All greed is local. The polite perplexity of a recent CUNY PhD in the face of wealthy Paul Krugman having accepted a CUNY professorship that pays him $450,000 to teach one seminar over the next two years overlooks the fact that Krugman, for all his attacks on American greed in his New York Times column, lives in a certain world. In this world (New York City, hedge fund managers), $450,000 (more than that, with various perks) is a slap in the face. You cannot spend decades surrounded by people who make twenty million dollars a year and not revise your greed radically upward.

The same awkwardness arose from Harvard professor Larry Summers indulging his hedge-fund-level greed while… being a professor…

[Harvard University professor Lawrence Summers] consults not only for hedge fund DE Shaw but for venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, asset-management and advisory firm Alliance Partners, stock-exchange operator Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., and for financial services firm Citigroup. He also has a healthy income from speaking — more than $100,000 earlier this year, for example, for a single speech to a conference organized by Drobny Global Advisors.

That is a busy schedule for a full-time faculty member who, like other professors, is allowed only a day a week for consulting — and Summers also chairs the advisory board of the Minerva Project, an online university startup, and holds an administrative role as Director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School.

This is the same Lawrence Summers who told Professor Cornel West to stop spending so much time on his outside activities and get back to his scholarship — because more was expected of a University Professor.

It’s all very postmodern: Krugman is a highly-paid professor-simulacrum whose function is to appear in CUNY advertisements. Big money, big promo, big nothing.

I’d urge Krugman to quantify that esteem for CUNY by donating a significant portion of his earnings, say $100,000 a year, to a scholarship fund for students or the Professional Staff Congress welfare fund, which provides much-needed health care benefits and emergency assistance for CUNY adjuncts.

Yet why should Krugman do that? He has – is asked to have – nothing to do with CUNY.

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4 Responses to “If UD May Paraphrase Tip O’Neill:”

  1. theprofessor Says:

    Socialism for thee, but not for me!

    Krug’s huffy defenders are already WAY busy on this.

  2. Alan Allport Says:

    It’s certainly a bit tin-eared to accept such a large amount of money for doing so little when you’re one of the most prominent critics of national income inequality.

    However, Krugman has never particularly directed his ire at the 1% of upper-income professionals of which he is undoubtedly a member. He thinks they should pay more in taxes, is all. His real complaint is about the 0.1% – the tiny group of (mostly) financial executives whose wealth leaves even the rest of the 1% in the dust. It’s the recent consolidation of so much economic and (by extension) political power in the hands of such an infinitesimal fraction of the community which he regards as truly toxic.

  3. UD Says:

    Alan: I take the distinction you’re making, but in fact Krugman has been pretty withering on the merely massively wealthy among Americans as well. I don’t like giving him hell, because he’s been a crucial high-profile voice on income inequality; but he massively undermines his case when he reveals that he’s just as vulnerable to immense personal greed as the next person. It makes it so easy for defenders of unlimited personal wealth to say See? It’s natural. It’s universal. Everybody’s doing it.

  4. Alan Allport Says:

    UD: as I said above, I think his decision to take this money was unwise in terms of his public image. But I don’t think it really has much to do with his economic arguments one way or the other.

    His views of the 1% and the 0.1% (or 0.01%) are not the same. He writes far more about the Wall Street megawealthy than the merely wealthy, because I think he regards them as a distinct, novel, and pernicious phenomenon. The wealthy simply need to stump up a bit more cash. The rise of the megawealthy is doing lasting damage to the Republic.

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