A full-page ad in USA Today reminded me that today is the debut of Erin Burnett's CNN show OutFront. Burnett gained a following at CNBC, and came to the attention of many conservatives with a report on the Today show (7/17/07) that managed to touch on almost every conservative myth about the economy, earning praise from Rush Limbaugh in the process.
After a clip of Hillary Clinton saying that soaring corporate profits were "like trickle-down economics but without the trickle," Burnett made these claims:
But while the rich are getting richer, you may be, too. Here's why: More than half of Americans are invested in the market whether through a 401(k) plan or buying stocks or mutual funds, and many of those investments are surging. The Dow Jones industrial average is up 12 percent so far this year. And if your retirement plan invested in oil, that alone is up 21 percent. It's also worth noting that while politicians talk about two Americas, virtually all Americans are seeing wages rise, and unemployment is at an historic low.
The idea that a surging stock market is great news for everyone because we all have a piece of the Wall Street pie is totally misleading–most people have little invested in the market, even when retirement accounts are counted. But Burnett really wanted to push that point–she even squeezed it into an NBC Nightly News segment the same evening (7/17/07), claiming that because everyone has a piece of the action this "means the majority of Americans directly benefit from what happens on Wall Street."
And when a deal was cut to keep low tax rates on dividends and capital gains at the end of 2010, Burnett explained: "With capital gains and dividend taxes staying low, the half of Americans that own stocks get a benefit there as well." Except they don't–very few Americans report any such income.
Back to her Today show segment:
You know, for a while, Matt, wage growth had lagged inflation for most Americans. Right now, though, that's not the case. Wages are growing more quickly than they have over the past few years. And, you know, you've been talking so much about whether the tide lifts all boats, the issue of taxes is important here. The top 1 percent of Americans, Matt, pay 30 percent of taxes in this country. The bottom 20 percent of American wage earners pay only 5 percent.
Over this period there was very little growth in median household income; it's not clear what Burnett was excited about. And, of course, nothing warms conservative hearts more than complaining about the heavy tax burden of the wealthy. The bottom 20 percent, who are mostly below the poverty live, pay relatively little in taxes because they don't have much money–according to the Congressional Budget Office (6/10), they make 4 percent of the income in the country, so if they were paying 5 percent of the taxes, as Burnett says, that would be more than their share.
That report earned her praise from right-wing talker Rush Limbaugh. When he reiterated his support for her work on MSNBC, she responded: "You made my day. I'm done now, I'm going home."
That wasn't Burnett's only chance to stick up for the wealthy. She attempted to bat away criticism that TARP bailout funds weren't going to pay sky-high bonuses–only the evidence would seem to indicate that they were.
Then again, Burnett may be best known for these comments about China:
I think people should be careful what they wish for on China. Ya know, if China were to revalue it's currency or China is to start making say, toys that don't have lead in them or food that isn't poisonous, their costs of production are going to go up and that means prices at Wal-Mart here in the United States are going to go up too. So, I would say China is our greatest friend right now, they're keeping prices low and they're keeping the prices for mortgages low, too.
When Limbaugh cheered Burnett, he teased that he was "probably now ruining her career because I have praised her." Quite the opposite.