Apr 1 1994

Lifestyles of the Rich and Fatuous

ABC News‘ Diane Sawyer, who reportedly had her annual salary doubled from $3 million to approximately $6 million, once lectured a single mother who illegally worked two low-paying part-time jobs to supplement her monthly welfare check of $600 (Primetime Live, 9/17/92): “You know, people say you should not have children if you can’t support them.” With an annual income of $16,700, the “welfare cheat” whom Sawyer accused of “gouging the taxpayer” earned in a year about as much as Sawyer now makes in a day.

While being rich doesn’t necessarily mean that you forget what it’s like to live on an ordinary income, it sure seems to help. Here are some examples of journalists and pundits whose excessive salaries seem to color their points of view. (Journalists, unlike politicians, are not required to disclose their incomes, so salaries are mostly press estimates.)

* David Brinkley ($1 million a year) proclaimed (Transport Topics, 11/8/92) that the idea of raising taxes on the rich was a “sick, stupid joke.”

* Ted Koppel ($5 million) asserted on Nightline (2/11/93) that high taxes on the wealthy in the 1970s “created a tremendous economic problem…. It didn’t work.” (In fact, tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent have cost the public more than $1 trillion since 1978, according to Citizens for Tax Justice.)

* Patrick Buchanan (more than $800,000, according to his disclosures as a presidential candidate) claimed in his syndicated column (New York Post, 2/12/94) that “we have just begun to pay the biggest tax hike in history.” In inflation-adjusted dollars, Clinton’s tax hike is far from the largest. But if Buchanan is referring to “we in the top 1 percent income bracket,” he’s not far from the truth. Families making more than $200,000 are paying 80 percent of the tax hike in the current budget. Four times as many families saw their income taxes go down rather than up under the Clinton budget.

* Rush Limbaugh ($12 million) presents himself as the voice of the people. But he sounded more like Marie Antoinette than Will Rogers in his comments on NAFTA (quoted in Flush Rush Quarterly, Fall/93):

If you are unskilled and uneducated, your job is going south. Skilled workers, educated people are going to do fine ’cause those are the kinds of jobs NAFTA is going to create. If we are going to start rewarding no skills and stupid people, I’m serious, let the unskilled jobs that take absolutely no knowledge whatsoever to do–let stupid and unskilled Mexicans do that work.