-- BUSINESS CALENDAR
Nov. 6: Many major retailers will report their October sales figures. The reports are expected to provide the most up-to-date assessment of how the economy is affecting shoppers' spending.
Nov. 7: The government's October employment report is released.
Nov. 13: How should hedge funds be regulated? What part did they play in the financial markets' troubles? Five prominent hedge fund managers, including George Soros, are scheduled to testify on those questions and more during a congressional hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Nov. 18: The National Association of Realtors releases its Third Quarter Metro Home Prices/State Sales report.
Nov. 19: The Federal Reserve releases its latest projections for the economy.
Nov. 20: Small businesses' access to capital since the financial meltdown will be discussed at a Securities and Exchange Commission round table starting at 9 a.m. ET. The round table will be webcast live on sec.gov. Registration information for the public event at the SEC's Washington, D.C., headquarters is also on its website.
Nov. 28: Will the economy's woes make "Black Friday" — the traditional kickoff of the holiday shopping season — a bust for retailers?
WATCH, LISTEN & READ
50 Cent: The Money and the Power, MTV, premieres Thursday (Nov. 6), 10 p.m. ET/PT
Rap superstar 50 Cent (née Curtis Jackson III) goes Donald Trump, fronting an Apprentice-like reality show in which 14 young people compete for 100,000 of 50 Cent's bucks.
"My music has created big business, so I've decided to share my wisdom with the voices of the future," 50 Cent says in the show's intro. "Give someone the head start I never had."
His first lesson: Choose your crew wisely. In the premiere, two leaders must guide their folks to Brooklyn.
Clues you're watching MTV: a thumping soundtrack, more bleeping than dialogue and a contestant named Cornbreadd. It's not immediately clear what any of the candidates hope to do with 50 Cent's investment.
Dragons' Den, BBC America, Thursdays 9 p.m. ET (Season 1 marathon Sunday, Nov. 9, 2:30 p.m. ET/11:30 a.m. PT)
On this snappy British business-reality show, fledgling entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to an intimidating panel of five wealthy moguls who will put up their own money — usually in exchange for a stake in the company — if they're sold on the project.
Most ideas and inventions are met with ridicule, such as an exercycle recliner or a fee-based hotline for car problems, but when an opportunity snags their interest, it's fun to watch the dragons negotiate terms.
Stay tuned for an American version: ABC has ordered a pilot, renamed The Shark Tank, to be co-produced by The Apprentice's Mark Burnett.
How Stuff Works,Discovery Channel, premieres Nov. 13, 8 p.m. ET
The topics featured on the Discovery Channel's newest show couldn't be more basic. Twelve hour-long episodes deconstruct everyday commodities such as corn, wheat, iron, aluminum, water, turkeys and beer. How do you make a show about commodities fascinating?
The show opts for what executive producer Beth Dietrich calls the gee-whiz moment.
For example, who knew that 99% of the world's corn harvest is inedible? That, by law, bourbon is 51% corn?
"You look at a field of corn, and you almost can't think of anything more natural, but yet, there's so much science and research and R&D and money that's put behind these things to maximize the output," Dietrich says.
Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work, PBS, airs Wednesdays from Nov. 12-26, 8-10 p.m. ET (check local listings or pbs.org)
Amid all the pomp, circumstance, wealth and privilege, it's easy to forget that being a queen is hard work. And Queen Elizabeth II, whose days are scheduled to the minute, has been on the job for more than 50 years. Last year, her 81st, the queen allowed filmmakers to capture her and her family at work, resulting in a six-hour miniseries about the business of being royal. Segments on Nov. 12, 19 and 26 will show viewers the planning behind the queen's 2007 official trip to the United States, inside the massive 650-room Buckingham Palace, and to a palace garden party with a guest list of 8,000.
Stay Rich Forever & Ever with Ed Slott, WGBH Boston Video, Nov. 11, $24.95
CPA Ed Slott, an IRA expert and author of numerous retirement-planning books, wants you to know that if you don't use or otherwise leverage your retirement savings, Uncle Sam may wind up with the bulk of it.
Slott, who is clearly passionate and sometimes indignant about taxation, says anyone can parlay their IRA into a fortune for their heirs if it is set up and distributed properly — mainly by designating a child or grandchild as the beneficiary instead of a spouse, thereby stretching out the required-distribution time frame and getting the most out of tax-free compounding.
