Upwards of a quarter mil annually for one seminar plus a “modest role” at events organized by the City University of New York. I’m tempted to call it a sinecure (which it is) but it’s really more of an endorsement deal, like those Hanes commercials where Jordan makes a two-second cameo and never says a word. Basically, they’re buying Krugman’s high profile among progressives and the media to elevate the stature of their Luxembourg Income Study Center, which is devoted to studying …

…income inequality.

Maybe this is some sort of meta-experiment on the subject, a la “The Shape of Things”? Krugs shows up to a presentation by the dean on how the topic of income inequality is exploited for gain and it turns out he’s the showpiece. Deep.

About that. According to a formal offer letter obtained under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, CUNY intends to pay Krugman $225,000, or $25,000 per month (over two semesters), to “play a modest role in our public events” and “contribute to the build-up” of a new “inequality initiative.” It is not clear, and neither CUNY nor Krugman was able to explain, what “contribute to the build-up” entails…

CUNY, which is publicly funded, pays adjunct professors approximately $3,000 per course. The annual salaries of tenured (but undistinguished) professors, meanwhile, top out at $116,364, according to the most recent salary schedule negotiated by the university system’s faculty union. And those professors are expected to teach and publish. Even David Petraeus, whom CUNY initially offered $150,000, conducted a weekly 3-hour seminar…

$225,000 is more than quadruple New York City’s median household income.

What are the rules these days for when it is and isn’t hypocritical for rich people to rail against income inequality? I remember hearing in 2007 when John Edwards was still a lefty darling that there’s no contradiction in sitting on a fortune worth tens of millions and demanding more money for the poor. FDR and RFK are sainted liberals despite their wealth; our own president has earned several million in royalties but isn’t expected to cough any of it up voluntarily just because income inequality’s a core part of his agenda. It’s the income equivalent of celebrities jetting around while demanding that the world lower its carbon emissions in the name of fighting global warming. There’s no imperative, apparently, to act individually towards your goal unless and until there’s a collective will for it, as official policy.

But never mind that. Krugman’s going to spin this, I take it, by claiming that $225K annually is kinda sorta rich but not really rich. See this post from January, via Guy Benson. It may be true that people earning $200,000 or $300,000 deserve their money, he says, but most of the explosion in wealth is among people even richer than that, the CEOs and hedge-fund managers who haven’t earned their wealth the way, say, a guy who accepts a lucrative professorship that requires him to do nothing does. We’re lucky to have him.