TSCEllen:

Hello everybody and welcome to today's

TheStreet.com

chat! All this week

TSC

readers have been treated to our series Countdown: A Century of U.S. Business. If you haven't had a chance to look through our list of the 100 biggest events in business, then check it out at the following URL -- http://www.thestreet.com/markets/marketfeatures/744595.html

TSCEllen:

Welcome to today's chat about the 100 most important events in American business.

Jesse Eisinger

,

Alex Berenson

and

Katherine Hobson

are here to answer all your questions.

TSCEllen:

I'd like to know where the idea for this series came from?

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Well, there a lot of lists out there so we'd thought we'd try one out too.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Actually, that's not the whole story. We were debating big-time inventions of the century, and we decided this was a natural expansion.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

He's so serious all the time.

thestreet_khobson:

And we wanted an excuse to blow off our other work for 8 weeks.

TSCEllen:

Sounds good! So, how did you go about deciding what events should be included?

TheStreet_JEisinger:

We culled from the history books, talked to the companies we covered and consulted profs. Pretty much we just brainstormed together.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

It was an ad hoc process, but we hope we didn't miss anything too big.

TSCEllen:

How did you decide how to rank them?

thestreet_khobson:

We tried to focus on things that had an uneven impact and also to pick dates reflecting the first commercial use or adaptation, not necessarily when the thing was invented.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Or which had an impact across all fields, such as taxation or social security.

thestreet_khobson:

In terms of ranking, once we had the list, we tried to group them toward the top, middle or bottom.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

We just argued a lot, which is what we do anyway.

thestreet_khobson:

And then we weighed them one by one compared with the others. It took a long time.

TSCEllen:

So let's get to some questions!

frankireland asks:

How important was World War II for the economy of the U.S.?

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Our "production miracle" of WWII got us out of the Great Depression. Our item for that was Kaiser's shipyards which surpassed all expectations of productivity that's number seven.

my3nephews asks:

The exploitation of labor of immigrants in the USA has again gone unrecognized in your list. Why?

TheStreet_ABerenson:

We do mention immigration fairly high on the list -- in fact, the peak immigration year of 1907 ranks as #44 on our list.

Bluegrass_Dave asks:

Has the S & L bailout been completed, or are we still dealing with it?

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Yes, it's pretty much finished. The U.S. banking system is probably now the soundest in the world. That's why the event wasn't higher.

BrickHowze_98 asks:

Why didn't you include something like the widespread use of birth control, which influenced women's role in the workforce?

thestreet_khobson:

We didn't think it had a major business impact, at least not one helping or hurting a specific industry to the detriment of another.

thestreet_khobson:

However, we did talk about women going into the workplace -- it's no. 5 on our list.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

That is, into the white-collar workplace. Woman have been in the blue-collar workplace for decades.

thestreet_khobson:

The invention of the Pill is definitely important, but more from a cultural standpoint.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Thank you, Gloria Steinem.

Brian_Lover_4ever_2003 asks:

How is the economy changing?

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Change your handle, and we'll answer that question.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Technological innovations, of course, are the most significant.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

The WWW (not wrestling) is quite important.

thestreet_khobson:

Also, the cost of labor makes up a much bigger chunk of the cost of production than input costs.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

And the continuing increase in microprocessor speed will have impacts, we can't even anticipate right now.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Additionally, the balkanization of the market will create more niche products and hurt global brands.

thestreet_khobson:

Of course, if you look at today's CPI figures, you see that perhaps one thing about the economy hasn't changed. Inflation may still be a problem, after all.

hushaphone asks:

Is there anything in there about the movie industry? Wasn't that important?

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Yes, we have Jaws at 95, and HBO/satellite television at 84.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

But the fact is that the culture/entertainment industry is relatively small as an economic force. Movies are only a $40 billion business worldwide.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Why Jaws and not, Star Wars? Simply b/c Jaws was first and ushered in the era of the blockbuster.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

That includes revenue from all sources, including home video.

Bluegrass_Dave asks:

Speaking of immigration, do you think raising the level of computer science immigrants will help or hurt the USA overall?

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Probably help, I think. Immigration has been a huge boon to society.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

In fact, immigrants have always been among the higher skilled workers not totally unskilled and uneducated as commonly believed, so that trend is simply a continuation of immigration patterns.

Dilbert_1_1 asks:

What do you think is the most revolutionary product made in the last century?

