Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Any privileged person in this country who wants to remain complacent about the social status quo would be well-advised not to consider exactly where his money comes from. Here’s a small but telling example. Federal judges are required to file disclosure forms regarding other sources of income they may have besides their federal salaries and benefits. A glance at Chief Justice John Roberts’ 2009 form (the most recent available to the public) reveals the following entry:
“New England School of Law, Summer Program, Galway, Ireland – teaching stipend: $15,000.”
Another part of the form reveals that the same school reimbursed Roberts for his airfare, meals and lodging for at least the two-week period during which the course — on the history of the Supreme Court — was held. Roberts co-taught the course, which met seven times for two-hour periods, with a law professor, Richard Lazarus.
Roberts and Lazarus taught the same course on the scenic island of Malta last summer, and will do so again amid the charming old world architecture of Prague this July. (Lazarus did not respond to my request for information regarding what he was being paid to teach the course or how responsibility for teaching and grading it was divided between himself and the chief justice).
Now it might seem petty to inquire too closely into such matters. After all, Roberts no doubt took a very large pay cut when he left a fancy law firm to become chief justice (although his $220,000 salary for eight months of work – a salary he will receive for life should he choose to retire – hardly signifies a vow of poverty).
The problem is not so much that Roberts is being paid $1,000 an hour to teach a fluffy course on Great Moments in Supreme Court Argument, or that he is in effect getting an all-expenses-paid European vacation every summer (first-class airfare from Washington to Prague is nearly $12,000). It’s that this annual fringe benefit is being paid for by tax dollars, which are first funneled through law students, who are financially wrecking themselves by borrowing those dollars to pay for useless degrees.
Here’s how it works: The course Roberts teaches is offered through a consortium of four law schools that, whatever the justification they may have once had for existing, have devolved into brazen diploma mills. The four schools offer summer study programs that are essentially student-loan funded vacations for their students, who, if they were going to law schools worth attending, would be working for potential future long-term legal employers in the summer, rather than traipsing around Europe and adding to their enormous debt loads.
Graduates of these schools are currently graduating with an average of more than $150,000 in educational debt – almost all of it in the form of taxpayer-backed loans, a significant percentage of which will never be paid back. They will never be paid back because, by my calculations, a total of 29 of the 1,282 people who graduated from these schools in 2011 acquired jobs that pay salaries that would make it possible for someone to actually service the average debt graduates of these schools are incurring. (By contrast, nearly 20 percent of the schools’ graduates appeared to be completely unemployed, which suggests strongly that, for a large proportion of these people, their $150,000 taxpayer-funded degrees are worse than worthless.)
I don’t doubt that Chief Justice Roberts remains blissfully ignorant about the precise means by which several tens of thousands of dollars in what will prove to be unrecoverable student loan debt ends up getting funneled to him each summer. And it is certainly a fair point that a non-trivial portion of my own salary is funded through similar channels. (We are all, as a famous philosopher once noted, part of the same hypocrisy.)
Still, to paraphrase another legal philosopher, ignorance of the loan is no excuse.
Paul Campos is a professor of law at the University of Colorado at Boulder. More Paul Campos.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)