Income Inequality for Thee, But Not for Me

Paul Krugman is a distinguished economist, Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University, a NY Times columnist, and a Nobel Laureate. As a frequent commentator on cable news shows, he speaks passionately about income inequality and politics. From his book, The Conscience of a Liberal, he notes that, “Impersonal forces such as technological change and globalization caused America’s income distribution to become increasingly unequal, with an elite minority pulling away from the rest of the population.”

How ironic that Dr. Krugman will provide a first hand as a member of this “elite minority” benefiting from income inequality. The City University of New York appointed him as a Distinguished Professor at its Graduate Center and its Luxembourg Income Study Center, paying him $25,000 per month. The LIS Center will collect and use, “Microdata to research income, wealth or employment.” And not a moment too soon, given that income inequality is worse under President Obama than it was under President George W Bush, according to the Huffington Post.

Dr Krugman will receive a total of $225,000 from CUNY for his first year of service, without having “to teach or supervise students” but instead only “contribute to our build-up of LIS and the inequality initiative and to play a modest role in our public events.” Nice work if you can get it. Such a salary places Dr Krugman well on his way toward the evil 1 percent club of $394,000 annual income, which he will likely easily reach through his columns and book royalties. Not to mention his $10,000 moving allowance, another $10,000 annually for research and travel, and a 15-hour per week graduate assistant.

Other CUNY faculty certainly face income inequality. Full professors at CUNY start at an annual salary of $68,803 topping out at a maximum of $116,364, about half of Dr Krugman’s starting salary at CUNY. A lecturer is a more typical entry-level academic position. Barack Obama was a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992-1996, his first academic position. Lecturers at CUNY start at $41,435 per year, about 18 percent of Dr Krugman’s starting salary, and most likely without the perks and allowances given to Dr Krugman.

Then there are the adjunct professors, making up half of all college faculties, earning an average of $2000-3000 per class with minimal if any benefits. Most of them aren’t even eligible for Obamacare, the healthcare reform plan that Dr Krugman praises. Dr Krugman’s generous salary certainly places him among the, “Elite minority pulling away from the rest of the population.”

As an interesting aside, CUNY, like most universities, believes that, “Diversity and inclusion are core values.” Dr Krugman is a white male. I wonder if CUNY tried to recruit any scholarly, well-published African-American economists such as Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams to their LIS Center?

There is little doubt that income inequality is on the rise, and has been for most of the past century. Honest debate over causes and remedies is welcome. But demagoguery over the “rich not paying their fair share” solves nothing, especially when the loudest demagogues, such as President Obama or Paul Krugman are prime examples as beneficiaries of the income inequality they rail against. I wonder if Dr Krugman’s income inequality research at CUNY will involve a look in the mirror?

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician, is an advocate of smaller, more efficient government. Twitter @retinaldoctor.