Billing himself as an "equal opportunity offender," renowned business journalist and television anchor Lou Dobbs espoused brutal candor in subjects ranging from the "sham" of Homeland Security, the intractable link between politics and the economy, and the "abysmal" practice of outsourcing jobs overseas.
"It's time for us to look to the national interest, and get very, very honest," Dobbs told several hundred CFOs controllers and financial executives. "We need to reach a level of transparency."
"We keep hearing the phrase 'tone at the top' and how that has changed, but truthfully I don't think it has changed that significantly," Dobbs said. "Companies are talking about rolling back Sarbanes-Oxley. Guess what? It's not going to be rolled back. Investors still don't believe that corporate America gets it."
Dobbs, anchor and managing editor of CNN's nightly "Lou Dobbs Tonight," served as the opening keynote at Financial Executives International's 24th Annual Current Financial Reporting Issues Conference, here.
The Harvard-educated economist also pointed out that, despite corporate America's liquidity levels approaching $2 trillion, the median price/earnings ratio is hovering at 14, down from 17 as recently as last year, while the country has had 29 consecutive years of trade deficits.
As a result of President Bush's plunging approval ratings on nearly every issue, Dobbs forecast a decided shift with regard to partisan control of the House and Senate.
"Last year, we returned 99 percent of the members of Congress," he said. "I don't think that will happen in 2006. If this president doesn't reverse course, there will be an overwhelming Republican defeat at the polls."
Although a long-time member of the media, Dobbs excoriated that industry's obsession with "pop culture," including that of his own network.
"We have more attention being paid to 20-year-old memos [a reference to Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's previous writings] or the split of Brad and Jen than to a crumbling infrastructure, Social Security, that requires nearly $1.4 trillion to fix or the fact we let one-half of Hispanic and African-American children drop out of high school."
Citing the fact that more than 3 million aliens entered the country last year, Dobbs quipped that the Homeland Security Department doesn't determine our immigration policy, "[Mexican President] Vincente Fox does."
Dobbs, one of the media's most outspoken critics on the practice of outsourcing, said that the practice is born of a love of short-term profit rather than long-term value. "With outsourcing, innovation is being exported, and it may not be re-imported," he said.
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