Millionaire TV Star Tom Brokaw Longs for a Simpler Life: No More 'McMansions'

Tom Brokaw had his Jimmy Carter moment on Tuesday. The veteran journalist appeared on MSNBC's The Cycle to call for Americans to accept a permanent lowering of their standard of living. Speaking of the next generation, Brokaw blithely insisted that "they probably won't have as much disposable income." He added, "They won't live in homes that are McMansions. We gotta get real." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]

The former Nightly News anchor, estimated to be worth about $70 million, didn't seem to find this a bad thing: "It doesn't mean we can't have everything that we need." Brokaw lobbied for Americans to "get proportion." He lectured, "One of my friends says we have to get up every morning and say, 'What do I need today and not just what do I want today?' That's a good guide."

This isn't the first time the millionaire author and TV star lobbied for a return to simplicity. On May 16, 2009, he worried:

TOM BROKAW: The vital signs of your mother - Mother Earth - have taken a turn for the worse and the prescribed treatment is complex and controversial. How we fuel our vast appetite for energy - for consumer, industrial and technological electrical power, for vehicular power - without exacerbating global climate change is an urgent question for your time. In short, how we live on a smaller planet with many more people is a reality that will define your generation for the rest of your lives.

On May 14, 2005, during an address at Dartmouth College, he harassed students, "Eschew excess and embrace moderation in your consumption habits. Sackcloth and kelp soup are not required, but the Buddhist reminder of the need to live lightly on the earth is a helpful guide to the daily habits and needs of us all."

Earlier in the segment on Tuesday's The Cycle, Brokaw contrasted 2012 to the year 1960. "It's much more polarized," he complained. The blame for this? "Information technology and the internet.  You can divide and conquer this country in a keystroke."

Of course, in 1960, the Drudge Report, Fox News, talk radio and organizations like the Media Research Center didn't exist. Journalists such as Brokaw long for a return to an era when the liberal media dominated.

A transcript of the October 16 exchange can be found below:


TOURE: But the mood has become quite toxic. It's far different than 1960 or even 1980, right?

BROKAW: The mood is much different now. It's much more polarized, and that's in part because the instrumentation makes it possible to do that. And by that I mean information technology and the internet. You can divide and conquer this country in a keystroke. And times are tough. People didn't see the downturn coming, nor did they think it would last as long as it has. And the world has changed. We used to be the dominant economy. We are still number one, but we see China coming up fast. People can go to the factory and get a job on the assembly line because they have good hands and a strong back, they can't get those jobs anymore. There's been a real sea change and more than any time in my professional career, families are coming to me, parents especially, and grandparents say 'I'm just worried my kids won't have the life I have.' You know, to some degree they probably won't have as much disposable income. They won't live in homes that are McMansions. We gotta get real. It doesn't mean we can't have everything that we need. I grew up, when I was three and four and five years old, I was living in  an Army base during World War II, my mother raised three boys the size of this table. We got along fine. Doesn't mean I want to go back there.

KRYSTAL BALL: Sounds like my apartment.

BROKAW: We've got to get proportion in our lives again and I think the country is eager to do that, to kind of have a reset of values, what counts. One of my friends says we have to get up every morning and say, "what do I need today and not just what do I want today?" That's a good guide.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the associate editor for the Media Research Center's site.