On Friday's "Nightline," ABC reporter Bianna Golodryga filed a segment on the "super rich" who are untainted by the tough economic times and once again highlighted left-wing investor Warren Buffett's calls for more taxation. Without ever labeling Buffett as liberal (he has endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president), Golodryga cheerfully proclaimed that the billionaire is "concerned about the burgeoning wealth gap." The ABC reporter then parroted Buffett's claim that his cleaning lady is paying more in payroll taxes then he does on capital gains. "She doesn't have a lobbyist," the investor complained
Of course, neither Buffett nor Golodryga pointed out that the top one percent of earners pay 39.4 percent of all federal income taxes. In fact, Golodryga has touted Buffett's liberal economic policies before. On November 15, 2007, on "Good Morning America," she lauded the investor for coming out "on behalf of fairness in taxes," in relation to his calls to retain the estate tax and (liberally) reform capital gains tax policy. She rhapsodized to viewers that Buffett was on "your side over taxes and fairness."
On Friday's "Nightline," Golodryga also surveyed the lifestyle of investor Paul Parmar and attempted to deride wealth creators as out of touch: "As many Americans watch personal investments like their homes go belly up, many of the super rich have seen their fortunes only grow." After noting the gourmet tastes of Parmar's dogs, she whined, "What about people that may be looking at you and saying how is it fair that I'm supporting a family of five and this guy's five dogs live better?"
Golodryga talked with "Wall Street Journal" reporter Robert Frank, author of "Richistan," about the current economic situation. She allowed him to deride the "super rich" and dismiss the idea that they create wealth by spending. After asking her one tough question, what's wrong with the wealthy enjoying their money, Frank condescendingly responded this way:
ROBERT FRANK (Author, "Richistan"): If you're a self-made guy and you made your money honestly, then you should enjoy it. What's wrong about it is when you say, well, I'm buying this to benefit the larger economy. Or look at all the jobs I support. Forget it. You know, trickle down has its limits. And if you're living in a 45,000 square foot house, you're doing it for yourself, not for the rest of us.
Becoming more extreme, Frank later speculated that the rich should be "concerned" about revolution. He alarmingly speculated, "If you don't want a revolution in America, you should be quiet about your wealth." Of course, "Nightline" spent much of the segment touring investor Parmar's mansion, so maybe that criticism should be directed at ABC.
A partial transcript of the segment, which aired at 11:35pm on May 16, follows:
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN: Good evening, I'm Cynthia McFadden. We begin tonight with a question. Do you think the country is in a recession? Ask economists and CEOs and you'll get a lot of different answers. But if you put the question to the people, how are you doing, well, according to a new ABC News poll of consumer confidence out just this week the people are pessimistic, more so than at any time in the past 15 years. Lots of people are struggling to keep their homes and fill their gas tanks. But not all people. Bianna Golodryga reports.
PAUL PARMAR [Taking Golodryga around his house.]: That ceiling was done maybe three times. These are all one of a kind made.
GOLODRYGA: Wow. That is quite some fish tank. Wait a minute here. What about all this recession talk? Are you affected at all by the current economic times that we're facing right now?
PARMAR: Not really.
GOLODRYGA: You probably don't recognize this man. His name is Paul Parmar and he is one of the fresh new faces of the super rich.
PARMAR: We're selling to all their doctors.
GOLODRYGA: How often do you check your own net worth?
PARMAR: It's because I'm so invested in private equity it's very difficult to check it.
ROBERT FRANK ("WALL STREET JOURNAL"): Since the 1930s, more than half of America's wealth came from inherited wealth. So we all know about the Rockefellers and the Astors and the DuPonts. But in the last ten years, it's all new money.
GOLODRYGA: Robert Frank is the personal wealth columnist for the "Wall Street Journal" and the author of 'Richistan.'
FRANK: The super rich are unaffected. They truly live in their own world or their own country that I call Richistan. And even I underestimated the degree to which the wealthy are almost oblivious to the fact that we are in a recession.
GOLODRYGA: Paul Parmar is an example of this modern-day multimillionaire. He lives a life many of us can only dream of. [Referring to bowling alley.] How much does this cost to put in?
PARMAR: It's not that bad. I designed it like a Roman ruins.
GOLODRYGA: And how often do you come here?
PARMAR: To this bedroom?
PARMAR: Probably never.
GOLODRYGA: Parmar's fortune is spread across a diverse portfolio of investments, from finance--
PARMAR: My private equity fund we haven't raised anybody's money so it's my own wealth that I have invested in companies.
GOLODRYGA: --to aviation...
PARMAR: We have a very large charter company.
GOLODRYGA: --and movies. Both Bollywood and Hollywood. Most recently, he produced the movie "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead."
["BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD" clip)
GOLODRYGA: His new area of investment - healthcare.
PARMAR: What segment can we make a major impact in? And if you look at healthcare, it's completely broken. It's fragmented. It's inefficient. So we see us as somebody that can - if we can make an impact on that inefficiency--
GOLODRYGA: We tagged along on a recent weekend with Parmar and his girlfriend Amanda. A whirlwind trip, both business--
PARMAR: You need to, like, have fun with your business and stuff.
GOLODRYGA: --and pleasure. His private jet took us to Orlando. We were picked up by a Rolls Royce. And stopped at an exotic car club where you can rent a car so rare you can't even fill it up with regular gasoline.
PARMAR: You can definitely put jet fuel in these cars and you'll be fine.
GOLODRYGA: Then it was off to Anguilla for a two-hour business meeting, all before returning back home to New York. As many Americans watch personal investments like their homes go belly up, many of the super rich have seen their fortunes only grow.
FRANK: The median income in America is still around $48,000 and that's been flat for about the last ten years. Meanwhile the top one percent of Americans own $17 trillion in wealth, which for perspective is greater than the GDP's of Japan, Germany, the U.K. and France combined.
GOLODRYGA: Even the top one percent's dogs live well. Parmar's five pure-breds are fed chicken and steak. What about people that may be looking at you and saying how is it fair that I'm supporting a family of five and this guy's five dogs live better?
PARMAR: I just think it comes back to core fundamentals of how I invest. I didn't go rob a bank. But you have somebody that has immense wealth and he keeps growing and then somebody that has, let's say, $100,000 and it keeps shrinking. The guy that has immense wealth is very confident about himself and knows what they're doing. So they will not put it into savings. The $100,000 guy, his best investment is a savings account. So he's trying to protect it while it shrinks.
GOLODRYGA: But even the world's richest man is concerned about the burgeoning wealth gap.
WARREN BUFFETT: My tax rate is courtesy of the United States Congress. And the people that pay very - the high taxes, like my cleaning lady who pays more on her payroll tax than I pay on capital gains. She doesn't have a lobbyist.
GOLODRYGA: Warren Buffett's estimated wealth hovers around $60 billion.
BUFFETT: This has been a prosperity that's been great for the super rich and it's been bad for the middle class. And, you know, I think that should be changed.
GOLODRYGA: So Buffett has lived in the same modest house for more than 50 years and has pledged to give most his fortune to charity. Here is someone who is giving his money away at the end of the day, most of it.