ANNOUNCER: From Washington, THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP, the American original. For over three decades, the sharpest minds, best sources, hardest talk.
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, HOST: Issue One: The Senator Versus the CIA.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR: It shows that the CIA's actions a decade ago are a stain on our value and on our history. The release of this 500-page summary cannot remove that stain, but it can and does say to our people and the world that America is big enough to admit when it's wrong and confident enough to learn from its mistakes.
MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and committee Democrats on Tuesday released the long awaited report on the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA's detention and interrogation program.
Senator Feinstein outlined the report's four major conclusions. First, the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques which included waterboarding were not effective in collect intelligence. Second, the CIA misled policymakers and the public on the CIA interrogation program. Third, CIA managers failed to supervise the program appropriately. And fourth, the program was far more brutal than the CIA presented.
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MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What does Senator Feinstein hope to accomplish by making this summary public?
PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR & COLUMNIST: Well, John, she hoped to damage the CIA, which had surveillance on her. She hoped to damage the Bush administration.
But I'll tell you what she did, what she's got here is really a pretty vicious attack. It's a vindictive prosecutor's document. She didn't talk to CIA people. She didn't talk to the alleged people who did these grizzly things. She talked about things we've known about for 10 years. She said it was a decade ago.
She dredged this all up. She's damaged our relationship with foreign intelligence agencies that have been exposed. She's damaged the reputation of the United States.
And for what? We heard these things. We knew about waterboarding. We know all this stuff. She's got a few grizzly details.
This is, John, it's just like after Vietnam. The Church Committee came out and said look at all these horrible things these American soldiers whom they cheered into Vietnam themselves when Kennedy and Johnson were in the White House.
ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: I'm with John McCain on this one, who delivered a powerful speech on Senate floor, as someone who actually underwent torture himself. I think he's the most articulate person and the only one who really has firsthand experience with this.
MCLAUGHLIN: What'd he say?
CLIFT: He basically said: (a), torture doesn't work; (b), what went on was worse than anybody was led to believe; and (c), the American people deserve to know what was done in their name.
And I think that is appropriate. The stain on this country is not that we're admitting that this went on but the fact that it went on, and now, this basically gives the government seal of approval that this country will not compromise its values again in search of dubious intelligence because there's really no real evidence that this works.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let's hear from the CIA Director John Brennan. On Thursday, CIA Director John Brennan explained and defended the agency's use of EITs. EIT stands for enhanced interrogation techniques.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: The cause and effect relationship between the application of those EITs and the ultimate provision of information is unknown and unknowable, but for someone to say that there was no intelligence of value, of use that came from those detainees once they were subjected to EITs, I think that is -- lacks any foundation at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the director of the CIA's defense was persuasive?
TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL REVIEW/DAILY TELEGRAPH: Yes, highly persuasive. If you look at what we know from source material and if you look at what the CIA continues to claim the EITs provided in certain areas, for example, in identifying the importance of the courier, al-Kuwaiti, for the bin Laden intelligence network, from KSM, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. If you look at the operational picture that the EITs provided, again, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, al-Nashiri, in allowing American counterterrorism officials to generate understanding of how al-Qaeda operated in the very beginning, which we did not know, and actually driving intelligence towards plots, like Darren Barrow (ph), who is a British al-Qaeda plotter, who's planning a major attack on the London underground.
Yes, there is intelligence that was provided and the CIA has been dragged through the mud for partisan reasons. The report in my opinion is a joke. And I use that word deliberately. I know that's a serious issue, but I -- for reasons that Pat mentioned, not interviewing officers, it's slander.
MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking about the senator's report.
MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, do you have thoughts on this?
MORT ZUCKERMAN, US NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Yes, what astonishes me is somehow or other the assumption that we live in this kind of innocent world that where this kind of response in terms of trying to gain intelligence is simply off the moral table, shall we say.
