Thursday, June 29, 2023

Together, Weicker and I Made National News

 My first story of national importance ran in The New Haven Register on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend 1973. It was a profile of Lowell P. Weicker Jr., the junior Republican U.S. senator of Connecticut who had made a national name for himself as an outspoken member of the Watergate Commission criticizing President Richard Nixon. 

Picked up by the Associated Press for national distribution, my article quoted Weicker as stating he would not parlay his newfound renown into a run for president in 1976. He kept his word. He waited until 1979 to announce his bid for the White House. It was a short-lived candidacy. Ronald Reagan captured the GOP nomination and then the White House.

Weicker passed away Wednesday. He was 92 (

Within the linked obituary, the following two paragraphs stood out to me: 

“Attempts by social conservatives like Mr. (Jesse) Helms to advance their agenda — whether through enacting legislation regarding prayer in public schools or restrictions on abortion rights — particularly enraged Mr. Weicker, who saw the increasing power of the Christian right in his party as a grave threat to its future. 

“No greater mischief can be created than to combine the power of religion with the power of government,” he wrote in his autobiography. “History has shown us that time and time again.”

Weicker was 42 when I interviewed him in his home in Greenwich off Round Hill Road the Friday afternoon before the end of summer weekend. I remember few details of the article I wrote later that evening, other than his non-candidacy declaration. 

What I do recall are the circumstances before and during the interview. Early that afternoon was particularly hot and humid. A 24-year-old with barely a year of small town reporting on my résumé, I was one of the few reporters in the newsroom on Orange Street in downtown New Haven when Larry French, the suburban editor, called me over to say I had been chosen for a special assignment that could only be done later that afternoon.

Back home in Greenwich, Weicker at the last moment had agreed to an interview, a personality profile. I was to rush down to Greenwich by 3 pm. I raced my un-airconditioned Chevy Vega down the Merritt Parkway to the Round Hill Road exit, made a few turns, and came to the Weicker estate. 

An heir to the Squibb pharmaceutical company, Weicker had a stately colonial home which, like my Vega, I soon discovered, lacked air conditioning. No a/c, not even a fan to agitate the dank hot air.

We sat and talked for about an hour in the study. Or maybe it was the living room. I sweat onto the fabric of the couch I sat on. I took pictures of Weicker and his then wife Bunny and one or more of their children walking on the property. 

I never again met Weicker, though I almost did in Sal’s pizzeria on Wooster Square in New Haven a few years ago. I noticed him at a table near the back of the restaurant. Gilda and I were sitting near the front door.

No longer a paid journalist, I reasoned I could wait to re-introduce myself. No need to interrupt his dinner with his wife. But when they finished eating, they quietly exited through a back door. 

Ah, well. I still had my memories to share. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

The Teacher My Classmates and I Didn't Know

One never knows when a casual encounter may change your perceptions of events or people from your past. 

My wife’s reading group had an end of season gathering at the leader’s home Monday. Among the 15 people there, Gilda conversed with Barbara Nash. 

Barbara is the daughter of Julius Nash, my sophomore year biology and junior year chemistry teacher at the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn. 

Gilda was commenting to a small group that the Trump era has given her a greater understanding of how people back in the early 1950s could become ardent followers of Joseph McCarthy and his crusade against alleged communists in government. Barbara related that her family had been deeply affected by the Wisconsin senator’s impact on innocent people. 

Julius Nash had been a teacher in the New York City school system. Back then the Board of Education required teachers to acknowledge if they were members of the Communist Party. Nash said he wasn’t. 

Apparently, before he became a teacher, he had been. When his past, as well as that of numerous other teachers, became known, the BOE fired them in the early 1950s, mostly because they refused to name names of other teachers with similar backgrounds.

Unable to teach, Nash had a hard time finding employment, partly because of the publicity surrounding the BOE action. He was often in the news, championed by The New York Post, back then a decidedly liberal, pro-labor tabloid. Ultimately, he was hired by a Huntington Long Island toy store, initially unpacking boxes before advancing in responsibility. 

His daughter recalled those years as difficult on the family. He worked six days a week at the toy store, a two-hour commute each way. On Sunday he taught school at their temple because the family needed the money as he had suffered a vast pay cut from his teacher’s salary. “He was constantly exhausted and I saw a lot less of him. I was too young to understand what happened,” Barbara wrote me.

