Casaubon's Book

…and I don’t really have time today. Seriously, you’ve got to read the whinings of this idiot, and MTMB’s response.

Maybe because my family of six pulls in less than 50K a year (as opposed to the 450K the gent in question is whinging about), and because I can identify still with the realities of poverty, I’ve got no tolerance for this bullshit. I still remember what it feels like to have your power turned off and the phone ringing off the hook about bills you simply can’t pay. I’m lucky – my family is comparatively secure now – for now and by the grace of good fortune. But it is a security built on a lot of things that could go away, and on a set of assumptions about thrift and care and not wasting that just are alien to the moron in question. And it is still hard sometimes to look at the stuff we can’t afford if we’re to live within our means but really want – not million dollar homes but useful interventions for my disabled kid or new windows. But I also know that my hard isn’t the real hard, the hard that faces most of the world. I can suck it up, and should.

I’m luckier than about 9/10ths of the planet. I own some land. I drink clean water. My kids are healthy and I can keep them that way. I have health insurance. I have good, healthy food on the table. We have a few luxuries and what we need. We are safe and secure. What kind of blind, ignorant ass do you have to be, given that enormous privelege we have, to complain that you don’t make enough money at nearly half a mil a year?



  1. #1 Ewan/Rokkaku
    September 21, 2010

    These white, straight, six-figure-earning men just can’t catch a break these days!

  2. #2 Eric Lund
    September 21, 2010

    And it is still hard sometimes to look at the stuff we can’t afford if we’re to live within our means but really want

    Absolutely, and this is what leads to families with much higher incomes than yours living paycheck to paycheck. You and I are both fortunate to have enough self-discipline to live within our means. This d00d doesn’t. He’s trying to live like a rich man,* and he’s only just figuring out that he can’t quite afford it. The thing is, it wouldn’t take that much compromising in his lifestyle to make it affordable, but he is seemingly unwilling to make those compromises. For example, he’s in Chicago, not NYC or coastal California, so $1M gets him a lot of house–almost certainly more than he needs. But unlike many of the people who bought real estate in that price range, he should be able to afford it by just cutting a little (relative to his income; it would be a lot for most of us) of his spending. He might, for instance, replace his Benzes or Beemers every three years instead of every two. Or he could have bought a slightly less expensive house.

    *I make a distinction between rich and affluent. The professor in question is affluent but not rich: he has a high income, but he’s spending almost all of it. However, he likes to think of himself as rich, so he spends all that money to maintain the illusion.

  3. #3 Beth
    September 21, 2010

    Sharon, I just read Mr. Henderson’s actual post, and I’m trying to figure out where the $450,000 income data comes from. He says in his post that he and his wife have a combined income of “over $250,000 but not by much”. I admit that his post shows a real disconnect between his life and those of many (if not most) Americans; what bothers me is that he is being personally attacked and that the debate should be more about the issues of frugal money management, good stewardship, fair taxation and the use to which the taxes are put. I don’t think people get anywhere by tearing each other apart.

  4. #4 Tegan
    September 21, 2010

    And Henderson has not only deleted his post (it’s cached and everywhere anyways), but is “hanging up his hat” blogging wise. If only he actually THOUGHT about the millions of responses that he got, instead of feeling “harassed and threatened” we might be down one idiot!

  5. #5 Brad K.
    September 22, 2010

    Professor Henderson does apologize

    – for relating personal info about his family without his wife’s permission.

    Whether Prof. Henderson has a legitimate complaint, others at the 250k to 450k and up income levels will indeed be hurt by increased taxes. Dollars sucked into the government coffers lose efficiency, they certainly aren’t spent locally, and they don’t create jobs locally.

    It doesn’t matter who you are, or what the actual dollar value of your budget is – when your budget just matches income, and is stable for a time, any negative change will hurt. Yes, we think that having more than $4,000 income a year means more lattitude and more ability to make non-life-threatening choices. That is true. Yet change is measured in pain. Having any choice force on us – any change or assault or penalty – is a source of personal discomfort.

    And I do not discount the ripple effects of the good Professor and family, with a reduced ability to contribute income to their local economy.

    What if an aspect of the tax changes is that research the Professor had intended to pursue doesn’t get done, or his wife doesn’t get a vacation resulting in a few years fewer in her medical practice – resulting, down the road, in a slate full of people getting access to a few doctor-years less medical care?

    I think it was wrong to remove the posts – it lacks respect for himself, the blog, readers, and his employer. He should have edited out, with explanation, the private material that should not have been disclosed. The comments should be moderated, but left to stand the test of time. By retreating now, I imagine his image with his employer will be called into question – whether or not he has the right to speak his mind. Should he quit blogging? I thought the point of maturity was learning from your mistakes. How will the good Professor demonstrate academic discipline, with this shining example of quitting out there for the world, his employer, and any possible students to see. Besides, if he quits blogging he can’t list it as a publication for tenure purposes.

  6. #6 dewey
    September 22, 2010

    Brad – Listing a blog as a publication for tenure purposes is f’ing outrageous, and in many fields just trying it would endanger your application. Is it original research? Is it peer-reviewed? (I have not had the time or interest to go read the original post everyone’s ranting about, but it sounds like this one WAS peer-reviewed, and his peers did not think much of it.)