TheStreet_ABerenson:

I'll stick with the microprocessor.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Velveeta.

thestreet_khobson:

Ricky Martin.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Nice answers, jokers.

thestreet_khobson:

Alex took mine.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

The automobile is pretty important

thestreet_khobson:

And the transistor was big, too.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

As is the computer.

thestreet_khobson:

And the mini-Cuisinart.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

How are those for exciting answers?

TheStreet_JEisinger:

I'm sticking with Velveeta.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Sorry, just testing out the emotions.

TSCEllen:

Speaking of Ricky Martin, what about Elvis' impact on the recording industry?

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Let's move on.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Well, the financial impact isn't huge and the music business is about $40 bln worldwide.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Same as movies, there is no crossover. It's not a real business, okay.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Which doesn't come close to, say, the drug industry, which is $100 bln just in the U.S.

hushaphone asks:

What about minimum wage?

thestreet_khobson:

We thought about that, but the impact was diffused over the whole economy.

thestreet_khobson:

It didn't have a disproportionate impact on one industry over another.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Also, we dealt with a lot of New Deal reforms throughout the list.

thestreet_khobson:

Also, as the economy has gotten better during the 1990s, the minimum wage hasn't been as important an issue.

Bluegrass_Dave asks:

Will technologies such as MP3 spell the end of the music industry as it exists today?

TheStreet_ABerenson:

That question comes to the heart of why we put the Internet in our top 20, even though its current impact is relatively slight.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

MP3 will undoubtedly change the way music is distributed But I' think it's too early to tell who will gain or lose.

hannaqaqish asks:

What do you think of globalization?

thestreet_khobson:

Inevitable.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Not sure I agree.

thestreet_khobson:

We touched on it a bit with our global brands like Coke and McDonald's.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

The U.S. economy has proven remarkably strong for the last several years without much help from anyone else.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

We touch on that with the Bretton Woods entry and the fall of the Berlin wall. That fact is that "growth" companies such as Mickey D's, Coke and Gillette need to expand abroad to keep growing earnings.

thestreet_khobson:

Yes, but the Asian crisis occurred after international investors rushed in and then pulled out quickly after the flaws in those countries' financial systems were exposed.

jbousquin asks:

Joe from

TheStreet.com

here. Can you please explain why the interstate was so important?

TheStreet_JEisinger:

The interstate fosters individuality while linking us all together. It's our metaphorical Euro.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

It significantly changed the shipping and railroad industries, birthed suburbia and gave us the modern trucking industry. No other country needs or has the kind of sophisticated networks that we have.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Also, it is the perfect way to "reinvent" oneself, a tenet of America economic opportunity.

thestreet_khobson:

Like in the witness protection program, Jesse?

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Get out on the open road, move to a new city, get a new job (after you've ratted out the mob boss).

BrickHowze_98 asks:

What is the most surprising thing that you decided to leave OFF the list?

TheStreet_ABerenson:

On purpose or accidentally?

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Well, we didn't include the great discoveries of oil at the beginning of the century.

thestreet_khobson:

We also left off the gold standard after much debate.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

And the individual income tax.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Mainly because we thought it was less important than the advent of the car was more important.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Which profoundly affected America, but had little direct business impact.

thestreet_khobson:

Accidentally? you tell us.

TSCEllen:

So, I hear that a lot of readers think you should turn the series into a book. Any thoughts?

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Only if we get huge advances.

thestreet_khobson:

We're considering it.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

You tell us -- should we write one?

thestreet_khobson:

Would you read it to your children?

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Would it win the Booker Prize?

TheStreet_ABerenson:

I tend to prefer Chinese erotica.

thestreet_khobson:

Don't think small. The Nobel?

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Whoops, talking too much.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

File under category of too much info.

TSCEllen:

Why did you guys not mention the microwave?

thestreet_khobson:

We tried to subsume a bunch of inventions under a category of "faster, faster, faster."

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Hot, soggy food isn't a great innovation in my opinion.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

We probably should have done more with consumer electronics.

thestreet_khobson:

Things like the cell phone, fax, xerox, microwave -- anything that just speeds up an existing process.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

But those mainly aren't produced in the US anymore.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Remember the fight over HDTV?

TheStreet_JEisinger:

No.

thestreet_khobson:

Is that like SCTV?