I think as a country when we are up against some of the most vicious kind of people, we've got to do things like this. It's not pleasant. It's not, you know, a gentlemen's games, OK? But we're not playing on those rules and nor are the people on the other side. We've got to do some things that we wouldn't like to do but are necessary.
CLIFT: We are --
ZUCKERMAN: Excuse me. It's necessary for the defense of our country and for the people of this country.
CLIFT: Well, as a lone voice here on the other side, I would point out that the United States of America has signatories to a lot of international agreements. As creators of international rules, we are hardly in a position to just ignore those rules when it's inconvenient.
Secondly, the Senate staffers went over 6 million documents. They didn't talk to the CIA agents directly. They had transcripts of when those agents were interviewed and they went through every one of the cases and they found -- excuse me -- they found no basis for a piece of intelligence that came as the result of an -- excuse me -- as a result of an EIT --
CLIFT: Excuse me, Pat, I want to finish my point.
He makes the point that it led to the courier to Obama. That information came from several places, and it also came from the person who was waterboarded before they were waterboarded. These are final details you choose to --
MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Hold on. We got Eleanor's point. What do you want to say to that? Hold on a second.
ROGAN: Very quick on it. Pat, jump in, is that there is a mix of intelligence. That is true, but the EITs did provide intelligence.
MCLAUGHLIN: What's the EIT?
ROGAN: Enhanced interrogation techniques.
ROGAN: OK. And let's call it, you know, I think waterboarding is torture. I think -- but the other methods -- conflating the mood, sleep deprivation, stress positions. Yes, this is not pleasant stuff, easy for me to sit here and say that. But when you are dealing with al- Qaeda operatives who are specifically trained to resist interrogation you need to use enhanced methods.
BUCHANAN: They cherry-picked this stuff over in that committee. This is a good one. This is a good one. Forget all that. They got no context for this thing.
They've got to realize, John, this is not a war where you're fighting the British army or something like that. These people -- these 9/11 people are designed -- they designed their programs to kill innocent people in great masses whether it's 9/11, whether it's London subway.
MCLAUGHLIN: Are you saying the report --
BUCHANAN: Secondly --
MCLAUGHLIN: -- the report put together from the senator from California was done by her employees --
BUCHANAN: It is a prosecutor's --
MCLAUGHLIN: -- and that they were naive, that they were -- let's put it that way. Let's not --
BUCHANAN: They are naive?
MCLAUGHLIN: They are uneducated in the field.
BUCHANAN: They are naive and they are vindictive. They went in with a specific purpose, John, to damage --
MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, to support her position.
CLIFT: You have no right to judge. You have no right to judge.
BUCHANAN: It's all one sided.
MCLAUGHLIN: Feinstein comes in with a stated position, which was generated by her staff.
BUCHANAN: It's like a prosecutor that walks in and presents a case at trial --
MCLAUGHLIN: Loyal amateurs and that's the story.
CLIFT: You can't impugn the staffers like that, and secondly, you say Dianne Feinstein who is under surveillance. Under surveillance because Brennan and the CIA hacked into the Senate computers.
BUCHANAN: It is -- Eleanor, you are naive if you think --
CLIFT: You are watching too much "24" and "Homeland".
BUCHANAN: But you are naive if you don't think that these techniques and/or torture, which I don't favor, they work.
MCLAUGHLIN: Let me move -- let me move this forward.
CLIFT: That's one of the major findings.
MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me, let me move this forward. Why President Obama won't prosecute. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCLAUGHLIN: Quote, "Obama's problem is that if he can prosecute Republican officeholders for authorizing torture, then the next Republican president can prosecute Obama and his subordinates for the many questionable actions of the Obama administration. Say the drone strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki and three other American citizens.
Senator Ted Cruz cites the drone strike as one of 76 alleged illegal actions by the Obama administration. You don't have to believe every one of Cruz's charges to see that Obama and his subordinates could spend years under investigation after he leaves office if a Republican president thought such a course of action politically expedient," unquote, so writes Eric Posner for "Slate".
