, it's just not what you're hoping for.

Glaser: I finally got my 787 Dreamliner, which is something that I've been looking forward to for a long, long time. It's not quite ready yet. I had a small fire when I took it out for a test flight, which was not the thing that you want when you're using your airplane for the first time. I think, I'm going to send it back. I definitely still want it. Hopefully, when Boeing works out all the kinks and gets all the testing done, I can get it and use it as my private aircraft. But in the meantime, I think I'm happy to not have that one on my hands.

Stipp: Last, Jeremy, there was an opening that you got as a gift, a potential job opportunity. Why on Earth would you want to give that back?

Glaser: Jason, as you know from The Friday Five, we get a lot of requests from readers, and one was that I run for the governor of Illinois, and this is the job that I'm very glad I did not try to get and did not take.

I think, trying to run a state like Illinois or California or New York, or any of the big states that have these big budget problems, is just going to be a nightmare in the coming years.

I think, certainly taxes are going to have to go up, spending is going to have to be cut, and it's not easy to make those kind of decisions. There's going to be a lot of people angry. It might not even be possible. I mean, you could only raise taxes so much; you can only cut so many programs before you run into just really almost insurmountable resistance; difficult to balance that budget; glad I'm not the person who has to do it.

Stipp: Jeremy, thanks for bringing me the gift of The Friday Five this week, but I'm sorry your gifts weren't so much to write home about.

Glaser: You're welcome, Jason.

Stipp: For Morningstar, I'm Jason Stipp. Thanks for watching.