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'Super Rich:' The New Code for Media Disapproval

     You can never be too thin or too rich.


     That’s always been the case – until the mainstream media started counting. They like us all Hollywood-thin, but like our wallets that way as well.


     Journalists set almost mystical limits on how much wealth is too much. And if you have money, you need to devote it to the right, or I should say “left,” causes.


     If you don’t do the right thing, the media brand you as “super rich,” part of the new awful elite who not only dare to earn, but dare to spend and enjoy life.


     It’s all part of the liberal class warfare agenda. The theme runs rampant everywhere from the Democratic ticket to the media.


     There’s Barack Obama’s poverty agenda that includes mandating a “living wage.” Or John Edwards trying to pretend $400 haircuts don’t disqualify him from being a friend to the common man. Then there’s Hillary Clinton’s new brand of socialism with Hillary-care, increasing the minimum wage even more and plans to take corporate profits.


     If you have money, they want to take it.


     Those positions are built on a firm foundation of media antipathy toward success – in any field other than entertainment. (In Hollywood, great scads of money, drugs, alcohol, groupies and more make the mainstream media shiver in anticipation of better ratings.)


     But the so-called super rich earn another, less friendly, fate.


     The July 23 issue of Newsweek took on the newest incarnation of the people the media consider unacceptably wealthy – “private equity billionaires,” “the new Masters of the Universe.” (Newsweek isn’t subtle.)


     The story depicted them as “true aristocrats” wearing “English tailored suits” with all the “trappings of gentry” from country estates to oriental rugs. In the eyes of Newsweek, they got their success through a “wrinkle in the tax code.” That “loophole” is being targeted by liberal politicians out once again to use taxes to mess with the markets.


     NBC crowned the hedge fund crowd “super rich” on June 26. According to NBC’s Carl Quintanilla, “the people who run them [are] buying mansions, art, paying themselves salaries of over $1 billion in just the past year.”


     Though the report mentioned the “high risk” and the “mind-boggling mathematical models hedge funds use to pick investments and minimize risk,” the gist of it was clear. The reporter turned to left-wing billionaire Warren Buffet, who called hedge fund investing “a fool’s game.” Gordon Gekko, “the villain from the movie ‘Wall Street,’ is returning in a sequel as, yes, a hedge fund manager,” Quintanilla added.


     NBC’s April 4, 2007, “Today” delved into the wretched excess of the famous and “super-rich addicts,” like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, who check into rehab centers that “look like five star resorts,” according to reporter John Larson. The list of goodies is long – swimming pools, tennis lessons and even “organic world-class meals.”


     Larson’s peak at the super bratty makes it clear we’re not supposed to like anyone who is so “super.”


     Network use of the term “super rich” dates to ABC’s “World News Tonight” in 1982, according to Nexis. Frank Reynolds used it to describe members of the “400 richest Americans” put out by Forbes magazine. Newsweek used the term at least as far back as 1975 to describe famous Greek millionaire Aristotle Onassis.


     Over time, the term became code for rich the media didn’t approve of, like oil barons, sheikhs and more. In 1986, during the peak of the Reagan revolution, Democrats complained about how much wealth was held by the top “one-half of one percent of the country’s households.” Peter Jennings deployed the same term – “super rich.”


     Things changed in the 1990s with the beginning of the Clinton years. During the dot-com boom in Clinton’s second term, ABC, CBS and NBC used the term just 20 times in four years.


     Almost as soon as Bush took office, the media were sputtering the term again. The estates, prenuptial contracts and, amazingly, the “super rich” who supported keeping the estate tax were all over the news. In those first four years of the Bush presidency, there were 34 mentions of the term on the network news, a 70-percent increase.


     It fit the story the media wanted to tell. Republicans were in charge and the “super rich” were running amok doing all those capitalistic things like buying things. With class warfare the current lefty call-to-arms, we can expect to see more “super rich” through the 2008 election.


     And to think, some think the media aren’t biased.


     Now that’s rich.


Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow and director of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute.