Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Nearly $2 Million In Corporate Consultation Earnings. Or The Hillarization Of Elizabeth Warren.

The Washington Post article on Elizabeth Warren's earnings from consulting for corporations has a great headline:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren earned nearly $2 million consulting for corporations and financial firms, records show
Many readers just scan headlines without actually reading the article.  If you had done that you might think that ohmygod Warren is a handmaiden for the capitalists, humongously rich, and altogether someone who deserves instant Hillarization by the upright media.*

The article is vague on the exact time span to which these earnings figures apply, only stating that most of the income was earned from 1995 onward. 

But let's assume that Warren made that money from 1995 to 2009. A person who earned $30,000 per year over that same time period would have earned a total of $720,000 from working, possibly for a rich capitalist!  Yet that latter person is clearly not at all wealthy,** which helps to put those "nearly two million dollars" into some perspective.

This particular article isn't good at explaining the meaning of numerical data about earnings which have accrued over a long period of time. 

But even if it had been, Warren's earnings (and her corporate clients) should be judged by comparing them to the earnings (and clients) of other lawyers with similar education and experience levels and living in the same geographic area.  If the point was to argue that she made unusually vast amounts of money from work which — as the WaPo article says — "doesn’t fit neatly with her current presidential campaign brand as a crusader against corporate interests," then that would be the relevant comparison group. 

*  "Hillarization" is my term for the treatment Hillary Clinton got from the media over the last three decades.  This consisted of throwing everything at her, all the time, hoping that lots of stuff would stick.  And it did stick.

I believe that this process is used mainly against female politicians, especially in the sense that even extremely minor or nonexistent flaws are viewed through a magnifying glass and the magnified picture is then compared to the actual flaws of rival male politicians.  That's the way "Hillary's emails" somehow came to equal all Trump's misdeeds.

The roots of hillarization lie partly in unacknowledged sexism, i.e., the belief that women should be nicer, gentler, more submissive and more nurturing than men, and if they are not, then they are overly ambitious selfish monsters.  Also, women shouldn't earn lots, even if the amount they earn is less than the earnings of men doing similar work. 

But some of the roots also come from the media's desire to be seen as objective.  If one political candidate clearly has done truly terrible things (Trump), then false equivalence requires that journalists try to dig up lots of terrible things about the other candidate(s), even if those things aren't as terrible at all.  Not to do that opens the journalists to accusations of bias, but to do that opens them to accusations of erecting false equivalency.

** This doesn't mean that Warren isn't wealthy, of course, and these earnings from consultation are not all her earnings over that time period.  But then most politicians in the US Congress are very wealthy, because the financing of political campaigns is rigged so that wealth has become one of the necessities for running.

And this shouldn't have to be said, but I say it anyway:  Criticizing Warren consulting for corporate interests is a perfectly fair thing for journalists to do.  I just want the rules of such criticisms to be equally fair, so that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for instance, is not criticized for owning nice suits when no other politicians are.