Today, it's still true that there's money in poverty, but that gets Minding the Campus's Marc Joffe worked up.
Scholars from the University of California at Berkeley have played a pivotal role in making income inequality a major political issue. But while they decry the inequities of the American capitalist system, Berkeley professors are near the top of a very lopsided income distribution prevailing at the nation’s leading public university.It's true, former Secretary of Commerce Robert Reich is there, and Edward Saez, who has worked with Thomas Piketty is there, and former Institute director Eugene Smolensky moved to Berkeley during one of the previous periods of austerity to hit Wisconsin.
But Mr Joffe decides to focus on the symbolism, not the substance.
Income inequality at Cal extends to the university’s inequality research arm, the Center for Equitable Growth mentioned earlier. According to 2014 data from Transparent California, Center Director Emmanuel Saez received total wages of $349,350. Its three advisory board members are also highly compensated Cal professors: David Card (making $336,367 in 2014), Gerard Roland ($304,608) and Alan Auerbach ($291,782). Aside from their high wages, all four professors are eligible for a defined-benefit pension equal to 2.5% times final average salary times number of years employed. It is also worth noting that all four are in the top 2% of UC Berkeley’s salary distribution, and that Saez is in the top 1%. It could be that an effective researcher has to know his or her subject: thus to the study the top 1%, we suppose one has to be in the top 1%.Yes, there are market tests for good researchers, whether they be economists, political scientists, or astronomers. There are also market tests for coaches, who don't enjoy the protections of academic tenure.
But there has to be a better way to end the column than with a subtle charge of hypocrisy aimed at the poverty researchers.
So if UC Berkeley economists are really opposed to income inequality and are concerned about low-paid workers, they might consider sharing some of their compensation with the teaching assistants, graders, readers and administrative staff at the bottom of Cal’s income distribution.Let's try something more direct. Such as, Why has the policy advice coming from these court intellectuals for Democrats been so bad that Hillary Clinton has to somehow offer a continuation of Hope and Change whilst making progress helping all the people hurt by Hope and Change?
We’re not saying income inequality is a bad thing; we’re not saying that Reich, Saez and other Berkeley professors should make less than they do, or that student teachers ought to make much, much more. In fact, there are reasonable arguments that income inequality is not only inevitable and even ethical, but that it’s also a generally positive feature of advanced economies.
We are saying there’s something unusual in the Berkeley phenomenon – the high-profile role of high-income earners in criticizing income inequality.