In the fall of 1963, the Yeshivah of Flatbush added him to the faculty as a biology teacher. The next year he also taught chemistry. In my chemistry lab class your most vivid memory was the day Mr. Nash was demonstrating what happens when hydrochloric acid is added to water. The reaction was not what he expected. Nothing transpired. Which prompted someone to suggest adding more water to the beaker containing the HCL and H2O. Again, the reaction was not what he expected—the mixture boiled and exploded the beaker, sending shards of glass into the students closest to the lab table.

We learned a valuable lesson that day—never add water to hydrochloric acid. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. It was an amusing anecdote from my high school years. Too bad we did not know at the time that Mr. Nash was among the bravest of Americans, willing to stand up to assaults on our First Amendment rights and, later, for academic integrity.

I commend to each of you the linked chapter from Marjorie Heins’ 2013 book, “Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge (

It’s rather long, so here’s a summation of key points: 

Hoping to rid the New York City school system of left-leaning teachers, the Board of Education required all applicants to aver they never were members of the Communist Party. Lying would be grounds for dismissal. Teachers could avoid being fired if they named names of other alleged Communists. 

“I don’t want to be an informer. I think it is against lots of principles going back to Jesus Christ. Nobody likes or praises Judas for being an informer,” Nash told his inquisitor, Saul Moskoff.

On March 17, 1955, the BOE passed a “forced-informer policy” by a 7-1 vote.

“With the forced-informer policy now in hand, Moskoff re-interviewed those ex-communists who had refused to name names. Five persisted in their refusal: Harry Adler, Julius Nash, Irving Mauer, Samuel Cohen, an elementary school principal, and Minerva Feinstein, a teacher-clerk.”

In late August 1955, “the board directed School Superintendent William Jansen to suspend (without pay) Irving Mauer, Julius Nash, Harry Adler, Samuel Cohen, and Minerva Feinstein because they had balked at informing.”

“Nash, Mauer, and Cohen were also charged with lying when they denied communist affiliation on their employment applications.”

Nash et al appealed their punishment in court. New York’s Court of Appeals found in their favor in May 1959, but the BOE “still balked at reinstating the five teachers.”            

After more legal wrangling, “the Board responded that it would drop the charges based on alleged violations of the Feinberg Law, would therefore reinstate Adler and Feinstein, but would proceed against Nash, Mauer, and Cohen on the perjury charge. (The Feinberg Law, passed in 1949, “mandated administrative machinery to enforce two earlier state edicts: the first, dating from the World War I period, barred anyone who made ‘treasonable or seditious’ utterances from teaching in the state’s public schools; the second, enacted in 1939, barred from civil service anyone who advocated the forceful overthrow of the government or joined an organization with such an aim.)

The case dragged on. A new BOE took office in September 1961, “the previous one having been fired en masse by the state legislature for corruption.”

A year later, the new Board reinstated four teachers. “Only Irving Mauer and Julius Nash were fired: the Board found no reason for mercy because it agreed with the trial examiner and Moskoff that some of their answers had been ‘evasive.’” 

Fast forward to January 1967 (after we graduated): By a 5-4 vote, “the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the Feinberg Law. Reversing its ruling 15 years earlier, the Court (per Justice Brennan) now said that the definitions of ‘seditious’ and otherwise punishable expression in the law were too vague, thereby casting a ‘pall of orthodoxy’ over the classroom, and that the law’s pervasive scheme of loyalty investigations, and particularly its presumption of guilt from membership in the Communist Party, violated the First Amendment.” 

September 1972, the Board voted to reinstate the wrongfully fired teachers. “There were still financial details to work out. By November 1973, the settlement was finally in place for 33 teachers, including Nash and Mauer. More than 20 years after the purges began, and 18 years after the forced-informer policy, some of its aging victims could collect their pensions; there were lump sum payments to the estates of those who had died.” 

According to Barbara Nash, though the teachers sought back pay for the near two decades they were denied the opportunity to teach, they were unable to secure anything more than their pension funds because New York City was in dire financial straits in the early 1970s. To pay them back wages would allegedly bankrupt the city, she was told. 

Another twist to the story: Barbara’s brother Michael earned a Ph.D. in labor history at Cornell and an MLS at Columbia. He was the director of the Tamiment Library of NYU from 2001-2012, when he died suddenly. Barbara suspects from the date of Marjorie Heins’ book that Mike worked with her when she did her research. “He certainly was an expert on this story,” Barbara told me.