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCLAUGHLIN: Question: does anyone believe that the justice department investigation into the CIA interrogations could have produced evidence to support prosecutions, but that Eric Holder held off for fear of future Republican recrimination?
ROGAN: I think the reason why the president's not prosecutions is not because of that but more because he knows the CIA officers made the decisions in the best interest of the country, with information at the time.
You have to remember, the president now receives the intelligence briefings from that level. It's noticeable that he has been quiet on this because he knows that the CIA -- this is not as Feinstein is presenting it to be is my impression.
MCLAUGHLIN: I have a question for Eleanor.
Early in his administration, he'd just taken over and Obama -- President Obama was concerned about torture. You remember any of that?
CLIFT: He campaigned on being opposed to torture -- as did John McCain I would add -- and he's been opposed to torture from the beginning. It was one of his first acts in office was to end this program.
BUCHANAN: Look, John, if he did it -- here's the reason he didn't do it: he would tear this country apart, and it would come back to bite him badly because the American people would say here guys, given this assignment at the beginning of a horrible war, we were expecting more attacks and now you're going out and prosecuting them?
CLIFT: It would be very difficult. You could probably get the guy who was holding the water when they were doing the waterboarding, but you would have to go way into the CIA, to the tentacles, to find the people who would craft the policy. It's not going to happen.
CLIFT: And presidents generally do not go after political deeds of their predecessors. Gerald Ford --
MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember --
CLIFT: -- is a major example of that in pardoning Richard Nixon.
MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, do you remember the early days after 9/11?
ZUCKERMAN: I think so.
MCLAUGHLIN: Horrible days.
ZUCKERMAN: Yes, they were.
MCLAUGHLIN: We wanted to know, we wanted to make sure this never happened again, and that was the commitment and the, what, the --
MCLAUGHLIN: The full understanding, of course, of the CIA.
ZUCKERMAN: Without question.
MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think they took liberties they shouldn't have taken?
ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think they did. There may have been an occasional issue. But generally --
MCLAUGHLIN: Or should we thank them if they did take some of those liberties?
ZUCKERMAN: Well, they may, but let me just say this --
MCLAUGHLIN: And the liberties were justified in being taken.
ZUCKERMAN: Under criminal law in America, OK, you have to have an intention, OK, to break the law, to do a bad thing. OK.
These people were working on behalf of the nation, on behalf of the United States. So, I do not think they're comparable.
CLIFT: They exceed the legality of even the EITs that were presented to them and the author of -- the company man who was the lawyer at the CIA during this period has called these EITs sadistic.
BUCHANAN: Well, some guys were punished.
CLIFT: Now, everybody acknowledges this went on.
BUCHANAN: Somebody were punished, but Mort is right. You have to go to motive if you're talking about crimes and things like --
MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, right.
BUCHANAN: They weren't sadists. They were trying to get information to stop somebody to blowing more Americans.
MCLAUGHLIN: OK. Don't forget, THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP has its own Web site, and you can watch this program, or earlier programs on the web at any time from anywhere in the universe, even black holes, at Mclaughlin.com. Could anything be easier? Mclaughlin.com. Or more exciting.
When we come back, Britain's royals pay a visit. But is the U.S./U. K. relationship showing signs of strain?
We'll be right back.
MCLAUGHLIN: You know what blowback is.
MCLAUGHLIN: What is it?
ROGAN: Blowback in intelligence terms is a covert operation that at a future point produces negative political ramifications in.
MCLAUGHLIN: Is that what's been going on here, an examination of blowback?
ROGAN: Exactly, yes.
MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Pomp or Circumstance?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama knows how to please the American press. Give them a royal.
This week, Prince William and his wife Catherine visited the United States. Alongside meetings with luminaries, including President Obama and Hillary Clinton. The royal couple held a number of charity fund-raising events.
Behind the smiles, however, there are emerging signs that the special relationship might be strained. Take defense cooperation. Due to spending cuts over the past few years, today, the U.K. government is barely meeting its 2 percent of gross domestic product, GDP spending commitment as a NATO member.
