Today, in Slate's Moneybox, Matt Yglesias made an impassioned case to his readership to ignore the development of an SEC official going to a law firm for millions and millions of dollars a year. He argues that, because said person worked at S.E.C. as a lawyer, he is exempt from the argument of the "revolving door" narrative that public servants in the federal government leave the business earn to pick up lucrative work in the private sector, simply because it is a big law firm he joins and not, say, a lobbying firm in Washington. He even goes so far to prove that the people in the SEC who do enter the private sector are far more skilled at their job than the people who stay in the department.
To say Yglesias is missing the forest for the trees might be understating it a little. But only a little. Perhaps he is right that, because he is a lawyer, the issue of the revolving door is not as effective an argument as, say, it would for a bureaucrat who becomes a lobbyist. However, this shift is not just about the revolving door, but of the swindle: While regular Americans are struggling to earn money just by doing the sensible thing and sticking with their jobs, or are unable to get a job period because of "the economy," these law firms are willing to shell out millions of dollars just to get one man who happened to do a decent job in the right place.
Could your excellent middle manager do that? Could the best server in the country walk off their job and bid out their work to top Michelin-ranked restaurants? No, they'd be laughed out of the building. Even if we are to take into account a certain degree of scarcity of qualified lawyers (and it is hard to understand what qualifications deserved this man several million), the absurdity that a man who just simply happened to work at the right place is suddenly given millions of dollars per year just to work for a company is beyond any conception of belief. It is not so much the fact that there is a revolving door that enrages Americans. It is more that blind luck and knowing the right people determines whether you succeed or not and not actual merit. In Robert Khuzami's case, even if he was a great lawyer at the SEC, his compensation suggests the former more than
That Yglesias has spun this shows how corrupt he has become. He already put a nail in his own coffin by saying it was perfectly acceptable for dozens of Bangladeshis to die in a building collapse because of technicalities (despite later backpedaling). His beliefs had become increasingly favorable towards corporate interests. One has to honestly wonder how he was able to buy a condo in a leafy rich Washington D.C. neighborhood for $1.6 million as a blogger, when most paid bloggers are basically living off low (possibly less-than-minimum) wages as contractors, meaning they have no work benefits and no protections if the company goes under or they're laid off. This article seems to add another nail to the coffin. Perhaps it is fair to say that the bloat, corruption, and waste that conservatives (and some liberals) say exist in Washington extends to bloggers like Matt Yglesias as well.