Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Public vs. Private vs. Public

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Luttig, once the favorite of conservative Washington insiders for a Supreme Court tap, has resigned his position to become a Boeing executive. Mark Kleiman reacts to the news that with some resignation and some concern.

Kleiman is right on both counts, I think.

It's something of a truism for the under-thirty population that going into the public sector will mean that you'll be a pauper for a damned long time. That's not exactly an incentive for people facing students loans. Just to give you a sense of how matters stand: a tenure-track associate professor makes about rather less than a paralegal does, in New York. (A graduate student-instructor, who has probably an equivalent education as a paralegal does, if he or she hasn't actually already been a paralegal, receives about a fifth of the income.)

To get a charitable waiver of your $100,000+ law school bill (appreciating rapidly), you have to pledge to something like ten years of public defender duty, during which you'll earn less than, what, $40,000 a year? All but the most highminded or independantly wealthy go corporate.

Those are stresses that could do with some relieving. The way student loans are managed should be a national outrage. The craptacular incentives for joining the civil sector could, um, be improved.

That said, the salaries and stock options offered to the highest echelons of the private sector are absolutely out of control. Kevin Drum has been following the disparity of CEO "compensation" for a long time. At this level of income and assets, my sympathy for upper-middle-class anxiety about student loans is obliterated by the numbers; your average CEO is regularly making over $5 million a year, not counting options and whatnot. And there are surely ways to address that problem short of capping salaries. Legislation (and enforcement) targeting institutional investors would be one method: the managers of the institutional fund could be required to cast their corporate votes in the interest of the individual shareholders.

I'm not a little worried what might really follow from a revaluation of the stock market from "share value" to "earnings value"; however, subsidizing the top %.02 to avoid finding out is stupid.


Post a Comment

<< Home