In contrast, the United States spends nearly 4 percent of its GDP on defense, and get this, some including London's prestigious Royal United Services Institute are predicting that U.K. defense spending may actually fall below 2 percent next year. Causing worry in Washington, the U.K. is already stealing back purchases of advanced F35 fighter jets for its two new carriers.
Speaking to the BBC last month, a retired senior British air force officer warned that the U.K. might have to surrender key war fighting capabilities.
AIR VICE-MARSHAL SEAN BELL (RET): At one end, you've got the really hard cutting edge bristling with war fighting capability carrier that has the fast jets on there, able to prosecute in the most dangerous circumstances difficult warfare, and at the other end of the spectrum, you've got carriers that can take helicopters, carry troops around due to humanitarian relief operations.
So, it's a very spectrum of capability that you can exploit with a carrier and I think the decisions that we have to make as a nation is, can we afford to use these carriers at the high end?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCLAUGHLIN: Question: with Britain's cutting warrior count, where does this leave America? Is Britain abandoning us through a special relationship of pomp without policy and circumstance?
ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think they are, but there's no doubt that the British economy is a lot weaker than it has been relatively, and that's been going on for quite a while. They've had to cut back. It's not something they don't want to do. But on some level, they can't afford to do it. Their economy has been a very weak economy for quite a long time, and I think you just have to reflect those kinds of basic facts in all policies, including defense policies. It's true of a lot of the European countries in general.
CLIFT: Right. The friction of the European countries over there not paying what we think is their fair share has been -- it's been there for generations. I would rather talk about the reason the royals were in this country. They were promoting their cause which is the trafficking of wild animals and elephants been -- poaching of elephants and I find that a lot more interesting than trying to find a problem --
MCLAUGHLIN: And journalist.
CLIFT: Right, trying to find a problem with the U.K. on defense.
MCLAUGHLIN: You want to talk about the elephants?
BUCHANAN: I think that's a good thing, stopping poaching.
But let me say this, the Brits are the best friends we've got and it is sad to see militarily and economically, as Mort mentioned, they are receiving power and they've got this movement in Scotland to break away, and you've got the UKIP wants to get out of the E.U. It's hard to see them as being the reliable friend that fought along our side in Korea, fought along our side in desert storm, fought along our side in the invasion of Iraq, the went up to Basra.
So, I think it's sad, John. But quite frankly, the United States and the West, as well the Brits, are gradually receding as the major force in the world.
MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, I want you to think of the impact of Putin's behavior on the U.K.'s assessment of its defense spending. "NATO officials," this is the beginning of an answer, "have called for a 3 percent of GDP defense budget for all member states. That's a hike. A number of states close to Sweden, are contemplating greater increase.
BUCHANAN: Nobody in NATO, I believe, except the United States who got 3 percent, the Turks have a little over 2 percent.
Let me tell you this, John --
MCLAUGHLIN: In other words, they're being squeezed.
BUCHANAN: NATO made a terrible mistake in my judgment when they moved the NATO line right into the Baltic States and Moldova. They haven't moved to Moldova yet, but remain in Bulgaria because you're in Russia's front yard and that is the main problem, I believe we've had with Putin. We moved this thing right into their front yard.
CLIFT: I'd still rather talk about the elephants.
ROGAN: Well, I think the big problem is, I actually tend to think that the Europe, the U.K. as well, are letting the United States down. I mean, if you think about the United States, we are carrying the weight of international security.
The big problem with the European Union is that because they have bloated welfare states that have failed in statistics, youth unemployment 50 percent in Spain, people out of the economy proved that.
The pressure to reduce defense spending is relentless, and it will continue. But the problem is, if you have an alliance, there's mutual responsibility, and, yes, the U.K. is letting the United States down. They're talking about cutting F35, which is the joint strike fighter, and having a carrier to essentially, flow in humanitarian platforms, that's a problem for us because it speaks to power projection deficits.
MCLAUGHLIN: Is Britain's economic health weakening?
