Poor Paul Krugman

April 21, 2014

Last week, Gawker reported that New York Times columnist/New York Times best-selling author/ABC News contributor/Nobel Prize-winning economist and textbook author/Leigh Bureau featured speaker Paul Krugman will make $225,000 for nine months of "work" at the City University of New York’s Luxembourg Income Study Center, a research department devoted to the study of income inequality.

Much mockery ensued. But Krugman’s fellow liberals rushed to his defense. "Paul Krugman’s 'Big' New Salary Doesn’t Make Him a Hypocrite, It doesn’t even make him that rich!" The New Republic’s Marc Tracy argued. "That’s All a Nobel Prize Winner Gets Paid?" huffed the Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky. Krugman’s defenders all made similar points:

1) Capitalism!

As Tracy puts it: What’s wrong with "charging what the market will bear for the service [Krugman] provides"?

2) $225,000 is not that much money in New York City, and Krugman is almost definitely taking a pay cut to come to CUNY.

It is not known how much Krugman gets paid by his current employer (Princeton University), but educated estimates and common sense suggest that it’s significantly more than $225,000 per year, which, as Tracy and Tomasky both argue, is far less than Krugman deserves, and barely enough to get by in an expensive metropolis like New York City. Krugman may be forced to ride the subway on occasion.

Tracy writes that "Krugman’s CUNY salary, by itself, would not put him even near the one percent nationally, much less in the country’s most unequal and finance-heavy city." Emphasis on the "by itself" part.

3) Paul Krugman is awesome!

He’s earned his success, provides a service to society, and clearly doesn’t care about money. He even said so himself in a series of emails obtained by Gawker, referring to the $225,000 offer as "remarkably generous," and insisting that his "biggest concern is time, not money."

That’s an understandable sentiment coming from someone who makes as much money as Paul Krugman does. Because as Krugman’s defenders seem reluctant to acknowledge, the professional pundit will earn a lot more than a mere $225,000 next when he starts his new gig at CUNY.

How much more? Well, that’s pretty difficult to pin down. But it’s no secret that Krugman has multiple sources of income, the totality of which likely add up to more than a million dollars per year.

First and foremost, Krugman is handsomely compensated as a columnist for the New York Times. Fellow columnist Tom Friedman made $300,000 in 2005, according to the New York Daily News, and it’s safe to assume that Krugman commands at least as much for his services.

According to an industry source, Krugman likely makes an additional $250,000-$500,000 per year as a contributor for ABC News.

His best-selling books, such as The Conscience of a Liberal and End this Depression Now!, as well as the numerous economics textbooks Krugman has co-authored with wife Robin Wells, have likely generated millions of dollars in income over the years.

On the speaking circuit, Krugman probably demands at least a hefty five-figure fee for a one-hour speech. In a post defending his consulting work for the failed energy conglomerate Enron (for which he made almost $40,000), Krugman said that his "normal fee" for a one-hour speech in 1998-1999 was $20,000.

It’s safe to assume his market value has increased considerably since then. Krugman’s speaking agency, the Leigh Bureau, also represents best-selling authors such as Nate Silver, David Brooks, Malcolm Gladwell, as well as Jim Steyer, the older, poorer brother of billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer.

Websites that estimate the fortunes of famous rich people like Krugman peg his net worth at $2.5 million, though that seems like a rather conservative estimate. Whatever the case, Krugman has amassed enough money to afford the oceanfront one-bedroom condo in St. Croix that featured so prominently in a 2010 New Yorker profile of the Krugman-Wells left-wing power couple:

Here they live in a one-bedroom condo they bought a few years ago, nothing fancy but right on the beach. The condo’s walls are yellow and blue, the furniture is made of wicker, there are pillows and seashells. There are tall, sprawling bougainvillea bushes along the side of the road.

"We first fell in love with St. John," Krugman says. "It was New York lawyers who’d decided to give up on the whole thing and live on a houseboat and wear their gray ponytails."

"But St. John went too upscale," Wells says.

The east end of St. Croix being "something of a tourist spot," the couple naturally chose the west end, which "has a Jimmy Buffett feel to it that they like." As Wells put it, "The west end is where the whites who’ve gone native live." At their island getaway, Krugman "wears the same shirt for days, a short-sleeved plaid cotton shirt, and bathing trunks," for when he "wades cautiously into the sea."

That same profile notes that Krugman and Wells "pulled out of the stock market ten years ago and never went back." So it’s unclear where all of Krugman’s money has gone, unless he has a particularly expensive taste in cats.

Krugman Cat

Krugman’s defenders are obviously free to argue that he deserves more money to serve in a figurehead role at a publicly funded university, even that he deserves our sympathy as a multi-millionaire struggling to make it in Manhattan. But they shouldn’t suggest that Krugman is somehow not an elite member of the infamous one-percent that the brave protestors of Occupy Wall Street movement exposed as responsible for the world’s ills. He is.

Why is this so hard for liberals to admit?

Paul Krugman

Published under: Paul Krugman