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Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and O'Reilly Are at the Apex of Newsweek's Most Powerful/Highest Paid Pundits and Politicians List

What does it mean that right-wing blowhards have been deemed the most powerful people in the country?
 
 
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With the nation’s progressives nursing a wicked election hangover, it is hardly news that conservatives hold the power in America right now. But according to Newsweek’s Power 50 list, the most powerful people in the country are not just any conservatives; they are the Four Musketeers of far-right media – Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.

There are a few left-leaning folks near the top of the list – the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart (#5), Bill Clinton (#8) and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann (#9) – but the rest of the top 10 is filled out by Sarah Palin (#6), conservative radio host Don Imus (#7) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (#10).

Also noteworthy, as one scrolls down the list, is its striking pale maleness. There are a grand total of nine women represented, and only one of them – Condoleezza Rice (#36) – is a woman of color. (Also, only a few of the women, including Arianna Huffington (#15) and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow (tied for #30), are liberals.) Overall, people of color take up only seven slots on the list, by my count. The highest ranking person of color is President Obama, who appears nearly halfway down the list, tied for #19.

You may be asking yourself, in what sick, twisted world are a bunch of conservative talk show hosts more powerful than the president of the United States? According to Newsweek, a world in which money is king. The magazine (which, incidentally, just went through a period of financial upheaval and was ultimately sold for $1) ranked the country’s current and former politicians, media personalities and political consultants based on their estimated 2010 earnings.

Most Powerful American Rush Limbaugh is pulling in an estimated $58.7 million this year – nearly twice as much as #2, Glenn Beck -- earning him the cover of the magazine and an accompanying feature article. Written by Limbaugh biographer Zev Chafets, the article notes that the radio personality’s annual income “is greater than the combined salary of the entire U.S. Senate (and you can toss in a few dozen congressmen and cabinet secretaries for good measure).”

Some of the more left-leaning media personalities on the list aren’t doing so bad for themselves – Jon Stewart is raking in an estimated $15 million, Keith Olbermann $7.5 million and Bill Maher $4 million. And a lot of former and current politicians aren’t exactly hurting either – Bill Clinton will make $7.7 million this year, George W. Bush $4.2 million and Barack Obama $4 million.

But the combined $133.7 million haul being pulled in by Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and O’Reilly is, well, a lot of money. Compared to most people on the list, the top four are in an entirely different earnings strata, which is significant for at least two reasons: 1) They are conservative mouthpieces whose paychecks are signed by the Republican-owned media outlets Clear Channel and Fox News; and 2) the Limbaugh Newsweek cover, in which the word POWER is scrawled across his chest, was released just before midterm election day.

One could argue that "money = power" is a false equivalency, as Michael Scherer of TIME has done:

Look at CEO pay: The top CEO earner over the five-year period that ended in 2009 was Larry Ellison of Oracle, a smart guy with a good company who took in $944 million. But try to make an argument that he has more power in the industry than Apple's Steve Jobs, who took made about one third less in the same period.

 
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