ROGAN: It's improving at the moment. The U.K. economy is growing. But again, because of the level of state spending, it is crowding out defense spending. It's easy to get the United States to pay for the weight of that.
MCLAUGHLIN: What I'm saying here is across the channel, eurozone is slipping into recession. But from Greece to Ireland, voters are tiring of austerity programs.
MCLAUGHLIN: It's a very difficult time to hike the present spending --
CLIFT: The U.S. economy is the colossus on the world stage right now. The president does have a lot more clout internationally, because the other --
BUCHANAN: Hey, John --
MCLAUGHLIN: The point is well-taken.
I think we're not fighting with you on that, are we?
CLIFT: Thank you.
BUCHANAN: Greece is pretty much ready to, I think they are on the verge of a possible default. I've got three elections for this new president. They fail, the government goes down, and you got this left-wing Syriza --
ROGAN: But they cannot -- Europe cannot -- they won't reform their social welfare systems so this is the problem.
MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, from Greece to Ireland, voters are tiring of austerity programs. It's a very difficult time to hike defense spending.
BUCHANAN: It sure is. And --
MCLAUGHLIN: That's why the Brits are coming up.
BUCHANAN: Merkel is under pressure to move toward Keynesianism economics in Keynesian and monitory policy because those folks have had enough of this austerity for three years.
CLIFT: And it hasn't work.
BUCHANAN: And one day, Eleanor, one of them is going to say, goodbye and good luck.
MCLAUGHLIN: What do you want to do, lecturing us on Keynesianism now?
BUCHANAN: Yes. As Nixon said, I am a Keynesian.
CLIFT: All Keynesians now, right?
BUCHANAN: We're all --
CLIFT: We're all Keynesians now.
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Trillion Dollar Christmas Present.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: When you look at the number of agreements that had to be struck on funding levels, on riders, and other provisions, there’s a lot in this bill. And the appropriators did a -- frankly, a marvelous job. I wish it had been done last week, but it wasn’t. So, here we are. I’m proud of the work that they’ve done. Look forward to it passing with bipartisan majorities in the House and the Senate in the coming days.
MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Midnight Thursday was the deadline to avoid a government shutdown. But before the clock ran out, Congress passed a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill, averting a shutdown of government as happened in 2013.
The spending includes new money for Ebola response, for worldwide embassy scrutiny, for aid for allies Egypt and Jordan, and for funding to deal with undocumented children crossing the U.S. border.
More controversially however, the bill relaxes regulations in the Dodd-Frank banking law and increases the cap on political donation. Also, the bill allows pension plans that are heading for insolvency to make cuts to existing retiree benefits, advocacy groups and liberal Democrats like Elizabeth Warren, demanded a tougher stance against the bill.
MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Two months ago, the nation was mired in political gridlock. Suddenly, we have a budget breakthrough. What changed, Pat Buchanan?
BUCHANAN: Well, John, I think the -- first, the Democrats realized that they’ve got to get something through now, and this was the best deal they’re going to get because in the year, if they got a short-term CR, they’re really going to get hammered.
But, look, people are very angry with this bill and I think Boehner and Obama, I think, basically, the base of both parties has been sold out. I think -- I mean, Elizabeth Warren is exactly right. There’s a big sellout, Jaime Dimon calls in there and they’ve got this special taxpayer guarantee for their derivatives and all the rest of it, gutting Dodd-Frank. They did nothing about -- the amnesty.
BUCHANAN: So, really, both parties, their bases and their core people are really enraged.
MCLAUGHLIN: What do the Democrats realize come next year?
BUCHANAN: They realize they’re going to lose the Senate.
MCLAUGHLIN: Losing (ph) leverage, right. So, cut the deal now, right?
CLIFT: The White House was with Elizabeth Warren on the substance of the objections, the facts that shouldn’t be able to let the big banks remove another of the provision that trumps their style. But the White House made the calculation that if the Democrats force a government shutdown over this, they get blamed obviously and next year, it’s going to be worse.