Outliers: The Story of Success, By Malcolm Gladwell (Little Brown, $27.99, Nov. 18)
The popular author of The Tipping Point and Blink now introduces "outliers," those people whose achievements fall outside normal experience. Gladwell argues that when it comes to success, individual merits such as intelligence or ambition are not the only factors; external circumstances, such as family, opportunities, luck and even your birthday, are important, too.
Gladwell knows how to spin a yarn from what might otherwise be dry sociological and psychological studies by weaving in anecdotes and interviews that illustrate his theories on how to maximize human potential.
By Michelle Archer, Special fo USA TODAY
CHECK IT OUT
Feeding the world
Few probably know that nearly a quarter of a dairy farm's energy consumption goes to refrigerating the milk. Such statistics pack the 18-page atlas in November's Wired about the future of food production in a world of rising demand. T
he package distills the problems and possible solutions.
Wired's conclusion: "Our capacity for innovation is as limitless as our appetites."
Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences winner Joseph Stiglitz vents in November's Vanity Fair about the laissez-faire economic ideology of the Bush administration, an ideology he blames for the free-market excesses that triggered Wall Street's meltdown. As a guest columnist for Vanity Fair, Stiglitz has twice before penned articles on the economic legacy of President Bush. In this third effort, Stiglitz writes that in Bush's mind, markets were always good and government always bad, that the best regulation was no regulation, and that self-regulation was almost as good. Surrounded by free-market fundamentalists, Bush was slow to grasp lessons of the past: that markets are not always self-adjusting and that without deft regulation, the unrestrained pursuit of profit can have calamitous consequences.
Forbes speaks capitalism
Amidst the financial crisis, Wall Street's freewheeling ways have come under severe attacks. Steve Forbes, publisher of Forbes magazine, has not joined the assault. What started in the summer of 2007 with the collapse of Bear Stearns was not the failure of free markets, he writes, but the outcome of bad government actions. "Greed and recklessness always run rampant during bubbles, and the mania that engulfed housing and much of the financial sector was no exception," he says. Forbes' fear is that policymakers will cave in to the pundits who blame excessive deregulation and impose punitive regulations that stifle growth and prolong the recession.
By Gary Rawlins
5 QUESTIONS FOR FRANK GLASSNER
Frank Glassner, founder and CEO of Compensation Design Group in San Francisco, has advised companies on pay practices for executives and other employees for three decades.
Q: Are business people and employees still angry about the financial debacle and rising pay to executives — especially on Wall Street?
A: The outrage is at the highest levels I've ever seen. There are too many non-performing CEOs whose pay does not conform to reality. Twenty years ago, CEO pay was 250 times higher than rank-and-file pay. Today, it's 600 times, even as the country slides into a recession.
Executives shouldn't recklessly gamble with everyone's money, then be allowed to paddle away. That's flat-out wrong. In the words of Tony Soprano, you get paid when we get paid, you get out when we get out.
Q: Given the $700 billion financial system bailout plan, will executive pay level off or keep growing?
A: Pay won't necessarily continue rising. People realize that trees can't keep growing into the sky.
I think pay will more closely match performance, and there will be an appropriate balance to executives' pay and the interest of shareholders.
I will say as long as there are guaranteed golden parachutes that allow executives to bail out of a crashing company while shareholders and employees go down, there will be no reform in executive pay.
Q: Is the bailout plan's limits on executive pay for companies that receive money a wise or dumb move?
A: Congress can't regulate this stuff. It's too complex. The imposition of unspecified pay limits really is a mistake.
Q: Who bears responsibility for too-high executive pay?
A: It's easy to point fingers and vilify CEOs. For every bad CEO, there are 99 good ones. Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway, General Electric, Procter & Gamble — all are companies that clearly practice pay for performance.
We need to look around ourselves to find the responsible parties, and it's a combination: business people, boards of directors, Congress, institutional investors, mutual funds, the media — and let's not forget executive pay consultants.
Q: What's the easy solution to a complex problem?
A: If we had very clearly defined regulations based on the design of pay plans — rather than on caps and limits on pay — we might go somewhere.
Just a few years ago, it was all the rage for companies to peg executives' pay to earnings per share. Then, all you had to do was to issue and buy back your company stock, and all of a sudden, you were skewing earnings.
If a company performs well, you get paid. If it doesn't perform, you don't get paid.
Hopefully, the financial crisis will teach new lessons to everybody.
By Edward Iwata, USA TODAY