Sunday, September 26, 2010

Keeping Up with the Joneses

Legal Dollar and BIDER have shared with us this commentary from a University of Chicago Law Professor regarding his poverty in spite of being above the $250,000 bracket:

Read here for the full text.

I liked this passage in particular:

The problem with the president’s plan is that the super rich don’t pay taxes – they hide in the Cayman Islands or use fancy investment vehicles to shelter their income. We aren’t rich enough to afford this – I use Turbo Tax. But we are rich enough to be hurt by the president’s plan. The next time the president comes home to Chicago, he has a standing invitation to come to my house (two blocks from his) and judge for himself whether the Xxxxxxxxxs are as rich as he thinks.

The irony is that this professor specializes in economics, security regulation, and other subjects that should touch upon the tax code at one of the top law schools in the country....yet, he has absolutely no idea how to hide his money and needs freaking Turbo Tax to tell him what to do!

Wow. If that isn't a damnation of law school.

I heard that at the University of Phoenix, someone from higher up outlined the entire curriculum, while they hired an adequately-credentialed talking head to purvey the information. I can't help but think there are many law school professors who got stuck teaching a subject that they don't know anything about.

Imagine if a Medical School were run like this:

"Can you teach me about dysfunctions of the adrenal gland?"

"That's not really my area of specialty, but I read something about it in a book once. Here's a link to WebMD. By the way, here's the bill for $250,000 for having me and my ilk grace you with our presence."

But why is that?

In spite of the Tier System cooked up by U.S. News and World Reports, schools ultimately "teach to the test." It also helps the bottom line of lesser schools if they can take the emphasis off of recruiting professors with real world experience and basically hire anybody who is capable of using a textbook to teach the U.C.C. The irony is that this professor's academic credentials are impressive overall, but they don't actually have any insight to contribute into the body of law that they've been recruited to teach.

And, if we are going into the whole "are you being paid what you're worth?" argument, it is kind of ironic that his job as a talking head could be done by an adjunct for a fraction of the cost, but his salary and work schedule are artificially regulated by the ABA (and to an extent, by U.S. News and World Reports).

Yes, what a sad gnat who is being pummeled by the establishment while everyone else sails off to the Cayman and has their masseuse rub them with oil-soaked $100 bills. If only he had actual knowledge of economics and the tax code, then he might not have gotten into this predicament.

He also states that his money is better spent on a nanny, gardener, and housekeeper rather than sending it to Washington because he has direct control over how the money is spent and that it is better for these people to earn a wage rather than be on welfare.

All of his hires are recent immigrants. Is it a mere coincidence that he hired recent arrivals from Mexico and Poland because he loves the American dream? Or is it because they work for the least amount of money?

The irony is that it is fairly likely that none of his employees have health insurance, and if they were sent by an agency, the likelihood that they are covered by worker's comp is fairly small. The minute Pedro cuts his hand on the lawnmower blade, he will be dumped at the emergency room where the taxpayers will pick up the tab. If Marie the housekeeper becomes ill with the flu, she will probably not be paid sick leave and will probably show up at his house and spread the disease to the inhabitants before she becomes so run down that she acquires secondary infections like pneumonia. She will then visit the local emergency room and receive free treatment from county services. She will probably also need handouts from charitable organizations to help pay rent, food, and medical bills.

In the end, it's hard to become too excited that Professor Henderson is doing his part to keep the economy going. Yes, he spent $300 that month to keep somebody employed, but he also used the cheapest services and avoided paying many of the necessary costs to keep these people housed, fed, and healthy and conveniently spread the rest of the cost onto the taxpayer.


  1. You overestimate the competence of the average medical school professor. They have a racket similar to law school professors.

  2. Truth is, few people actually want to have to work for a living. This arises because we pay people who work very hard physically very little, while the more white collar positions get paid big bucks to manage relationships. In some respects it would be nice to sit back and just have the checks roll in while chatting with clients, securing "business deals" and playing golf. Who wants to scrub toilets for minimum wage?

    Academia is just part of the same movement. Why prove your worth in the marketplace when you can just hang back, write a paper or two, and baffle people with bulls**t while making bucks? Again, it beats being the housekeeper.

    However, while we can debate who works "harder" than who (I vote for the manual laborers), I think the curtain is being pulled back on the academic world and it has been a long time coming. It's no longer a baseline assumption that (professor) = (value added). There are some to be sure, but there is clearly a lot of deadwood.

  3. This is further proof that those who cannot do, teach. Why aren't economics and business "professors" applying their skills and insight to go into business for themselves and make some serious money?!?!

    My Crim Law and Crim Pro teacher was a Harvard law grad. He spent a few years as a prosecutor, and has been in academia for 25 years. He would OFTEN ask those students in the crim defense clinic for their insight into Iowa law. It was pathetic! Evidence "professor" was also a dolt, but at least he had his firm (stupid) opinions.