Some practical advice from Ben Stein on wage inequality:
For students slogging their way through school, here are the merest hints of how you can and cannot reach that top 1 percent, that place where you are paid well even if you make mistakes:
• You do not get to it by studying African feminism in the 19th century, whether or not you are at an Ivy League college. You do not get to it by studying Bulgarian poetry. You do not get to it by any field of endeavor or study that is esoteric and has no connection with helping other people either become healthy or make money.
• You do not get to it by being a civil servant unless you are the kind of civil servant — say, a cabinet member or a United States Senator — who can use his or her connections later to lobby for well-heeled clients. You do not get to it by a lifetime of work in any field in which there are government price caps on earnings.
• You do get to it by working in fields in which you can fix your wages, preferably with the government’s help. These include law, where you need a license to practice, and thereby can lift yourself out of working for free-market wages. (Everyone in this country pays homage to the free market, but no one wants to work for free-market wages.) They also include medicine, where a far more difficult license is required, and where desperate patients will pay almost anything to look and feel good. They also include accounting at the C.P.A. level.
• You are always better off working in a field where torrents of money are sloshing through and you can grab a handful as it goes by. That means Wall Street. Finance is the ultimate great business. (Warren E. Buffett famously said that you are always better off being mediocre in a great business than great in a mediocre business, and he easily could have been talking about Wall Street.) Money pours through Wall Street in vast oceans. Even if you take off a tiny helping, you are going to wind up in that 1 percent. If you can do the daily double and work on Wall Street and be in a position to fix your own wage — say, by being in high management at a major Wall Street firm that has such prestige and connections that it can control its fees and other compensation — you will wind up living a great life, at least money-wise. (It is very difficult in many other ways, and I do not envy the people who do it. The tension is just far too much for little me.)
You don’t make a lot of money in journalism either.