NBC's Ann Curry Rants: It's 'Fundamentally Unfair' Some Have More Money Than Others

In a supposed discussion of financial ethics with left-wing Harvard professor Michael Sandel on Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Ann Curry decried people being able to pay more money to get through airport security faster: "...there's an inherent unfairness to it....it's about those with money having an easier life than those who don't. And there's something fundamentally unfair about that." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]     

Sandel was on to hawk his new book, "What Money Can't Buy," which Curry touted as, "a hard look at what's up for grabs in our society and asks, even if we can buy something, should we?" Sandel put different "moral dilemmas" to the morning show hosts, including the airport security line scenario. Curry went on to indict American society: "...not everyone has access to being able to get money, to work for money.... until America becomes fair in terms of how able people are – can be to make money, until the playing field is fair, it is unfair."

The first scenario Sandel outlined was the idea of paying grade school students cash to encourage them to read. After the hosts debated the issue, Sandel observed: "So there are two objections here. Matt's is about fairness, to those who won't be able to succeed. Ann's – Ann seems to worry about crowding out the real thing that we want to teach, the right attitude toward books....The love of reading for its own sake....Money might chase out that desire."

When the airline ticket "dilemma" came up, Curry began by confessing:

I'm not sure I think it's fair. It's something I've done, and I have to say that I always feel guilty about it.... I mean, you are paying for a service – but one time I came out of a plane and I was in first class, and they stopped everyone who was in coach from even exiting the plane until we all got out and I just wanted to put a bag over my head. It just feels, there's a sense of, I'm kind of better than you are. And I don't – I don't think that is right.

As Curry continued to rant against the unfairness of it all, weatherman Al Roker pointed out: "But don't we also teach our kids, in a sense, life isn't always fair." That's when Curry demanded America level the "playing field."

Wrapping up the segment, co-host Matt Lauer praised Sandel: "...it's a fantastic book because it forces you to say, we know we can do something, but should we do that thing?"

Sandel responded: "What you began, especially in the disagreements, was the kind of debate I think we need to have more often in our society about where money and markets serve the public good and where they don't belong."

News anchor Natalie Morales chimed in: "It's brilliant." Curry added: "That was enjoyable."

Writing for The Huffington Post in 2010, Sandel urged the Obama administration to expand government control over the economy:

Social-welfare liberalism seems a more practical doctrine than the anti-bigness version of earlier progressives. It is hard to imagine how to break up the large financial institutions and corporations that dominate modern economic life. And yet I believe it's a mistake for contemporary liberals to give up on the old progressive project of exerting democratic control over economic institutions. In fact, it's a mistake that has backfired on the Obama presidency. The initial reluctance of Barack Obama and his economic advisers to take a tougher line on the banks has led to a populist backlash that now threatens his agenda.


Here is a portion of the April 25 exchange:  

(...)

8:43AM ET

SANDEL: At airports, to get up to the security checkpoint. We know that if you buy an expensive ticket or pay extra, you get to jump to the head of the line.

MORALES: Right.

SANDEL: How about that? Is that...

MORALES: I think it's fair.

SANDEL: Natalie?

MORALES: You pay – if you want to buy a first class ticket you're going to pay a premium but you pay for the service. So, I think the same way, I think it's fair.

ROKER: I do, too.

SANDEL: Ann?

CURRY: I'm not sure I think it's fair. It's something I've done, and I have to say that I always feel guilty about it. But...
ROKER: But you do it.

CURRY: But I do it anyways.

MORALES: But we do it, yeah.

SANDEL: But why? Why do you feel guilty?

CURRY: Because there's an inherent unfairness to it, I think, that the idea – I mean, you are paying for a service – but one time I came out of a plane and I was in first class, and they stopped everyone who was in coach from even exiting the plane until we all got out and I just wanted to put a bag over my head. It just feels, there's a sense of, I'm kind of better than you are. And I don't – I don't think that is right.

SANDEL: What do you think, Matt?

LAUER: Because I want people to like me, I'm going to say that look, the people who are less affluent then are not afforded the same convenience and why is their time not as important as my time?

CURRY: Yes.

MORALES: Right.

SANDEL: Would you make a difference between early boarding privileges, so you can put your bag in the overhead bin, that's a convenience.

LAUER: At an amusement park.

SANDEL: And – well, or an amusement park. Or going through the security check quicker?

ROKER: Hmm?

SANDEL: Is there a difference?

LAUER: I think – we've just signed up, a lot of us here, for this system. But they do a security check on you right now, for a fee, that allows you to go faster through the line. So it's not like they're letting you go by without security.

CURRY: Right, but it's still a question of money.

ROKER: But you're still paying a fee.

CURRY: You know, it's about those with money having an easier life than those who don't. And there's something fundamentally unfair about that. Because not everyone has access to being able to get money, to work for money.

ROKER: But don't we also teach our kids, in a sense, life isn't always fair.

MORALES: No, exactly.

CURRY: No, but there's – until America becomes fair in terms of how able people are – can be to make money, until the playing field is fair, it is unfair.

LAUER: Just to wrap it up, it's a fantastic book because it forces you to say, we know we can do something, but should we do that thing? Did we fail? Did we pass? What happens here?

CURRY: Do we feel bad?

MORALES: It's how you debate.

SANDEL: What you – what you began, especially in the disagreements, was the kind of debate I think we need to have more often in our society about where money and markets serve the public good and where they don't belong.

MORALES: It's brilliant.

LAUER: Alright, the book is "What Money Can't Buy." Professor Michael Sandel.

MORALES: Thank you.

LAUER: Professor, Michael, thank you so much.

SANDEL: Thank you.

LAUER: Great to have you here.

CURRY: That was enjoyable.

MORALES: Very good.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC