Who Would Pay $250,000 for This?

According to a March 5, 2014 article in Reuters, Ben Bernanke is the latest “government servant” to join the ranks of highly compensated circuit speakers. Ben has edged right up there with Hillary to command $250,000 per speech — and he recently road-tested his act in Abu Dhabi.

I’m a free market guy, so I can’t say it is wrong for Ben to be paid so much for a speech. But I do think it is unseemly for a person to gain media attention while working for the country, and then to immediately turn that service into a personal ATM.

I know, I know. Others will say that these people, while in government service, earned far less than they could in the private sector, so they are just making up for lost time. Perhaps they are correct, and – as I say – it is a free economy, and people have a right to make a living in any legal way the choose.

The real question is: who would pay $250,000 to listen to this guy? Or to Hillary? Or Bill? Bernanke’s every breath as Fed Chairman was chronicled by the press, so what is there left to really learn? For those who are really interested in his opinions, I’m sure he’ll write a book, with some op-ed pieces and talk show appearances to promote it. Does some organization really need to fork over a quarter million dollars just to say they had him as their conference speaker?

I do not belong to any organizations that can afford such high-powered speakers, so none of my dues or conference registrations are directly feeding the beast. But many organizations that do hire these celebrity speakers build the cost of the speaker fees into their products, so in a way I can’t help but partially subsidize this largesse. But there may be some ways in which I can take a principled stand. I read that a national association of realtors paid Hillary $250,000 for a recent convention speech. Hmm. When it comes time to sell our house, maybe I’ll try a private listing.