Thursday, May 23, 2019

Elizabeth Warren Earned A Lot? The Horror!

Don't you just love the way Washington Post chose to write about Elizabeth Warren's past legal work?  I can't stop laughing.

Here's the headline to the story:

While teaching, Elizabeth Warren worked on more than 50 legal matters, charging as much as $675 an hour

You have to scroll to the seventh paragraph in the story to find this statement:

Warren’s $675-per-hour rate of compensation to consult on several asbestos-related cases, described in court documents, was at or below market rate for her level of experience and was less than what some law firm partners charged to work on the same matters.

Bolds are mine.

So it goes.  The authors of the piece justify their analysis of Warren's work by stating that "outside income has become a campaign issue for candidates such as Warren who have positioned themselves as crusaders for the working class."

I'm still laughing.  This whole shit is utterly hilarious (1).  For instance, because Trump campaigned for the crook class, the size of his income and the way it was acquired is nobody's business, right? 

But Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should live on the streets and not in a luxury apartment because she has made housing affordability one of her issues.

And Elizabeth Warren should have earned a lot less than men with similar training and experience in her field.  Indeed, she probably shouldn't have earned anything at all, because the acceptable scale of payments is different for female politicians.

This story reminds me of the 2016 furor over Hillary Clinton's high speaking fees (2) and the fact that she gave speeches to Wall Street capitalists.

To put that into some kind of perspective, last October Joe Biden gave a speech in support of a Republican politician in Michigan and got 200,000 smackers for it.  That sum included 50,000 dollars as a travel allowance (3).   The linked article (from last January) notes that

If Mr. Biden were to have charged a similar range of fees for all his comparable speeches since leaving office, he would most likely have collected between $4 million and $5 million through speeches over the last two years.
Biden did get some flack for that October speech, but nothing on the Hillary Clinton level.  We shall see if his past is scrutinized in the Washington Post with the same microscopic attention as Warren's now has been.

If that's the case I'm willing to admit that this particular piece wasn't quite as sexist as it now seems to me.

(1) It isn't, but I need my gallows humor.

(2)  Her fees were (or are) high compared to what other female speakers charge, but they are not the highest among all political speakers. In fact, it appears that the highest fee for a speech went for Donald Trump in 2005, possibly around $400,000, but Trump boasts that the fee was $1.5 million.

As an aside, scrutinizing Warren's hourly fees without considering the context is dangerous.  Fees are high for lawyers on her level of training and skill, and they are high in places such as Boston for all professional services.

But an additional context that matters here is linking this discussion to the one about why women don't get raises at work.  One reason is that they don't ask.  But once it becomes common knowledge that women work for less money, then each of those refusals to ask will have a small effect on the likely earnings of other women in the future.

So there's a wider feminist argument which says that women should make sure they are not being underpaid, compared to the men with equal qualifications and experience, even if they themselves for some weird reason won't mind earning less. 

(3)  I'm imagining him riding across the United States, like a medieval king with an entourage: 150 faithful courtiers in feathered velvet hats  riding on milk-white horses  followed by 200 wagons of wine, spices, fruit and smoked hams, all surrounded by a troop of stern soldiers on large black stallions waving their spears at all bystanders.  That's what I would have bought for 50,000 dollars.