I checked with Marjorie Heins. “Yes, I knew Michael and interviewed him for my book, and as Director of the Tamiment Library, he also made it possible for me to do much important research there. If you look in the index to my book, you’ll see where I mention my interview with Michael. I also thank him in the acknowledgments.

“His tragic death was a great loss for American history.”


If you believe, as I do, that the McCarthy era was one of the darkest periods in our nation’s history, you will come away from this note with a greater appreciation of one of the unsung heroes of that time. For his beliefs, Mr. Nash and the other 32 educators received the 1973 Florina Lasker Civil Liberties Award from the New York Civil Liberties Union “for their collective struggle over 20 years to vindicate the principle of academic freedom.”

Mr. Nash was a man who stood for principle. And not just as a non-informer. Several years after we graduated Mr. Nash discovered that some student grades he had submitted to the administration had been changed for the better. When he inquired as to why, he was told, according to his daughter, that higher grades would help students get into better colleges and universities. 

The reason did not sit well with him. “He objected so strongly to the grade fixing, which was not only unethical, but illegal, that the principal felt he couldn’t be trusted and fired him,” Barbara related. “He signed an NDA (nondisclosure agreement) and was paid $20,000 to go away quietly.” 

Coda: Julius Nash died of congestive heart failure in 1994. He was 86. 

“When my father was dying,” Barbara told me, “I asked him if he regretted having taken this stand (against the BOE) and sacrificing his career. He said that someone had to stand up to them and stop them and it just turned out to be him. Notice the passive voice. It was typical of him not to brag or paint himself as a hero.” 

Friday, June 23, 2023

No Matter What the Evidence, Not Guilty

“If I were on the jury, no matter what the evidence, I would vote nit (sic) guilty. Unfortunately, we have numerous classmates who woukd (sic) bring a guilty vote even with overwhelming evidence he was not.”

And with those words in an email I was cc’ed on, one of my high school classmates—an educated, intelligent, middle to upper middle class Jewish New Yorker—provided visual proof that our nation’s optimistic hope for equal justice under the law has been shattered, for in his mind, neither side in the Trump saga could judiciously and unbiasedly weigh the evidence and defense before casting a vote on The Donald’s guilt or not (I hesitate to use the term “innocence” as we should all know by now that Trump is far from an innocent in virtually everything he does).

How far our ideals have fallen. 

A healthy skepticism, let’s not call it cynicism, has been a hallmark of my professional life as a journalist. 

Could I be neutral on a jury assessing Trump’s alleged indiscretions? I’d like to think so, though in all honesty I would be predisposed to believe he was guilty. It would take a strong argument by his defense attorneys to invalidate what is already on the public record and the evidence prosecutors will present, including Trump’s admissions on tape that he possessed top secret material that he did not, could not, declassify as he no longer was president. 

Jodi Rudoren, editor in chief of The Forward, wrote a lighthearted paean to jury service which included the following comment from a prospective juror: “‘It’s a real eye-opening experience because I know sometimes us, as civilians, we think you go into court and everything is a certain way and it’s never that way,’” she continued. “‘You really have to listen to the evidence and dissect everything that everyone says, no matter what their position is, what their status is. People’s lives are really on the line here. You have to be diligent and you have to pay attention to the evidence.’” (

The focus of our national preoccupation with Trump has shifted from the abstract to the consequential now that formal charges have been lodged against him. At issue—can we find an unbiased jury pool to weigh the evidence and his defense? 

By setting the federal courthouse in Fort Pierce, Fla., as the location of trial proceedings, Judge Aileen M. Cannon has chosen a venue with a predominantly conservative jury pool drawn from counties that overwhelmingly voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020. Though she could switch to a different federal courthouse in the Southern District of Florida, one with a more evenly mixed electorate, for actual jury selection and trial, it would not be surprising if she didn’t, given her appointment to the federal bench by Trump and her initial ruling in his favor, reversed on appeal, on the matter of permitting authorities to continue their investigation of classified documents in his possession (

Wherever the trial takes place, it will take a unanimous verdict to convict Trump. If any jurors are predisposed as my classmate expressed, Trump will exit the courtroom a free man. Not innocent. Just found not guilty. 


Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Playing Beat the Clock in Baseball and Temple

 Baseball and religious services at synagogues have long shared a common complaint—they last waaaay too long. Though congregations generally strive to complete their Saturday benedictions by noon, it is not uncommon for prayers to continue for another quarter hour or more, extending to more than tree hours a service that often starts at 9 or 9:30 am. Unlike almost all other team sports that end when the clock ticks down to zero, baseball is timeless. However long it would take to play nine innings, barring extra frames, a game of baseball keeps diehards on their fannies, at the stadium or at home, for well over three hours. 

