Bitter Former CNN Correspondent Asks: ‘How Many Vacation Homes Do You Need?’

After being dropped by CNN in 2007, former top political correspondent Bob Franken has gone on to market himself as a political pundit, revealing the inner liberal that more close observers of his supposedly “impartial” reporting long suspected was there.

Appearing over the weekend on the MSNBC program hosted by liberal college professor Melissa Harris-Perry, former top CNN correspondent Bob Franken appeared to endorse the far left notion of a maximum income. “How many vacation homes do you need?” Franken asked during a hotly disputed discussion which also featured a preposterous rant by the host. Video and transcript below the fold.

The context of the discussion took place when Harris-Perry went on an unhinged and uninformed rant about how there supposedly was no social safety net available to poor Americans. “What in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America?” she asked repeatedly, apparently unaware of just how much worse it is living in the slums of Brazil or the deserts of Africa.

She then claimed that there were all sorts of government programs which protected wealthy individuals from failure. (Undoubtedly, the uber-rich Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore would love to have such programs now that no one is interested in paying for their opinions.)

As is typical of any MSNBC show, the panelists discussing the subject were heavily stacked against anyone trying to provide some semblance of rationality. Kudos to Monica Mehta, columnist for Bloomberg Businessweek for trying to do that by helping the reality-challenged host to understand that risk-taking is the basis of the private economy and that government would not exist without taking money from those who have taken risks in order to get ahead.

That set off Franken who tried to construct a strawman argument which he accused Mehta of believing. In a very patronizing tone, he tried to spell out for the brilliant Mehta how she is actually an imbecile. In doing so, he provided a classic example of failed Keynesian economics and of his own hypocrisy:

BOB FRANKEN: You mean the entrepreneurs who built things all by themselves?

MONICA MEHTA: Yes, the ones that use the roads that all of us have access to, the teachers have access to. But some of us go to Dairy Queen and some of us start businesses. [...]

FRANKEN: Besides which, your premise, correct me if you disagree. Your premise is that the person must be able to have all the wealth he can accumulate. All the wealth he can accumulate as a reward for taking risks. And I guess my question is, how many vacation homes do you need? How many private jets do you need? I suspect that if people were to give a little bit back to the government that enabled them, that they would, in fact, still want to take those risks.

Contrary to the economically ignorant Franken, the reality is that taxing a thing means that you’ll get less of it. This certainly applies to income as well, as states like Maryland and Illinois have found out: When you raise taxes, you gain far less revenue from it than you imagine you will.

The former CNNer is also apparently unaware that far from contributing “a little bit,” the wealthiest Americans actually pay the lion’s share of income taxes to the federal government and that the American tax system is actually one of the most unfair to those who earn significant income compared to other countries.

That aside, one could take this very same line of questioning toward Franken’s personal state of affairs. How many years does someone need to be a talking head on television? How much money does he need after raking in millions of dollars commenting on the news? Why couldn’t he simply have retired and enjoyed the good life instead of trying to earn more money for himself? Why isn’t Bob Franken spending his weekend at his second beach house instead of trying to flatter an MSNBC host?

The answer is, of course, that as an individual in a free society, Franken is allowed to do just that, even if most of us wouldn’t pay a cent to hear his viewpoints.

Transcript and video of the exchange, including of Harris-Parry's rant, are below:

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: I feel like both conservatives and progressives are--

DAVID COATES (Professor, Wake Forest University)You know the data on that is very--

HARRIS-PERRY: I was going to say, the data now show that in our current moment, class mobility is very low. And this notion of saying ‘I deserve it!’ what do I deserve? I feel like from the bottom, you have to be able to say, ‘I deserve the ability for class mobility!’

NANCY GILES: Which is funded by public education, by low-cost health care.

HARRIS-PERRY: At the core--

GILES: This is a weird--

MONICA MEHTA: Which is enabled by taking risks. And that was the big thing that was missing from the “you didn’t build that speech.”

HARRIS-PERRY: What is riskier than living poor in America? Seriously! What in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America? I live in a neighborhood where people are shot on my street corner, I live in a neighborhood where people have to figure out how to get their kid into school because maybe it will be a good school and maybe it won’t.

I am sick of the idea that being wealthy is risky. No! There is a huge safety net that whenever you fail will catch you (slams palms together) and catch you (slams palms together) and catch you (slams palms again). Being poor is what is risky!

MEHTA: Melissa--

HARRIS-PERRY: We have to create a safety net for poor people and when won’t because they happen to look different from us, it is the pervasive ugliness!

COATES: It is, it is.

HARRIS-PERRY: We cannot do that!

COATES: There is the other side being that small business owners do take risks, of course. And when we--

MEHTA: That’s what makes entrepreneurs different from other smart, hardworking people. And my point was that that is what was missing from the speech.

BOB FRANKEN: You mean the entrepreneurs who built things all by themselves?

COATES: They don’t build them by themselves, they build them by employing other people.

MEHTA: Yes, the ones that use the roads that all of us have access to, the teachers have access to. But some of us go to Dairy Queen and some of us start businesses.

GILES: I’m sorry but the whole notion of job creators—consumers are job creators. We’re the ones who make, who help make business, and who help make industry. And it’s very hurtful I so agree with what you just said (looking at Harris-Perry).

There was a picture on the front-page of the New York Times this Tuesday that really irked me. It was a black man that was in a homeless shelter in New Orleans and it showed empty beds around him and he was laying back with his feet crossed. And there was something about that picture to me that just looked like ‘This is an example of some lazy person, sponging off of the largess of other people.’

There are just these pervasive things that are out there. They just are!

FRANKEN: Besides which, your premise (addressing Mehta), correct me if you disagree. Your premise is that the person must be able to have all the wealth he can accumulate. All the wealth he can accumulate as a reward for taking risks. And I guess my question is, how many vacation homes do you need? How many private jets do you need? I suspect that if people were to give a little bit back to the government that enabled them, that they would, in fact, still want to take those risks.

MEHTA: I don’t think that’s the thought process of the small business owner who makes $250,000 a year. We’ve lost 220,000 small business owners in the last 10 years. We’re mixing apples and oranges. We’re talking about people that are super-wealthy and putting the policies that should affect them on real people who are just trying.

HARRIS-PERRY: You’re right, small business is different than Bain Capital. But I’ll also say, 10 years, President Obama has been president than few—less than four.

In just a moment, I’m going to take a breath but first, it’s time for weekend with Alex Whitt.

Of course, Harris-Perry just had to get that comically inept defense of President Obama in before going to the break, even though Mehta was not even talking about him at all.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013