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Everyone was worried that the US would lose another big consumer electronics market.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Now no one cares.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

It's all MSFT, MSFT, MSFT these days.

ARCTIC_CAT_ZR500 asks:

If you wrote a book what would you title it?

TheStreet_ABerenson:

How bout Countdown?

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Great Expectations, but that's been taken.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

But seriously, folks, I think the series title works pretty well.

thestreet_khobson:

The Business Century?

jbousquin asks:

Joe here from

TheStreet.com

again. What about the introduction of the T.V. dinner? Didn't that clear the way for the mass-marketed, packaged products we all love so much?

thestreet_khobson:

We actually mentioned the TV dinner in the section on air conditioning. We touched on Birdseye's invention of flash freezing, which led the way to Tombstone Pizza, Swanson's Hungry Man, and my favorite, Pita Pockets.

GRIMRAPER3D asks:

I think this world is moving too fast. When all the computers go down, we aren't going to know how to handle all these inventions. That may be good in a way, but when they do go down, on us, what are we supposed to do?

thestreet_khobson:

You can still hit the interstate, though.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

I think you mean reaper.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

That's why I've built that bunker in the basement of my apartment building.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

I've loaded it up with canned goods and I got my shotgun!

TheStreet_ABerenson:

I've taught myself metallurgy and subsistence farming.

BrickHowze_98 asks:

You say the biggest contribution Reagan gave to history was his huge deficits, which lead to high interest rates and falling wages. How exactly was this beneficial, making us all want to be Republicans? In 99 out of 100 items I see direct, correlating benefit to the United States business place. I don't get #11.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Just becausec the impact was important doesn't mean it was good.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

In addition, conservatives would argue that the deficits eventually led to a slowdown in the rate of growth of government as Washington was forced to cut back to balance its books.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

We think that while there have been some benefits to Reganism, there have been many negatives -- such as the widening gap between rich and poor.

King_of_Armenia asks:

How about the invention of the transistor?

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Read the list, your highness.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

We have it as 27. It could be higher, but with the microprocessor at 2, we don't think we can be accused of ignoring tech.

thestreet_khobson:

It was actually 28, Alex.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Yeah. Whatever.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

He's bad with numbers.

www_ReadYourBible_com asks:

Tech stocks have sincerely shaped the future of stocks and the stock market. Do you think tech stocks will play an important role as more Internet Businesses go public?

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Yeah, of course.

thestreet_khobson:

Tech is at the cutting edge of the economy now, so by definition it will be a fast growing industry.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Is that you, Dave Kansas?

TheStreet_JEisinger:

But which will turn out to be the next century's to 100 I is too difficult to tell now.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Now, I'm going to go read my bible.

TSCEllen:

Let's wrap up with this one:

mrtimm asks:

What invention is the most overrated?

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Good question. Probably Yahoo chats.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Television, perhaps? Except for The Love Boat.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

No, I'd seriously go with the cell phone. Wireless communications are nice, but I wouldn't call them life-changing.

thestreet_khobson:

I'd say variations on how we watch TV, like things that are supposed to program around commercials.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

I'd actually go for the dishwasher, which doesn't clean dishes well.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

But they're certainly advertised that way.

thestreet_khobson:

We use TV for background now. People don't want to change their viewing habits.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

The microwave destroy the taste of food, but then I'm a bit of a food snob.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

DVDs are another example. Most changes today are incremental.

thestreet_khobson:

Personally I'm not a fan of palm pilots.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Unlike, say, the phone, electric system, or automobile.

thestreet_khobson:

We're done complaining.

TSCEllen:

Thanks for being with us today, Jesse, Alex and Katherine.

TheStreet_ABerenson:

Our pleasure. Really. We mean that.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

No problem. Hope you all have enjoyed it.

thestreet_khobson:

You're welcome. Happy to chat 'n chew.

TheStreet_JEisinger:

Catch our act in the Catskills coming this summer.

thestreet_khobson:

Keep telling us what we left off the list!

TSCEllen:

If you didn't have a chance to check out the series yet, go to the following URL -- http://www.thestreet.com/markets/marketfeatures/743402.html

thestreet_khobson:

:)

TSCEllen:

As always, this transcript will be posted on www.thestreet.com.

TSCEllen:

Make sure to catch the next

TSC

chat with Gary B. Smith on May 25 at 5 p.m. EDT. Thanks for being with us!