Paul Krugman: Poster Boy for Income Inequality

You cannot make this up:

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.)

Ordinarily, I would not care in the least about this little bit of news. Krugman won the Nobel prize in Economics, he is a widely read pundit, he is deeply respected in academic and punditry circles, and it stands to reason that he is going to command a high salary. But given Krugman’s frequent jeremiads against income inequality, it is more than a little hilarious that he is going to be paid “$25,000 per month (over two semesters)” and “$225,000 per year” (note that if Krugman is getting $25,000 per month for a year, he would actually gross a cool $300,000 for the year) in order to “play a modest role” in public events about income inequality and “contribute to the build-up” of an “inequality initiative.” I wonder if Krugman stays up at night worrying that he might be contributing to the very problem that he is decrying and being paid to decry. Probably not.

Oh, and there is this as well:

CUNY, which is publicly funded, pays adjunct professors approximately $3,000 per course. The annual salaries of tenured (but undistinguished) professors, meanwhile, top out at $116,364, according to the most recent salary schedule negotiated by the university system’s faculty union. And those professors are expected to teach and publish. Even David Petraeus, whom CUNY initially offered $150,000, conducted a weekly 3-hour seminar.

Any chance that people like Corey Robin–who raised such a fuss about David Petraeus’s teaching gig–will object to Krugman’s far more lucrative (and far less demanding) deal? Somehow, I doubt it.