CNBCfix review: 1 way to know
if Michelle Caruso-Cabrera
is really right: Run

          Posted: Monday, October 11, 2010

When a CNBC pundit pens a political manifesto, is that a sign of a top in the Tea Party?

If Republican Party strategists don't already know where the momentum is, they'd be wise to pick up a copy of Michelle Caruso-Cabrera's You Know I'm Right: More Prosperity, Less Government.

This is the fed-up Republican, one thoroughly unimpressed with the economic articulations of George Bush, John McCain and Sarah Palin but not quite convinced by the Tea Party. It's not until Chapter 17, but Ms. Caruso-Cabrera in fact cites Sarah Palin as a reason to be skeptical of the Tea Party: "her presence suggests politics as usual."

Ms. Caruso-Cabrera's brand of politics is straight from the Milton Friedman playbook. According to the index, Friedman is referenced in 7 passages, though it feels more like 70. Virtually anything you can think of that government does, the recommendation in this book is to do less (the Post Office, curiously, is left mostly unscathed).

Unfortunately — perhaps by choice — what Ms. Caruso-Cabrera fails to promote are credentials. Unlike Friedman, she is not an economist. Nor is she a politician. She offers readers virtually nothing about her background or even career at CNBC. Her dedication mentions Wellesley but otherwise there is nothing about her academic pursuits. Everyone is entitled to her opinion; many may wonder, what's so special about hers?

Right-wing readers have more explosive and polarizing options than this book. Too much of it is generic Republican arguments, bolstered by data from conservative think tanks, against pork, deficit spending, tariffs, subsidies, the Employee Free Choice Act, public schools and of course the defense of tax cuts. The strength of this book is not the politics but its simple descriptions of complex subjects. Where did Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac come from, what laws govern our health plans, how did we end up with 3 main ratings agencies? Maybe at heart, Ms. Caruso-Cabrera is just too much journalist and not enough pundit.

For a hook, she paints herself as a "partyless" voter, "part of a new and growing crowd of 'sort-of' Republicans." The title of the opening chapter is revealing, "Mind My Business, Not My Bedroom."

Eventually she will promote mostly open borders, an end to group health insurance, abolishment of the SEC, several Cabinet departments and government recognition of marriage, legalizing insider trading, and while we're at it, "Let's get rid of Social Security and Medicare altogether." There is a curious fascination with cell phones and banking secrecy.

But before all that, we get a solid dose of mainstream politics. How seriously does Ms. Caruso-Cabrera take her own agenda? Clearly serious, on a philosophical level, but maybe not so seriously on a practical level.

The clue is in her arrangement of chapters. Chapter 2 is about Ronald Reagan. She retraces the decades-old Republican talking points, the greatness of the Reagan years, all the stats that back up how wonderful the '80s were. The typical CNBC viewer (presumably her primary audience) who hears these arguments all day on the network may ask, "Does she think I was born yesterday?" For a book so reliant on statistics, she even disappointingly cites excerpts of Reagan speeches.

To support the "partyless" thesis, she devotes Chapter 3 to the greatness of Bill Clinton. He's her second-favorite president. Supported NAFTA, cut welfare, even managed a surplus. The irony that these 2 presidents left office with easily the highest departing approval ratings of any in Ms. Caruso-Cabrera's lifetime is apparently lost on her; in the category of presidential admiration, she's as mainstream as it gets.

Only later does Ms. Caruso-Cabrera suggest that, among other policy changes, Social Security and Medicare, "the country's biggest pyramid schemes," must go. In fact, that argument isn't so off-the-wall either; George Bush dabbled in it in 2005.

The end game is lacking in You Know I'm Right. What exactly does Ms. Caruso-Cabrera hope to accomplish? If we do all the things she suggests, will the nation be happier? Have better iPads and HDTVs? Cheaper groceries? Delay-free airports? Stronger national defense? Safer neighborhoods? You Know I'm Right somehow feels more like an economics doctoral thesis than a ticket to Solla Sollew.

Most of all, this book utterly fails to answer a mandatory question: If you are right, why don't you run for office?

Ms. Caruso-Cabrera, who is stunning, would figure to be a very appealing candidate. Highly skilled at television, extremely articulate, command of issues, very pleasant demeanor, wonderful sense of humor. She spends the final couple of chapters lamenting the 2-party system. This feels like a cop-out, an excuse. If people "know" she is right, surely they will vote for her. If they just aren't smart enough to get it, then her book is a pointless exercise, a waste of time.

Regardless, Republicans should not worry. The Right is just angry, tired of losing and cheering on mediocre candidates. They'll come back in a heartbeat once the team gets better players. This book is more evidence they've never really Left.

You Know I'm Right: More Prosperity, Less Government, by Michelle Caruso-Cabrera (2010)

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star bios

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♦ Maria Bartiromo
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♦ Jane Wells
♦ Erin Burnett
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♦ Jon Najarian
♦ Tim Seymour
♦ Becky Quick
♦ Joe Kernen
♦ John Harwood
♦ Steve Liesman
♦ Margaret Brennan
♦ Bertha Coombs
♦ Mary Thompson
♦ Trish Regan
♦ Melissa Francis
♦ Rebecca Jarvis
♦ Darren Rovell
♦ Carl Quintanilla
♦ Diana Olick
♦ Anderson Cooper
♦ Neil Cavuto
♦ Monica Crowley
♦ Bill O'Reilly
♦ Rachel Maddow
♦ Susie Gharib
♦ Jane Skinner
♦ Kimberly Guilfoyle
♦ Martha MacCallum
♦ Courtney Friel
♦ Uma Pemmaraju
♦ Joe Scarborough
♦ Terry Keenan
♦ Chrystia Freeland
♦ Christine Romans

CNBC guest bios

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♦ Dennis Gartman
♦ Diane Swonk
♦ Meredith Whitney
♦ Richard X. Bove
♦ Arthur Laffer
♦ Jared Bernstein
♦ Doug Kass
♦ David Malpass
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