    And very few high-paid professors are paying for costly research out of pocket; ironically, it is the poorly paid humanities profs who shell out from their own pockets for visits to archives. Highly salaried professors, these days, are highly salaried precisely because their research programs are of a nature that brings in heaps of grant or contract money.

  7. #7 Stephen B.
    September 22, 2010

    I agree with Sharon and the many posters over at Mike’s blog, this Henderson guy complaining about not making it at $250 to $450K a year (whichever it is) is beyond pathetic.

    That said, I’m going to perhaps differ with a lot of folks and say that doesn’t mean I think raising federal government taxes is a good idea because I think it’s, in fact, a very bad idea (and I make about 1/10th what this guy makes.)

    All through this peak credit/peak oil problem, so far, the federal government, under two presidents and counting, has managed to do all the exactly WRONG things. Bailouts for the rich, loss of moral hazard, ridiculous over-support of excessive housing building, road building, car building via a bazillion laws and subsidies, subsidization of airports, airlines, coal mining, oil and natural gas drilling, along with the killing of personal incentive to save and work via too many handouts of all types. (Yes, I work with disadvantaged kids of poor folk and I just said there are too many freebies coming from govt.)

    I could write pages about how passing our $$$ through the govt. right now is about the most incorrect thing to be doing (and I work for an agency that relies on govt. contracts for over 80% of its funding), but I won’t as most of you have heard it all before. Henderson is a loser, but he’s right about the coming tax increases, if but for the wrong reasons.

  8. #8 Stephen B.
    September 22, 2010

    Oh, and lest I forget one of the largest things done with your tax dollars and mine after the federal govt. gets a hold of them – war and murder of untold tens to hundreds of thousands in Iraq and a hundred other places around the world.

    Henderson or not, why would anybody want to give this govt. MORE money now?

  9. #9 Susan in NJ
    September 22, 2010

    Brad — I believe that Todd Henderson is a professor of law at the University of Chicago. He has tenure and an extensive list of legal publications and does not list his blog as one. I also don’t see how pulling a post from an academic blog made up of academics from many different institutions reflects badly on the blog or the poster’s employer.

    I find myself agreeing with Beth.

  10. #10 Sharon Astyk
    September 22, 2010

    I think you have to be an ignorant ass, frankly, to complain about your income if you are incredibly wealthy. I don’t feel the need to attack anyone who is affluent, but I think anyone whinging about how unfair society is to them, while xlaiming they have to spend 10K *every year* on *cars* deserves what he gets. And no, I don’t think it has to be about frugality – I think you can point out asshatism and call it that.


  11. #11 Brad K.
    September 22, 2010


    I hadn’t thought of research in terms of money the professor would spend – I was think more that he would be treated as a pariah for garnering negative attention to himself, his field, and his employer. Teachers and others have been fired and blacklisted for less. His family, at the least, doesn’t deserve that kind of life-altering result.

  12. #12 Heather G
    September 22, 2010

    Friend of mine found the original post, with comments, on the web. Once published on the web, it’s there forever:

  13. #13 dewey
    September 22, 2010

    Brad – If he’s tenured, he’s not going to get fired over this. You’re certainly correct that when someone is publicly criticized for his personal opinions, it sometimes has a detrimental effect on his career even if he’s fortunate enough to be in a position where he can’t just be fired and blacklisted. But, let’s be honest, I bet you didn’t shed too many tears over the academic persecution of that left-wing @hole professor at Colorado (Wade something? can’t remember his name, his 15 minutes must be up). We all have a certain amount of schadenfreude when it comes to the public comeuppance of people we disagree with!

    I have mixed feelings about this myself. If you espouse stupid feelings or opinions in public, other people should be entitled to call you on it; that is, among other things, the only way that you learn not to be a jackass. OTOH, the internet has an enormous amplifying effect, so that, instead of being called out in a conversation or an academic journal, where the audience to your embarrassment is limited, the audience online can be the whole world for years to come, even if you’ve repudiated your original opinion. That’s truly unfortunate. On the third hand, it’s precisely that amplifying effect that makes people blog, because they want to get their opinions out to a far greater audience than would ever have been possible before. If they deliberately choose to seek the largest possible audience for stupid opinions, they’re going to get a greater backlash. To take the extreme libertarian position, it’s a free market of ideas, and if his aren’t big sellers maybe he deserves to get hammered.

  14. #14 Sharon Astyk
    September 22, 2010

    Dewey, I agree about the amplification effect, but at the same time, the guy didn’t apologize for being a nitwit, he apologized for publishing the stuff without asking his wife’s position. I wouldn’t have put this up if he’d said “ok, I was a moron.” Some of it has to do with your response.


  15. #15 eNeMeE
    September 22, 2010

    Sharon, I just read Mr. Henderson’s actual post, and I’m trying to figure out where the $450,000 income data comes from.

    People capable of doing the math figured out that he would have to be pulling in around 450K to pay that much in taxes.

    The original post has been saved here.

  16. #16 dewey
    September 23, 2010

    That doesn’t mean he actually earns that much. Joe the Plumber certainly didn’t. 😉

  17. #17 T
    September 29, 2010

    Looks like the WSJ just responded to him as well (and rather kindly, I think):

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