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Katie Couric and the New Populism


With all the talk of corporate greed and inequality, did people like Katie Couric think that in tough times they were immune from the laws of populist outrage? Did Couric believe that, amid significant layoffs at CBS, she could still garner pay worth 200 salaries of $75,000 in the new age of egalitarianism? What’s next? When movies bomb, will actors’ pay be presented in terms of how many cameramen could have been hired with their payouts?

What’s interesting is that Obama’s egalitarian “J’accuse!” movement was largely supported by those who — logically, at least — were precisely the individuals Obama was railing against: people earning more than $200,000 a year who make x-times more than their lowly coworkers.

So, given the new mood of the country and the new tax codes on the horizon, can we expect law professors, actors, media celebs, and others gladly to pay 65 percent of their ill-gotten gains in state taxes, federal income taxes, new payroll taxes, and health-care taxes? And can we start asking the tough questions? For example: Why do endowed professors teach fewer classroom hours than part-timers who make one-fifth their wages?

Somehow, Obamaism convinced many that they were avatars of needed change, unlike the greedy “them,” and thus were exempt from the logical consequences of their own rhetoric. The problem, however, is that Obama’s most influential base of support is “them.” This could catch on. Imagine the possibilities: John Edwards sells his “two Americas” mansion. Al Gore gives his energy-guzzling estate over to poor environmental activists. Warren Buffet forsakes the esoteric deductions that gave him an 18 percent income-tax rate and happily starts paying 60 percent of his income as his “fair share.” Bill and Melinda Gates hold back $20 billion or so from the foundation and give it to a broke treasury desperately in need of estate-tax revenue.


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