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Income Equality Researchers More Equal Than Others

Tuesday July 12th, 2016   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 5:12am PDT   •  

MoneyScaleUnequal_MLIn recent years, income equality has become an issue, with the discussion usually generating more heat than light. As Michael McGrady writes in The College Fix, income equality research has also become a lucrative pursuit. Drawing on a recent report from the California Policy Center, McGrady notes that several UC Berkeley economics professors who support such research bag more than $300,000 a year. Prominent scholars associated with the Cal Berkeley Center for Equitable Growth are “richly compensated as professors,” even as the center seeks to research ways to create economic growth that is “fairly shared.” The Center’s director Emmanuel Saez, for example, is paid nearly $350,000 and the three economics professors on the advisory board are paid $336,367, $304,608 and $291,782, plus generous benefits typical of the UC system. McGrady finds little income equality with teaching assistants, graders, readers and others “staff at the bottom of Cal’s income distribution.”

In similar style, most workers in the private sector, even those who earn incomes in six-figures, will not receive a pension that pays them more than their highest salary level. As we noted, Michael Wiley, outgoing boss of Sacramento’s Regional Transit was paid an annual salary of $230,000, despite his poor record as a manager. He was also eligible for a pension of $278,000, a full $48,000 more than his final salary of $230,000 and $68,000 higher than the federal pension maximum of $210,000. And Regional Transit wanted to keep paying him $50,000 as a “retired annuitant.” In government circles, that kind of largesse is common, all funded by taxpayers.

California maintains a state Board of Equalization, but it does not conduct income equality research and does not equalize anything. The BOE dates from 1879 and its mandate was to ensure that property tax assessments were uniform across all California counties. The BOE now collects taxes and in 1996 attempted to tax editorial cartoons as though they were works of art purchased in an art gallery. The BOE’s ramshackle Sacramento headquarters has become known as the “bottomless money pit.”

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July 2016