Obama Plan=Class Warfare? NBC Asks a Billionaire

At the top of Meet the Press yesterday (9/25/11), NBC anchor David Gregory announced one of the topics to come:

Is the president’s plan basic fairness or class warfare?

As with too many other media debates, an absurd proposition–that returning tax rates for certain wealthy people to levels seen in the 1980s and 1990s is a declaration of war–is treated as one of the two possible answers to a question. Gregory manages to make things worse by getting the only answer on the show from billionaire New York mayor (and media tycoon) Michael Bloomberg:

GREGORY: Does that trouble you?

BLOOMBERG: It does trouble me. You can’t define what’s middle class, what is wealthy, what is poor. Every time you have a jump, people play games to get on one side or another. And I think it’s not fair to say that wealthy people don’t pay their fair share. They pay a much higher percentage of their income. They have a higher rate than people who make less. The Buffett thing is just theatrics. If Warren Buffett made his money from ordinary income rather than capital gains, his tax rate would be a lot higher than his secretary’s. And, in fact, a very small percentage of people in this country pay a big chunk on their taxes.

Bloomberg’s response is incoherent. Of course definitions of what makes someone “wealthy” or “poor” differ, but there’s no reason people can’t make such distinctions.

And Buffett’s tax burden has nothing to do with “theatrics.” Bloomberg says, “If Warren Buffett made his money from ordinary income rather than capital gains, his tax rate would be a lot higher.”

Well, yeah. THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT of Buffett’s argument.

If Meet the Press is going to actually engage this discussion, it might make sense to invite some guests who know something about the issue–perhaps even a non-billionaire.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.