Friday, September 24, 2010

The University of Chicago Law School and the poor rich

An IPBiz reader pointed LBE to a blog post of one M. Todd Henderson, University of Chicago law prof, which post is entitled:
We are the Super Rich which post includes the text:

I’m the president’s neighbor in Chicago, but we’ve never met. I wish we could, because I would introduce him to my family and our lifestyle, one he believes is capable of financing the vast expansion of government he is planning. A quick look at our family budget, which I will happily share with the White House, will show him that like many Americans, we are just getting by despite seeming to be rich. We aren’t.

I, like the president before me, am a law professor at the University of Chicago Law School, and my wife, like the first lady before her, works at the University of Chicago Hospitals, where she is a doctor who treats children with cancer. Our combined income exceeds the $250,000 threshold for the super rich (but not by that much), and the president plans on raising my taxes. After all, we can afford it, and the world we are now living in has that familiar Marxian tone of those who need take and those who can afford it pay. The problem is, we can’t afford it. Here is why.

Looking at Henderson's cv, one sees that Henderson was at the University of Chicago Law school, as a student, and received a JD with high honors, 1998, presumably starting as a student in the fall of 1995. Wikipedia notes of Barack Obama: He then served as a professor at the University of Chicago Law School for twelve years—as a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996, and as a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004—teaching constitutional law.[78] This would suggest that Barack Obama was at the University of Chicago Law School all three years of Henderson's time, tho Henderson observed: "we’ve never met."

Henderson's disconnect, as a law professor, from the general population, is a microcosm of the present apparent disconnect of Obama, a former law professor, from the voting population. [We'll get the real picture on the latter in a few months. ]

To bring in the intellectual property connection, of Henderson's areas: His research interests include corporations, securities regulation, bankruptcy, law and economics, and intellectual property. although Henderson's list of publications does not seem to include ones of IP themes. [IPBiz has not read: "The Nanny Corporation." 76 University of Chicago Law Review 1517 (2009).]

Henderson's blog post was criticized in a piece Advice for the 'Poor Rich' appearing through by one Brett Arends, which piece begins

Everybody hates Todd Henderson.

In case you haven't heard, he's the University of Chicago law professor who unwisely blogged last week about his financial woes in a post headlined "We Are the Super Rich."

Mr. Henderson and his wife, an oncologist, make more than $250,000 a year, and apparently they're struggling to get by. If President Barack Obama gets his wicked way, and tax rates rise for those earning more than $250,000 a year, Mr. Henderson says it will mean real sacrifice in his family.

It's too easy to pelt Mr. Henderson with rotten eggs, as so many have now done. (He yanked the post, but way too late—and on the Internet, one's blunders never die.) But can we, instead, give him some useful advice?

As to "yanked the post" remark, IPBiz found the Henderson post. As to "blunders never die," ask Vai Sikahema about "Rutgers is Wrong," wherein Vai's explosive remarks about Rutgers evaporated from the internet. As to Henderson, file under "what was he thinking?"

***from Eric Zorn :

[Henderson] was wrong, however, to lose sight of the First Rule of Self Pity, which states, “No one wants to hear about your troubles unless your troubles are worse than theirs.”

Instead of grumbling to family at the dinner table or to his colleagues in the faculty lounge, he posted a now world-famous jeremiad to his blog (since removed, but archived here) griping that he and wife, a physician, “are just getting by” now on a combined income that “exceeds the $250,000 threshold for the super-rich” who will owe more in taxes under Obama's plan.

How dare he complain about having “less than a few hundred dollars per month of discretionary income” when some 15 million people are unemployed and up to 4 million may lose their homes to foreclosure this year?

The real difference between you and Todd Henderson isn't income or level of contentment, but discretion.

Because at some point you absorbed not just the First Rule of Self Pity but also the Second: “Complain for others and let others complain for you.

**See also It could not have happened to a more worthy target
including: Come on. An engineering degree to law professor at University of Chicago? This is not a man with social skills. I recognize the type.

**From the Chicago Tribune:

While Henderson meant for his posting to encourage a debate about taxes, it turned into a public flogging, characterizing him as out of touch or arrogant. More broadly, it has provoked a discussion about what it means to be rich, particularly in an economy where many people are suffering.

Henderson's no longer part of the conversation, though. The firestorm of online hostility compelled him to delete his essay and declare on Tuesday that he will no longer blog. He declined to comment Thursday. Even his wife is angry at him, he acknowledged in a follow-up blog post.

Michael O'Hare, a professor of public policy at the University of California-Berkeley, who railed against Henderson's blog post, said regular Joes are tired of hearing people better off than them complain about what they have.

"It's just rude to be worrying in public about whether you have to fire the maid," he said Thursday. "That didn't used to be acceptable behavior, for people who were that much better off than the rest of us to complain about their misfortunes."

**On Obama at the University at Chicago Law School, see Teaching Law, Testing Ideas, Obama Stood Slightly Apart


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