17 Apr 2014

Paul Krugman’s Compensation Package: Liiiiiitle Bit Awkward

Krugman 11 Comments

As you can imagine, many of my colleagues in the geeconosphere and on social media thought this Gawker piece on Krugman was absolutely hilarious:

In late February, the City University of New York announced that it had tapped Princeton economist and New York Times blogger Paul Krugman for a distinguished professorship at CUNY’s Graduate Center and its Luxembourg Income Study Center, a research arm devoted to studying income patterns and their effect on inequality.

About that. According to a formal offer letter obtained under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, CUNY intends to pay Krugman $225,000, or $25,000 per month (over two semesters), to “play a modest role in our public events” and “contribute to the build-up” of a new “inequality initiative.” It is not clear, and neither CUNY nor Krugman was able to explain, what “contribute to the build-up” entails.

It’s certainly not teaching. “You will not be expected to teach or supervise students,” the letter informs Professor Krugman, who replies: “I admit that I had to read it several times to be clear … it’s remarkably generous.” (After his first year, Krugman will be required to host a single seminar.)

Don’t get me wrong, I can see why people are loving this, but strictly speaking, is this hypocritical?

Let me pose it this way: Progressive bloggers were having a comparable bout of glee when it came to light that in the early 1970s one member of a famous brother-duo explained to Hayek that he could collect Social Security if he came to the United States. I remember at the time (when the story broke, not back in the early 1970s) thinking that yes, I could obviously see why they would be laughing about it, but that strictly speaking that didn’t make any of the people involved hypocrites.


(Also, Virginia Postrel has a good post explaining that CUNY is using Krugman for branding purposes; he is the Scarlett Johannson of income inequality.)

11 Responses to “Paul Krugman’s Compensation Package: Liiiiiitle Bit Awkward”

  1. Andrew' says:

    “CUNY is using Krugman for branding purposes”

    Who are these people who need this stuff explained to them?

    • Andrew' says:

      “It is not clear, and neither CUNY nor Krugman was able to explain, what “contribute to the build-up”

      Oh, it is provosts and Nobel prize winners. Well, let me help, Paul, can I call you Paul? It is to recruit people like Justin Wolfers and Betsy.

  2. Major_Freedom says:

    This reminds me of one of Rothbard’s lectures where he pithily noted how John Kenneth Galbraith became a millionaire by writing books and giving speeches that denounced affluence.

    These people are fakes.

    • Andrew' says:

      While I try not to buy into this argument, but I did hear a guy call white people in NYC the triple lottery winners of humanity.

      As I always say, an inner city high school has never had to barricade its doors from an Ivy League snatch squad coming to rescue the kids and provide them with a decent education.

  3. RPLong says:

    It’s important to remember that no one really knows how much Paul Krugman contributes to worthy (or at least ideologically consistent) charitable causes. I think crying “hypocrite!” is the easy play here. Krugman’s politics aren’t wrong because he makes a lot of money, they’re wrong for other reasons. Better to stick to the point, IMHO.

    • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom)) says:

      Honestly, I think the hypocrisy allegation is more suited to the “Income Inequality Center” than it is to Krugman. THEY are the ones being hypocritical here. Krugman is just doing what every human does, from the Koch Brothers to Glenn Beck to Michael Moore to Sean Penn, accepting the most generous offer for his services that is available.

      But if I was involved with a center dedicated to fighting “income inequality” I might have some questions about whether or not it’s appropriate to hand out an annual salary in excess of five times the median household income for someone to do virtually no work for “branding purposes.”

      • Andrew' says:

        Even that particular hypocrisy charge is probably a stretch.

        I can almost guarantee that the full text of their discussion amounted to “this inequality thing is hot right now.” “Sounds good.”

        The hypocrisy comes from the people who only care when a non-leftist professor does it.

  4. Ken B says:

    Strictly speaking Krugman is actually only in favor of government action to reduce inequalities in income: taxes and subsidies. So he’ll be a hypocrite once he takes action to reduce his tax bill. Such as claiming charitable deductions or income smoothing.

    • Matt M (-Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

      Doesn’t accepting such a generous amount of money from a public institution (funded by tax dollars) redirect funds that could otherwise have been spent on unemployment, food stamps, etc.?

      • Ken B says:

        Yes. Less than he took from Enron I think, so maybe he gives public institutions a discount when shilling. 🙂

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