But what we are seeing is the Elizabeth Warren wing of the party asserting itself and there’s a lot of energy around that and I think it really does predict next year’s politics and Hillary Clinton, who’s still the putative nominee on the Democratic side, is going to have to figure out how to come up with an economy policy that takes into the anger, takes into account the anger of Elizabeth Warren and the --
CLIFT: And the alliance she’s made with the Tea Party. They’re both -- they’re skeptical of Wall Street. The Tea Party is paranoid about the Federal Reserve. Elizabeth Warren isn’t intimidated by the Federal Reserve. We’ve got a great economic fight coming up ahead next year.
MCLAUGHLIN: Elizabeth Warren was special assistant to the president for a short while and now, she is 65 years of age. She was born in Oklahoma City. And she’s senior senator. She’s senior senator right now for Massachusetts, senior senator.
CLIFT: Well, by almost -- by minutes.
CLIFT: She’s not -- I don’t think she is going to run for president. I don’t think she wants to run for president. But the “draft Elizabeth movement” is well underway and that’s where the energy is in the party.
BUCHANAN: She helped herself with this job. She helped herself with this.
CLIFF: That’s right.
BUCHANAN: A lot of Republicans were cheering her on.
CLIFT: That’s including Pat Buchanan, I think.
TOM ROGAN: I think that’s an issue here.
BUCHANAN: Maybe I’ll sign up.
ROGAN: My opinion is that this is good for this being passed. It shows the government can work. There’s an absence of trust in the people. I think opinion polling data will reflect that people are actually happy, something is being done. Both bases are upset. And to some degree, at this moment in time, that’s a good thing. It shows that politicians are being willing to lead and buck that trend. I think Pat and Eleanor probably (INAUDIBLE).
But speaking very quickly to the Dodd-Frank rule -- it’s very populist to hit the big banks and to some degree, yes, that’s important. That’s a good thing to look at through what’s happened.
ROGAN: But at the same time, the regulations in Dodd-Frank in certain ways have been the big problem
ROGAN: For someone like me who has no low asset, the banking fees that they pushed on to transfer cost to consumers, that is a problem that has hurt the people at the bottom of the ladder. So, the idea that (INAUDIBLE) that Dodd-Frank is some miracle that has saved the union is not --
MCLAUGHLIN: Let’s get Mort in here.
CLIFT: It’s about one provision. Not the entire act.
MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, what do you think of Elizabeth Warren?
MORT ZUCKERMAN: If the Democratic Party gets identified by Elizabeth Warren, they’ll never see national preeminence or dominance. She represents a very small, very intense part of the Democratic Party, similarly in the country. But the Democrats have to get somebody much closer to the center to win national elections.
CLIFT: She represents a lot of people who feel like they’ve been screwed by the economic system --
BUCHANAN: I think that people angry (ph) with national politics --
BUCHANAN: -- and economic power are growing inside both parties. I really it’s just Europe. We’re a mirror of what’s happening in a lot of places in Europe.
MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back with predictions. The Keynesians will be back with predictions.
MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat?
BUCHANAN: This month the Greek government's going to be on the brink of basically collapsing. But the key prediction is Venezuela defaults.
CLIFT: The Senate committee report on torture will be turned into a book and will make the bestseller list just lake the original 9/11 Commission report. The American people are not afraid of the truth and they deserve to know it.
ROGAN: In the coming months, coming weeks, in fact, you're going to see a lot more reporting on the role that Iran has cultivated in Iraq, displacing the Iraqi government and empowering Iraqi Shia militias to dominate the political environment.
ZUCKERMAN: This year, virtually, every European country -- with one exception -- will show a growth rate under 3 percent and therefore the conditions of Europe are going to continue to deteriorate.
MCLAUGHLIN: I predict consumer spending this holiday season, Christmas, will be the strongest in six years. It will be fueled by lower gasoline prices at the pump, with the cost of a fill up down as much as $25, a fill up for many motorists. People will have money to spend this year and merchants will reap the rewards.