Elizabeth Warren–Well-Paid Populist Professor

Elizabeth Warren’s campaign for a Massachusetts senate seat may be most known outside the state for this statement she made a few months back:

“You built a factory out there?  Good for you.  But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.  You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.”

It is that moralistic code of fairness that has inspired many of her followers, and the list of CEOs and Wall Street figures who secured bailouts and enjoyed multi-million dollar exit strategies for themselves support her rhetoric against the moneyed class. 

But such assertions carry a risk.  If you wish to make them, you better be clearly separate from your target.  In this case, Harvard professor Warren has a problem.  She makes lots and lots of money, she owns expensive property, she was paid handsomely by the government for “part-time work,” and she has investments with big corporations. 

First, back in September, Politico reported on an astonishing dollar amount:

“The campaign for Democratic Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren said Friday she had been paid $192,722 for serving as chairman of a congressional committee that monitored the 2008 federal bank bailout, three times as much as had originally been acknowledged.”

Keep in mind that Warren testified in a 2008 hearing convened by the House Financial Services Committee that she considered her participation in the program as “part-time work.”  For her role in advising President Obama on the consumer protection agency from September 2010 to August 2011, Warren received $165,300, as the Boston Globe reported four days ago.  For her regular job at Harvard, plus consulting fees, Warren received more than $700,000 in salary in 2010 and 2011 together, and they live in a house worth $1-5 million.

That’s not all.  According to the Globe, Warren complains that “A big company like GE pays nothing in taxes and we’re asking college students to take on even more debt to get an education.”  But her financial disclosure form puts her stock portfolio at more than $3 million, some of it in IBM and some of it with GE!

This puts Elizabeth Warren squarely in the 1%, however much she rails against income inequality.  The moral ambiguity is inescapable (despite the excuses provided in the Globe piece).


  • Mark Bauerlein

    Mark Bauerlein is a professor emeritus of English at Emory University and an editor at First Things, where he hosts a podcast twice a week. He is the author of five books, including The Dumbest Generation Grows Up: From Stupefied Youth to Dangerous Adults.

2 thoughts on “Elizabeth Warren–Well-Paid Populist Professor

  1. What a lot of gas. FDR grew up as privileged as Mitt Romney. That didn’t stop him from being sincere about wanting to help the poor. After all, he’s the guy who came up with Social Security.
    There’s no reason why a person can’t be both financially successful and able to see how messed up our current system is.

  2. What, exactly, is the problem here? Elizabeth Warren might be one of the wealthiest 1% in America. But she joins the 99% in supporting economic policies that are fair to everyone. That’s a morally admirable stand, not a morally contradictory one.
    The only inescapable moral ambiguity here is Bauerlein’s belief that rich people shouldn’t criticize the advantages rich people get.

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