No longer, at least as pertains to baseball. Under the direction of Commissioner Rob Manfred, baseball this year has imposed time limitations on pitchers and batters. Clocks have been placed in all ballparks displaying how long they may stall between pitches before a penalty is assessed (a strike if a batter is late, a ball if a pitcher delays.) The result: On average, games are 31 minutes shorter than a year ago. 

It’s now a pleasure watching a Yankees game. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Watching the Yankees play, especially during Aaron Judge’s injury absence, is painful given their high salaries and inability to play up to the past performance numbers on the backs of their baseball cards. 

Taking a cue from baseball, Gary Rosenblatt, the former editor and publisher of The Jewish Week of New York (and whose son played with me on my temple’s softball team), has proposed a way to shorten services. 

“Sermons will be limited to 13 minutes, starting with the rabbis’ typical opening line, ‘A few words before I begin,’ and ending with, ‘And let us say, Amen,’” Rosenblatt suggests, adding that a “large Sermon Clock will be placed on the Ark, in a highly visible spot behind the rabbi’s lectern, and will count down the allotted minutes and seconds.” (For a more detailed accounting of his proposal, click here:

The idea that rabbis might voluntarily subscribe to such a stricture on their devotion to Scripture is not as revolutionary as one might think. Some 30 years ago when Gilda and I were making the rounds of area synagogues as we accompanied our son to his friends’ bar and bat mitzvahs, we were stunned when Rabbi Mel Sirner of Temple Beth El of New Rochelle summarily ended his sermon in mid thought when he noticed he had exceeded his self-imposed 15 minute time limit. To be completed at another time, Rabbi Sirner advised the congregation.

More recently, the Jewish Theological Seminary, which trains prospective Conservative rabbis, seems to emphasize 15 minute sermons among its students. That’s fine with me, though cutting down sermon time would also, in most instances, cut down on my nap time (yes, I often fall asleep when the rabbi is speaking). I know that is inappropriate but think of it this way—a recent study by a University College London doctor reported in The Daily Mail “suggests people who habitually nap during the day have a larger brain volume, meaning their brain may shrink less over time” (

I’m caught between my devotion to religion and my health.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Juneteenth: A Time for Reflection

I went to the drive-thru window of my local Chase Bank to make a deposit earlier today. After waiting a few minutes for a teller to appear, it finally dawned on me that the bank was closed because of the Juneteenth holiday, the commemoration of the day slavery officially ended in the Texas.

My bad. Juneteenth is a worthy national observance, for too long—decades upon decades—celebrated predominantly only in African-American communities. As our country is currently under stress from assaults on the truthful, more compleat history of our treatment of minority communities, it is noteworthy that Juneteenth has achieved national recognition.

I consider my education to be top notch. But like so many schooled during the 1950s and 1960s, the full spectrum of American history was not always present in the classroom. I cannot recall ever hearing about the significance of June 19, 1865, when blacks in Galveston, Texas, learned their enslavement was over. 

Nor did I learn about the riot and massacre in Tulsa May 31-June 1, 1921, that destroyed what had been called the Black Wall Street. 

And, though Woodrow Wilson is hailed as a progressive world leader for his advocacy of a Fourteen Point peace plan following World War I, my history lessons did not include any mention of his racism. I had been taught his jobs before becoming president were as president of Princeton University and governor of New Jersey. His pedigree as a racist was honed during his upbringing in Virginia. After he became our 28 president he gutted representation of blacks within the federal civil service, effectively diminishing a thriving African-American middle class, and he segregated our military.    

Our collective history owes a great deal to the contributions of the once-enslaved. Enslaved Africans taught South Carolina landowners how to cultivate rice. Rice became a key cash crop export known as Carolina Gold from the colony to Europe.

Our national culture venerates the cowboy. Yet little pride is cast toward Buffalo Soldiers, the name given to African-American cavalry troops who helped pacify the westward expansion of mostly white settlers. 

Too many present day politicians and special interest groups are stirring up emotions by railing against “wokeness.” They want to cancel historical facts. 

Our future prosperity as a nation depends upon full recognition of the contributions of all minorities and the dark episodes of our past become learning points for tolerance.  

