Are there good reasons to get hyped up over the salaries of authority figures?

Here at the UW, tons of students complain about Mark Emmert’s salary. Undergraduates often bring this up whenever the university’s financial woes come up.

One of my friends recently joined the Facebook group “I want to give Congress a pay cut.”


I don’t understand how the salaries of authority figures can be of anything but little importance. The average working American gives about a single cent to every DC congressman.

I’m not saying that there is no such thing as an excessive salary, but I find it amazing that this sort of thing comes up as often as it does. Do people have nothing better to talk about financially than whether their leaders make 200k/year or 250k/year?

I admit that this post is partially a vent itself, but it seems like it’s more venting on their part than anything else. There have to be hundreds of financial issues (at the university level, the state level, the corporate level, the national level, etc) that are more important than how much our leaders are payed.

I think it’s a spillover from the outrage over executive salaries – tens of millions of dollars, in publicly-held companies, when the company (shareholders) are losing money. That’s filtered over to public officials, where it seems (IMHO) silly.

Heh. The UW president makes almost as much as the UW football coach; no wonder people are outraged. Seriously, though, $900,000/year isn’t much against the totality of the University’s or the state’s budgets, but I’ll bet there are very few state employees pulling down that kind of money. It also sounds like there may be some reason for concern about conflict of interest with some of his outside board memberships.

I find it more than a little disturbing that football and basketball coaches are the highest-paid employees of nearly every state.

On the other hand, I like football.

knock 400,000 off of the salaries of both and you can send 20 kids to school!

I find it an interesting comment that the president of a major public university makes more than twice as much as the president of the United States.

I understand that sports coaches may have options to go to the pros and make lots of money, even as assistant coaches. That’s surely part of the reason why “the market” has decided they earn their high salaries. But why are public university presidents so highly paid? Are the regents of these universities concerned that their presidents are going to go off and be captains of industry?

Or to prison! :stuck_out_tongue:

No, that’s what we’ll do with the budget from the congressmen’s salaries.

Sounds to me like more whiny never-done-anything, never-gonna-do-anything have-nots being jealous of those who have accomplished things and now enjoy the fruits of their labor. We live in a competitive world. Making a lot of money is one way to know you’re winning. Sniveling because somebody else makes more because they’ve accomplished more is just silly. If you want to succeed, bust your ass and cross your fingers. You may make it, you may not. there are no guarantees. But just stop whining.
And stay off my lawn, dammit.

I assume this is sarcasm, but I still don’t get it.

I’d rather prefer that elected politicians be well-paid. Strikes me that paying politicians badly is creating a temptation for them to graft. Well, more than they otherwise would, anyway. :wink:

I’m not really understanding why the competition for a public university president is apparently so fierce as to result in nearly million dollar a year pay; but the competition for other public figures (like Federal judges, for one group) shouldn’t be expected to reflect that those people could take up jobs with higher pay in the private sector.

In other words, if we can pay judges approximately $180k a year when they could easily make many times that amount at a law firm, what makes a university president so important as to justify a $900k salary?

Part of the reason is that the job of a university president is, among other things, to be a fund-raiser. It makes economic sense for the university to pay top dollar for a person, if they are in fact capable of bringing in a lot more than that to the university through their fund-raising ability.

This differentiates them from federal judges.

Actually, pay is a problem in the Federal Judiciary. Lawyers at the level where becoming a Federal Judge is a possibility have to weigh the value of service to country against the bottom line, and some leave the bench or decline appointment to pursue more lucrative private practice.

Perhaps the problem here is that the President of the United State is dreadfully underpaid? JFK made $100 K a year. If Obama is making less then 5 x that, the salary hasn’t kept up with inflation.
I think there are two things here. First, many public officials get paid in power, not money, which is why they are willing to accept less money.
The second thing is that for elected officials, they try to seem like one of the guys, and Joe Voter is anchored on the salary he makes. He can see the official making twice that, no matter what it is, and complains loudly if the public official makes anything close to what someone of similar authority in private industry makes. The president of a state university system manages tens of thousands of employees and a budget in the billions, and $900K is chicken feed, especially since he doesn’t get stuff like options.

A friend of mine was Treasurer of a large state, and didn’t make that much more than I did as a first level manager. After his party lost the state house, he went to a private consortium for twice the money and half the stress.

Only if you don’t count the free housing (White House residence), unlimited chauffer services (Secret Service escorts), air transportation (Air Force 1), catering (food isn’t free but the White House cooking staff is), home burglary system with 24-hour monitoring (Secret Service), plus free vacation timeshare destination (Camp David), backstage ticket passes (in a “reverse” form via visits by celebrities to the White House), etc, etc.

I can certainly understand how it can be of symbolic importance.

When people have to be frugal and make sacrifices and do without things they need or want, it’s not unnatural for them to feel resentful of those who are living large and don’t have to make sacrifices, especially when their sacrifices help to fund those people’s wealth, even in a minuscule way.

Especially in this economy, we want the people who are in charge of public institutions, private corporations, and our governments, to be thrifty and capable of wisely managing money, not to be wasteful, and not to make decisions that violate our sense of economic justice (like laying people off while spending money on ostentatious luxuries). When leaders (public or private) get what appear to be excessive salaries, it makes it appear that either they, or those who set their salaries, are not (thrifty, etc.).

Not to mention a license to print money on the lecture circuit after your term is up.

That is exactly why I raise the point. But I don’t believe you are answering the question: if $180k is marginally “too little” money to pay judges (note that John Roberts isn’t talking about doubling pay or anything like that), what are the factors that make $900,000 appropriate for a public university president? Do you believe that regents are driving a hard bargain in negotiating salaries for university presidents?

As a government lawyer, I thought about that point, and I don’t really disagree. In fairness, though, I will note that federal judges have lifetime tenure and ordinary federal employees have civil service protections. I assume that the president of UW can be fired as easily as a president of a non-public university, so there is no heightened job security to offset a cut in pay.