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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Speaking of Salaries

Harvard is doubling the available money to pay doctors who teach. I would have thought they were making enough money as is, but it turns out that even for doctors, teaching is not terribly lucrative.

Some doctors are only getting $30 an hour for teaching. Now, if you are currently making $8 an hour, you aren't going to have much sympathy. But, $30 an hour is around $60,000 a year. (Handy bit of knowledge, there are 2080 hours in a year, assuming a 40 hour work week. When presented with an hourly rate, double it and add three 0s to the end and you have an approximate annual salary.)

For someone not only with a medical degree, but qualified to teach at a Harvard affliated hospital, that's nothing. You are going to attract very few people with that amount of money.

Apparently, doctors who teach aren't the only prestigious group to be underpaid. Federal judges are as well. Granted, I'm not crying buckets tears for the Supreme Court Justices, who make around $200,000 year, but I would be crying if I were them. Their former clerks are getting that much in sign on bonuses.

It's not really the Supremes I worry about--after all, as the Volkh Conspiracy points out:
Well, Justice Kennedy, here's an option for you: resign! I'm sure you can make a lot more than some young associate working for a firm specializing in Supreme Court litigation, or, for that matter, as an arbitrator. Indeed, I'd speculate that you could easily make 3 or 4 million dollars a year! What, you don't want to give up the power and prestige that comes with being a Supreme Court Justice? Than maybe there is NOTHING wrong with current salaries, at least at the Supreme Court level. Indeed, I'd guess that none of the the Justices would resign even if they had to take, say, a (n unconstitutional) 25% percent pay cut.

But, lower court judges don't have all the power and prestige that a Supreme Court Justice has. This means that the available pool of talent for such jobs necessarily excludes very qualified people who have mortgages and kids in college.

I'm very much in favor of smaller government and think most programs should be gutted. However, I also believe that good judges are necessary for a strong country. By not paying enough, we're not getting the best. I hope that Congress takes some advice from the folks over at Harvard and doubles the salaries of our federal judges.

But, I couldn't trust them to do so without doubling their own salaries. And lets face it, that's a bunch of people who do not deserve a raise of any sort.

(Okay, I know there is an argument for that, which I might make later.)

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