Is Warren Buffett's secretary the 1 percent?

Reports vary on Debbie Bosanek's salary


This is a rush transcript from "The Five," January 27, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ERIC BOLLING, CO-HOST: The controversy surrounding Warren Buffett's secretary is heating up. You may remember Debbie Bosanek was a guest of the first lady at the State of the Union. And the president used her as a champion for secretaries across the country.

Well, she and her boss Warren Buffett sat down with ABC News to talk about her new role.


BIANNA GOLODRYGA, ABC NEWS: You said that you felt as if you are representing secretaries across the country yesterday.

DEBBIE BOSANEK, WARREN BUFFETT'S SECRETARY: Right. I just feel like an average citizen, so maybe I should say I was representing just the average citizen who, you know, needs a voice and wants to be treated fairly in the area of taxation.

WARREN BUFFETT, BILLIONAIRE INVESTOR: Debbie is typical. She is right in the middle.


BOLLING: He said typical.

All right. But is she a real representation of secretaries across America? According to "Forbes," Buffett's secretary could make between 200,000 and 500,000 bucks a year. By comparison, the average secretary in America makes 43,500 bucks a year. And that's according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Greg, typical?

GREG GUTFELD, CO-HOST: Two hundred thousand dollars a year. That's $10,000 per cat picture on her desk. By the way, she's not a secretary. She's what you call a personal assistant.

BOB BECKEL, CO-HOST: Personal assistant.

GUTFELD: 2012, my assistant Seth who does my laundry and also my travel companion. I don't call him my secretary. That's just plain offensive.

But there's just one big flaw with this whole story. I want to get this out. This whole class warfare stuff is pointless because the cost of living varies city by city.

So, even if you make, say, $50,000 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, that is not the same as making $50,000 in New York City.

So, talking -- I know. Surprising.


GUTFELD: The media doesn't bring it up. The class warfare stuff is junk.

BECKEL: Megan does my laundry and stuff. And I call her my --


BECKEL: Oh, sorry.

Are you kidding me?

GUTFELD: Is that, that bag?

BECKEL: He is probably makes that money on, probably I assume if she's a member of Berkshire Hathaway, she probably gets stock options.



BECKEL: How do you know that?

BOLLING: Well, we don't know that. And it's very good point.


BOLLING: But we try to know that because I called four different times today. I called at 10:58, 11:53, 2:11, and 4:02. I'm on your voice mail four times. I wanted to ask you, is it stock options? Is it stock? Is it capital gains or is it regular income?

If it's regular income, she has to make at least $200,000.

BECKEL: But why do you say no to me all of a sudden when you don't know?

GUILFOYLE: Because he wanted to know. He tried to know.

PERINO: That's not the point that everybody is making. It's not the reason that she was sitting in the first lady's box. The reason she was invite in the box is because she has become -- for lack of a better word -- poster child for this movement that is not fair that she is on her income is paying a higher rate than what Warren Buffett pays on his investment income.

I actually think this conversation in America has been very helpful, because it's helping people understand, OK, you get the investment income, or your salary. You're taxed on that.

And then if you decide, because you made enough you want to try to invest that money and take a risk on it.


PERINO: And when that is, if you are lucky enough to make dividend on it, like Warren Buffett has, then you pay 15 percent on it. That's the way the system works.

If it's true that what "Forbes" has said in terms of its analysis, in Nebraska, it's 30th on the list of household income, $47,000 is the average. And she would be making, even if $200,0,000, 425 percent more than others.

I think that the White House unfortunately has opened themselves up to a lot of criticism. They're the ones that want full transparency. We might find out her salary is $35,000 a year. But I kind of doubt it and it's really unfair that Warren Buffett --


GUILFOYLE: Well, let me tell you something. I know her. I know Warren Buffett. I spent time with them, back from San Francisco.

BOLLING: You know Debbie?

GUILFOYLE: I do. She's very nice woman. And she's extremely hardworking. She should be paid -- believe me, $200,000 isn't enough. She should be paid, getting paid $1 million.

Let me tell you, she's practically CEO. That being set aside, she is kind of now come under a lot of ridicule, a lot of criticism. And everybody is investigating her. And she's going to become a scapegoat.

BECKEL: Listen, what the president of the United States said is exactly right. It doesn't matter whether she is makes $200,000 or $500,000, but the fact that Warren Buffett pays 12 percent, the rate on capital gains should not be 15 percent, it ought to be 30 percent. That's his point.

BOLLING: Hang on.


BOLLING: Bob, later on in the same interview -- please respond to this. Later in the same interview, Warren Buffett said, if this is war, talking about class warfare, if this is war, my side has the nuclear bomb. We've got K Street, we've got lobbyists, we've got money on our side.

Here it is, Buffett saying things that Obama is too afraid.

BECKEL: Well, no, he's exactly right. The other thing he's got on his side is the Republican Party. So, I mean, the side of rich people. So


GUILFOYLE: But he is not saying he is right. He is saying that he has the money to convince the people.

BECKEL: No, he says it's wrong.

GUILFOYLE: What he said all along is people who make the money I do should not pay this little in income tax, or in capital gains tax. He's right. And he can say, this creates jobs and this is a risk we take. Well, so what?

GUTFELD: The end result is there's no effect on the debt. The money we're talking about. So, all this really is, is divisiveness. And if you point out that it's divisive, then you are accused of being divisive.

BECKEL: You are decisive.

GUTFELD: If you disagree with me, you are decisive.

BOLLING: Dana, weigh in -- Bob, you said something important. You said everyone says this creates jobs. Well, so what? Shouldn't it be Obama's message, I will do anything to create jobs? We need jobs, right?

BECKEL: How do you know that creates jobs?

BOLLING: You said it. Those are your words.

BECKEL: No, no, I said that's the argument you all are using. That all these people create jobs, capital gains --

BOLLING: All right. Here is why capital gains are 15 percent and regular income is 30 percent, because you want opportunity for people to invest so companies have capital to spend to hire people. That's why it's taxed at a lower rate.

PERINO: I guess you have to tease.

BOLLING: You don't want to go there?

PERINO: I have lots to say. But the point of capitalism is risk. If you want to take that out of the equation, then you won't have people that are risking starting a business to create jobs. That's just a fact.

And I actually take offense to Republicans are just a party of rich people.

BECKEL: No, I said defend rich people.

PERINO: Yesterday, you said Republicans are the party of rich people.

It did not grow up rich. I grew up with a conservative philosophy that I have developed over the years.

I look at some people, you know, all across the country, I think it's a huge problem for Democrats -- saying things like that continues to be more -- looked more divisive and it doesn't help you. You wonder why Obama is losing independents at the fastest rate.

BECKEL: If I said that, I apologize. But I think I said they defend rich people. I didn't say they were all rich people. I know a lot of Republicans who are not rich.

But I want to know why capital gains ought to be taxed differently than sweat equity when a worker puts sweat in every day.

BOLLING: Because you want to spur investment in a company, and when you invest in the company, that company's profits have already been spent.

GUILFOYLE: It's double taxation. If you think of in a very logical way.

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