One of the themes we've been harping on around here is that government jobs have started to pay more than private sector jobs do. For previous posts on the topic see here, here, here, here and here. The latest example is a former editor of the New Republic, Peter Beinart, who, in his role as an associate professor at the City University of New York -- not a full professor, mind you, an associate professor -- is taking home from the taxpayers of New York, according to the useful Manhattan Institute-sponsored Web site SeeThroughNy, the tidy sum of $143,235 a year. That is, according to the latest survey from the American Association of University Professors, more than $30,000 a year more than an average associate professor at Harvard, which has an endowment of billions of dollars.
Mr. Beinart is in the news lately for a silly article he wrote arguing that American Jewish organizations should be more critical of Israel. (Since we already have the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League, Amnesty International, and the State Department to criticize Israel, it's hard to see what the point would be for American Jewish organizations to pile on. It might make Mr. Beinart feel better, but it'd be unlikely to make the Jewish people or America more secure or to strengthen the ties between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. But I digress.)
This post isn't about Israel, or even about Mr. Beinart. I shared a table with him once at a birthday party and he seemed like a fine fellow, and he's probably an excellent professor, though alas, if I run into him on Martha's Vineyard on July 4 weekend he probably won't be too thrilled to see me now.
What this post is about is the Reverse Robin-Hood effect of taxing ordinary New Yorkers, most of whom earn less than government workers, to pay these kinds of salaries to public servants who are supposedly serving them. And about the injustice of taxing deans and adjunct professors and alumni and donors of NYU and Columbia journalism schools to fund a government institution to compete with theirs.
Remember, this associate professor salary is for part-time work -- these guys are in the classroom far less than 40 hours a week, and they often have summers off. They have enough extra time to work other jobs; Mr. Beinart lists affiliations with both the Daily Beast and the New America Foundation. New York is facing a serious budget crisis to the point where they are talking about closing state parks and laying off teachers in public elementary and high schools, but not so serious, apparently that we don't need associate professors at government graduate schools of journalism paid at a scale $30,000 a year higher than Harvard.
And remember, too, that we are just talking salary, not health care or retirement benefits, which also tend to be more generous in the public sector than the private sector.
The good news is that Mr. Beinart's $143,235 CUNY salary is less than the $166,895 a year earned by his CUNY colleague Eric Alterman, who also works on the side as a Jewish critic of Israel. Beinart -- he's cheaper than Alterman!