Monday, June 12, 2023

We're Entering Trump's Summer of Discontent

Despite what appears, to me at least, to be overwhelming evidence of his guilt, Donald Trump may well walk away from the federal courthouse in Miami a free man because convincing 12 jurors of his culpability would be nearly impossible in southern Florida Trumpland. 

Yes, you read that right. A conviction would require an affirmative vote from all 12 jurors. Just one holdout and he secures his get-out-of-jail card. 

Yes, it’s a bummer to contemplate. My thanks to high school classmate Arthur for pointing out Trump’s escape-route-from-conviction plan. 

Some news reports state that never before has a former president been charged with obstructing an investigation. Perhaps technically correct, but Richard Nixon was about to be impeached and probably convicted for obstructing the Watergate investigation before he succumbed to reality and resigned from the presidency. 

Trump will appear Tuesday for his arraignment before probably his most favored federal judge. Aileen M. Cannon could throw a monkey wrench into the government’s case by ruling inadmissible under client-attorney privilege evidence implicating Trump violated the law. She once before almost sabotaged the FBI investigation but was overruled on appeal. 

Any adverse ruling would be appealed by the government and probably won, gaining for Trump just a short reprieve from the proceedings. But Trump has always played the long game in almost all of his legal contests. Rather than seek a speedy trial, he will seek delay after delay, at first probably arguing that he is assembling a new team of lawyers who need time to adequately prepare his defense. Judge Cannon likely will acquiesce to his delaying tactics. (

Don’t expect a trial to begin before October at the earliest, plenty time for Trump to campaign for the Republican presidential nomination and repeatedly lambast Democrats, the FBI and all others who question his integrity.

This will be Trump’s summer of discontent. And, for the rest of us, no escape from Trumpisms.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Parsing Trump's Future Legal Moves

The conversation about Donald Trump’s legal troubles has shifted. It no longer is if he is beyond the reach of federal law enforcement; it is about what might happen if he is actually found guilty. 

Already, reports have surfaced that time in a prison lockup just won’t happen as the Secret Service would not be able to fulfill its mission of safeguarding the ex-president for as long as he lives. Erase from your imagination Trump in an orange jump suit. 

If not a federal penitentiary, then what. Probably, house arrest, restrictive confinement to his residence, Mar-a-Lago, an electronic ankle bracelet his constant companion. Probably confinement to non-public areas of the Mar-a-Lago resort. 

Perhaps most galling to Trump would be a restriction on his venturing away from Mar-a-Lago to play a round of golf. 

Of course, such a restriction would come from the sentencing judge. Assuming the judge throughout the case is Aileen M. Cannon, there is no guarantee that Trump would not get away with just a slap on the wrist type of punishment. Cannon, after all, is the federal judge appointed by Trump who issued several rulings that, before they were overturned by an appeals panel, for a time stymied special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation. 

Having been widely and publicly chastised, would Cannon continue to show deference to Trump or would she hone closer to traditional law?

Trump is a deep believer in the precept there is no such thing as bad publicity. Like others before him, including Mae West, P.T. Barnum and W.C. Fields,  Trump’s credo seems to be, “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me, as long as they spell my name right.”

Even if found guilty and confined to Mar-a-Lago, Trump would still be able to run for, and even win, the presidency in 2024. If he wins, could he pardon himself? Who knows, though I would think the fact that he didn’t pardon himself before leaving office in January 2021 might make some believe a president cannot self-pardon. Let’s let the constitutional scholars argue that one out.

Turning back to the trial of the 37 charges leveled against him, would his trial be televised or livestreamed? If so, would Trump seize the spotlight to be the star of what surely would be the biggest audience of any trial in history? Much bigger than O.J.’s. 

Would Trump be a witness in his own defense? As the video of his deposition in the E. Jean Carroll lawsuit alleging rape, sexual abuse and defamation demonstrated, he is a loose cannon. He cannot be counted on to provide simple straightforward answers. He loves the sound of his voice. Since he considers himself the smartest person in any room he cannot be expected to stifle his emotions. He might well blurt out incriminating statements, similar to what prosecutors already have on tape where he boasted of having classified documents that he could not declassify because he no longer is president.

We, the audience, will be witnesses to a fascinating period of jurisprudence in our nation’s history. Donald Trump may be the defendant, but the outcome of his alleged crimes will have a profound impact on the future of our country as a bastion of equal justice for all.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Indicted, Even If Convicted, Trump Can Still Seek the Presidency

Euphoria is spreading across the country. Like that old Rodgers & Hammerstein song about the month of June from the musical Carousel—“it’s popping out all over” now that Donald Trump has finally been indicted on federal charges including a of violation of the Espionage Act, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and making false statements. Finally.  

