CBS’s Mason: Rich Getting Richer is Good for the Economy

On Wednesday’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Anthony Mason made an observation rarely expressed in the mainstream media – that when the rich get richer, they do so by creating jobs that benefit everyone. Mason: "Two-thirds of these billionaires are self-made. They're the pioneering businessmen like Bill Gates who created the companies that have created the jobs and the wealth in this country. So we want them to get richer because when they do, we do."

Mason’s comments came after he had filed a report in which he filled in viewers on the staggering amount of wealth that has been lost by the world’s billionaires since last year. After he concluded by pointing out that "the pain of this recession is unrelenting and everywhere – from the bottom all the way to the top," anchor Katie Couric brought up the sentiment of class envy that many feel toward the wealthy, inviting Mason to explain why it is "short-sighted" for people to rejoice in the bad fortunes of the wealthy. Couric: "Having said that, Anthony, a lot of people aren't going to feel real sorry for these folks, even though on average they lost about 25 percent of their wealth. But you say that's shortsighted?"

Mason explained: "Yeah, because remember, two-thirds of these billionaires are self-made. They're the pioneering businessmen like Bill Gates who created the companies that have created the jobs and the wealth in this country. So we want them to get richer because when they do, we do."

Below is a complete transcript of the report from the Wednesday, March 11, CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: Finally tonight, when Forbes magazine first put out a list of the world's billionaires back in 1987, there were just 96. By last year there were well over 1,000. And then the recession hit. Anthony Mason reports on the new Forbes list just out tonight: Rich man, poorer man.

ANTHONY MASON: Microsoft founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett were again the wealthiest men in the world. But in this economy, even billionaires were playing a losing hand. Forbes magazine in its annual ranking of the world's wealthiest calls it a "Billionaire Bust" – 1,125 made the list of billionaires last year; this year less than 800. The average billionaire worth nearly $4 billion a year ago is now worth $3 billion.

LUISA KROLL, FORBES SENIOR EDITOR: The last time the billionaires around the world were that poor – and obviously I'm a little tongue in cheek when I talk about $3 billion being poor – but was back in 2003.

MASON: And at the top of the list, there was a reshuffling of the deck as Warren Buffett fell out of first place.

KROLL: He had his worst year in the 44 years that he's been running Berkshire Hathaway.

MASON: Buffett, who lost $25 billion, is now worth $37 billion.

KROLL: And Bill Gates reclaims the title of world's richest man, even though he lost $18 billion.

MASON: Among the 20 richest people in the world, only one actually saw his fortunes improve. That was New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who reinvested in his Bloomberg Network. In all, the U.S. lost 125 billionaires, but still has more than 350. Russia, which had 87, lost nearly two-thirds of those. India, which had 53 last year, is down to 24. So what these numbers show is that the pain of this recession is unrelenting and everywhere – from the bottom all the way to the top, Katie.

COURIC: Having said that, Anthony, a lot of people aren't going to feel real sorry for these folks, even though on average they lost about 25 percent of their wealth.

MASON: Right.

COURIC: But you say that's shortsighted?

MASON: Yeah, because remember, two-thirds of these billionaires are self-made. They're the pioneering businessmen like Bill Gates who created the companies that have created the jobs and the wealth in this country. So we want them to get richer because when they do, we do.

COURIC: All right, Anthony Mason. Thank you, Anthony. And that is the CBS Evening News for tonight. I'm Katie Couric. Thank you for watching. I'll see you back here tomorrow. Good night.