By Rhonda Racha Penrice
BET founder Bob Johnson, who was never been known for his political stances, gets especially outspoken when President Obama is the topic. During a recent appearance on Fox News Sunday, Johnson joined FedEx CEO Fred Smith in criticizing the president for asking the rich to pay their fair share.
“I think the president has to recalibrate his message,” Johnson said. “You don’t get people to like you by attacking them or demeaning their success. I grew up in a family of 10 kids, first one to go to college, and I’ve earned my success. I’ve earned my right to fly private if I choose to do so. And by attacking me, is not going to convince me that I should take a bigger hit because I happen to be wealthy.”
The problem is that the wealthy aren’t taking a bigger hit. Actually, they aren’t taking much of a hit at all. According to the editorial, “Taxes, the Deficit and the Economy,” that ran in the New York Times September 22, the current tax system “allows 22,000 households earning more than $1 million to pay less than 15 percent of their income in federal income and payroll taxes — less than half of what a middle-class family pays.”
So while Johnson may have earned his “right to fly private,” shouldn’t he also pay for it? What is so horrible about rich people paying their appropriate share, especially when the country as a whole is in dire straits and the unemployment rate among African-Americans in particular is close to 20 percent? Do the rich, especially someone like Johnson who hails from humble beginnings, have amnesia? What happened to the mantra “to whom much is given, much is required” or the concept of giving back? Surely, Johnson had some assistance (and dare we say some of it from government programs) to succeed in his educational and, later, business endeavors.
Just a few weeks ago, for an article that posted on September 2, Johnson told Politico writer Tim Mak, “We can’t exist in two societies, wherein one population is able to be successful and the other one is unsuccessful — that’s the prescription for social unrest.”
He also said “This is not necessarily President Obama’s fault — but right now, this is his watch. He has to address this issue.”
Yet somehow President Obama addressing the issue should exempt the richest among us from paying their fair share? Which is it Bob Johnson and who are you?
In 2008, Johnson, a fervent Hillary Rodham Clinton supporter, also put his foot in his mouth. Defending Mrs. Clinton’s comment that “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act, Johnson implied that Hillary and Bill Clinton were more committed to the African-American community than Barack Obama as well as alluded to Obama’s admission to drug use as a youth in his 1995 book, Dreams of My Father.