Of all the “againsts,” the strongest reaction was from . . . economist Mankiw’s grandmother, who would have been “would have been shocked and appalled to see someone who makes so much [$180,000 a year] save so little [only $100,000 in the bank].” From a pure economics standpoint, though, I wonder if Sotomayor is being a rational follower of the lifetime earnings model: with a job for life, full health care, and, as a commenter notes, a pension if she chooses to retire, why save? On the other hand, as a Supreme Court judge, I can’t imagine there are lots of ways to spend your extra money, so I expect her bank account will gradually grow in future years.
P.S. Nate goes through Sotomayor’s cost of living, but maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way. To be fair to Mankiw, it may very well be true that his savers-spenders theory is empirically correct. For Sotomayor, this may indeed be the point, that she is very rationally being a “spender” even though probably many people in similar circumstances elsewhere are “savers.” And it might also be true that Mankiw’s grandmother “would have been shocked”; after all, she might well have had a simplistic view of economics of the sort that would demand “scrimping and saging” from even a person with a job for life. We often think of depression-era grandmas as being on an extreme point on the spender/saver spectrum, and Grandma Mankiw may be no exception.
So I think the right way of taking Mankiw’s remark is as a comment on his grandmother’s charming but naive conception of household economics–even in a case of a childless federal judge, she would’ve missed the point of spending one’s money.
I have no comments on the reasoning of Dershowitz, Yoo, and the rest.