May 5·edited May 5Liked by david roberts

I'm going to disagree with you on this topic David.

First, personal responsibility. If Thomas can't live within his means of $300,000 that is on Thomas. That's more than 90% of Americans live on.

Second, Ginni Thomas takes in $250k to $500k for the family pot.

Third, what is most unacceptable is not the outrageous monetary gifts alone, it is that the highest "Judge of Law" in America, claims ignorance, and lied about his statutory and ethical duties to timely disclose the gifts.

Fourth, Harlan Crow would never give you or me or anyone reading this the magnitude of gifts given to Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. As warm and friendly and aligned even we might be with his personal, political and/or religious philosophy and beliefs.

If Thomas had not been appointed to the Supreme Court, Harlan Crow wouldn't even give him the time of day.

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"Thomas’s low salary" ..." It’s a fact that people who are qualified to be at the higher reaches of government, federal and local, are paid salaries that are generally much lower than they could earn in the private sector."..."The bottom line is that the inadequate pay "...

Is this April Fool's Day? Are you serious? Let me cry my heart out for a guy, any guy, who makes $300K? Was he forced into this job instead of a higher paying job in the private sector?

"The pay scale also makes it easier for the already wealthy to serve and they do, disproportionately, especially in Congress." Are you saying this is a good thing? I'd argue we'd be well served by ordinary people with solid common sense who, at government salaries, would feel well off enough that they wouldn't need "gifts" and contributions to keep up with friends, as if that is some Constitutional right.

Of all the things you've written that I've read, this is the least sensible and least defensible. I have tried to teach my kids and my grandchildren to do the right thing just because it is the right thing to do, not to accept gifts and contributions so they can keep up with the wealthiest 1 or 2% of the nation.

We ought not have to pay and grant exorbitant salaries and exceptions to get good people to serve. If that is what they require, I'd argue they are self-disqualifying on the simple matter of integrity.

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Supreme Court (sub)stacking!

I have no sympathy for Clarence. I think it's off-mark to characterize his $300k salary as "low," especially given how much of his and his family's life is essentially subsidized by the federal government and the nature of his position: including the corollary advantages that you identify, including teaching, lecturing, writing, etc. But most important: he undertook a position knowing full well that not only actual impropriety and conflict of interest mist be avoided, but also the appearance of such. I've filed refusal motions, for example, on the ground that regardless of a judge's actual intent and effort to be fair, something the judge did/said rendered them unfit to preside because of the very appearance and suggestion of bias. There is no way Clarence should have accepted such largesse from someone like Crow, for example, who has lots of skin in the game in the rulings made by Clarences Court. And I think Clarence is an anomoly: I doubt that many if not most of the other Justices, currently on the bench have anything close to Thomas' now-disclosed record of acceptance of gifts from interested parties and subsequent non disclosure. And presumably those other civil servants also make no more than $300k per year.

As always, though, a well written piece, even if I disagree!

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Whether it adorns a can of coke or a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, a pubic hair is a pubic hair.

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May 6Liked by david roberts

I don't know about all of this. Whether you're a president, supreme court justice , or local alderman - you know the deal going in and if you take the deal you have to have the moral fortitude to live by the deal and if you can't you shouldn't take the position. Also, for me, there is something sacred about all of these jobs - almost like priesthood (especially the Supreme court). Sacrificing some of one's worldly possessions (or potential to accumulate worldly possessions) elevates the person and the job.

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We have a government that is supposed to be by the people, for the people and of the people. Who are the people? As I saw some notes elsewhere about the British coronation (personally ignoring it) I thought about our government and that brought me back to this page. We now have a government run by people of a certain class. I think I would be pleased if we had judges and lots of other elected and appointed folks who were "of the people" in general. Let's pay all these folks a good salary, on par with military officers perhaps. This would be enough for "ordinary" people to be able to take the job and then let's look for good people. Let there be consequences for bad conduct. Let's take away lifetime benefits and have term limits, including on SCOTUS. Let's have some turnover and welcome more good, honest people into limited term positions.

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One possibility: In a democracy the people ultimately control the purse. The waitress working double shifts to make $50,000 a year is going to have a hard time understanding why a SCJ can’t make do on $300,000. He/she will express that lack of understanding at the ballot box.

Other possibilities: 1) the founders imagined ours to be a government made of those who had hearts like Cincinnatus 2) They imagined a government made of those who owned land and were independently wealthy (as many of them were).

Another thought: Your idea is often applied to police forces where higher salaries are thought to be a deterrent to the temptation of bribery, theft, corruption, etc. How would you measure the effectiveness of that strategy?

Random thought: In Latin America, Spanish royalty paid their governors with the expectation that the governors would steal anyway – which they did. A lot of chicken-and-eggism there.

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