What took authorities so long? And what’s holding up Georgia officials from filing their indictment on election interference? 

Perhaps—stay with me on this—the happiest fella on the block is The Donald himself. Oh, how he will milk this opportunity to fleece his faithful suckers for more money ostensibly for his defense fund or for his presidential run. 

In the warped world Trump has created for himself snd his followers he is immune from regulations, free to do as he pleases, unencumbered by laws mere mortals must conform to. 

Even if he is convicted, even if he is sentenced to prison, Trump would be eligible to run and become president. 

Sound far-fetched? Sure, but the Constitution does not bar felons from seeking office, even if they were still serving out their prison sentence. 

His whole political career has upended norms. Normal candidates would find it near impossible to mount a campaign from prison. But Trump’s millions of devoted fans would not be deterred as they already believe he is the victim of prosecutorial excess. 

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” has become a classic of the civil rights movement. Trump lacks King’s poetic flair but his venomous, vengeful passion no doubt would jolt his faithful and, even perhaps, disenchanted Independents and some Never Trumpers into repudiating the Biden Justice Department’s legitimate but unprecedented prosecution of a former president.

The Republican Party is stuck with Trump. The primary system, not backroom politicos, pick the presidential nominee. 

So strap your seat belt tightly around your waist. We have not yet emerged from the terrifying roller coaster ride of another Trump candidacy for the highest office of our land. It is way to early to channel President Gerald Ford’s comment after succeeding Richard M. Nixon, “Our long national nightmare is over.”

No, it isn’t. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Pay Me What I'm Worth

Do you, or did you, love your job? Do you/did you feel you are/were justly compensated for your labor? 

“The implication that love is a suitable stand-in for job security, workplace protections or fair pay is a commonly held belief, especially in so-called dream jobs like writing, cooking and working in the arts, where the privilege to do the work is seen as a form of compensation itself.

“But the rhetoric that a job is a passion or a “labor of love” obfuscates the reality that a job is an economic contract. The assumption that it isn’t sets up the conditions for exploitation.”

Those two paragraphs are from an Opinion piece in The New York Times written by Simone Stolzoff, the author of  the book “The Good Enough Job: ReclaimingLife from Work” (

After four years of subsistence-level pay as a reporter/bureau chief for The New Haven Register when I started my journalism career in 1972, I was able to merge love of my job with financial fulfillment as an editor and publisher of Chain Store Age. For most of that time Gilda focused on issues critical to the health concerns of families, as a newborn intensive care nurse, as a medical college research coordinator for infectious diseases (HIV/Aids, Hepatitis, Lyme disease), and as a nurse practitioner for spine surgery. 

I openly admit Gilda’s contributions to society far exceeded mine. Yet, her financial reward fell victim to the archaic belief that “public service” workers—police, firefighters, EMTs, nurses, sanitation workers, teachers—need not be more appropriately compensated because they derive an immeasurable amount of personal satisfaction from the work they perform.

That paternalistic belief permeates business executives, as well. 

Gordon Segal, the co-founder of Crate & Barrel, is one of my retail heroes. Yet, I was startled to hear him explain during a security analyst presentation decades ago that he could manage store payroll expenses of his in-store merchandising design teams as they accepted lower than expected salaries because they fulfilled their creative needs through the displays they produced. 

It’s the same thinking school districts employ when doling out teacher salaries. The reward is in teaching the children, it is said, never mind that teachers must also feed their own children, pay the rent and other bills while oftentimes supplementing inadequate classroom supplies with their own funds. 

My first boss at The Register hated teachers, mainly because their contracts included guaranteed annual raises. I never knew what Don earned, but in my third year at the paper I became, like him, one of the Register’s seven bureau chiefs. My 1975 salary—$200 a week/$10,400 for the year ($1,164.54 in today’s dollars; $60,556.08 for the year), plus a holiday bonus of a supermarket gift certificate for a 15-lb. turkey. 

It should come as no surprise that low wages prompted a unionization drive. In response, The Register froze salaries for two years during “discussions.” I left the paper in 1976, several months before a contract was signed. Had I stayed, as a bureau chief my salary would have been around $450 a week, the equivalent today of $2,333.56 ($121,345 for the year). 

I never regretted leaving.