Follow the money

Something very weird is going on when a woman has worked 25 plus years as a lawyer (in both the private and public sector), but has only about $1,000 in savings, and less than $1,000,000 in equity.

Financial records may show that (a) she gave everything to charity; (b) she gave everything to poor relatives; (c) she had terrible and costly health problems; (d) that she has a drug or gambling problem; or (e) that she is, and always had been, profligate beyond reason.  Suggestions (a) through (c) would speak well of the woman; possibilities (d) and (e) would speak badly of her, especially if she were being put forward to fill a job that requires wisdom, balance, and an understanding of the way business and money work.

I’m talking, of course, of Sonia Sotomayor, and the bizarre case of the missing money.   I wonder if this summer’s hearings will delve into this interesting little mystery.

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    I had read a few of these stats myself several days ago and was wondering if she mortgaged her mouth to her dentist.

    Maybe she should have spent more time with a good eye doctor, she sure is short sighted.

  • Charles Martel

    Please allow me to offer a Helen-like explanation:

    Money, and the manipulation thereof, is a white male game. White males set the rules for how you accumulate it, how you grow it and how you dispose of it.

    But what if white males conspire to keep you from learning those rules, consigning you to ignorance about savings, prudent investments, the power of compound interest, etc.—white mojo stuff—so that you are helpless to keep the money you earn?

    And what if besides the vast pasty male plot to deny you the gnosis necessary to build and retain wealth, there is also a conscious effort to resist and defame such proven female/darker complected ways of wealth as socialism and high taxation?

  • Charles

    With all the cabinet postings in this administration who have been shown so far to have not properly paid taxes; Does anyone want to bet that she has some “off-shore” savings?

  • suek


    I saw that possibility raised among the comments. How do you prove something like that – that it’s true or that it’s untrue?? Audit her bank accounts, I suppose. Either she’s written checks or she’d have to have taken a lot of trips…

    Also one that puzzled me: that she might have a TSP account that does not have to be revealed because she is a government employee. I’m unfamiliar with the TSP account. But it doesn’t have to be revealed because she’s a government employee??? That’s bizarre. For a further government position?

  • 11B40


    I’m afraid that I’m not ready to climb on this bandwagon. It’s her money and the purpose, as I understand it, of the financial disclosure submission is not to provide fodder for nitpicking a nominees private monetary decisions. If there isn’t any indication of conflicts of interest or moral turpitude, then I see no nexus between this factoid and Judge Sotomayor’s eligibility to serve on the US Supreme Court.

    I was raised by a man who was fond of saying, “I’d hate to die with a bunch of money in the bank.” When I left home, my father gave me my “inheritance” and told me that there would be nothing more coming my way. That approach eased my starting out and gave me a sense of financial responsibility that did me well throughout my entire life. But, that was his approach; there are many others, some better, some worse. I see financial responsibility as kind of a pass/fail course. If you support yourself and meet your obligations to your creditors, you pass. If you have to declare bankruptcy or get foreclosed on, you fail. Other than that, let the good times roll. I give Judge Sotomayor a “pass” on this.

  • Bookworm

    11B40: That’s the attitude my sister and her husband had. They’re on food stamps now — and you’re paying.

    It also takes a very high level of profligacy to end up with no savings whatsoever (as I can attest to regarding my sister and her husband). It would be interesting to know what Sotomayor’s habits are. Fine dining? Charity? Church? Clothes? Drugs? Casinos? PETA? Since she’s very busy denying everything she’s said or written for the past 20 years, we have to look to clues about her elsewhere.

  • SGT Dave

    I have a bit of a problem with her solvency, largely due to my background (35M3L). I don’t have a lot of savings (the loss of work due to deployments – and yes, it happens despite ESGR and the labor laws) at this time and it makes it hard during security reviews. If I, as a lowly grunt in the line, am getting flak because of low reserves and a high debt ratio, how much more flak should a person setting government policy and issuing judgement on security issues?
    Just putting it out there; a lack of solvency is a risk to security and an indicator of corruptability in most circles.
    And if the lack of funds is tied to profligancy or gambling… then (pardon the pun) all bets are off.

    SSG Dave
    “The definition of an honest politician is one that stays bought.”

  • 11B40

    Greetings: especially “Bookworm”

    One of the “interviewing” techniques that I developed over the years was indirection. Most interviewees have some idea of the purpose of the interview and where it might be headed. This gives them an opportunity for some degree of preparation. What I like to do, say in a job interview, is to begin with things like hobbies, sports, vacation travel to move off the beaten path and then stay there for a fair amount of time. This usually allows for an opportunity to eyeball the person as you dig deeper and see what they look like as the information flows.

    With, Judge Sotomayor, with whom I share a Bronx heritage, I might ask if see were a New York Yankees fan and then drill down to see how true that might be. Then I would shift gently into how, back in the late 60s and 70s, the Bronx was given the Dresden-lite treatment, when parts of its viable housing stock were put to the torch and large areas of what was to be renamed “the South Bronx” was depopulated. For all the touting of the Judge’s “experience”, it think that her feelings and understanding of what occurred during that period would provide an opportunity to have her confront any conflict between her minority-status chauvinism and the reality of that catastrophe.

    I’m sorry hear about your trouble with your in-laws and I hope you’re able to protect you and yours from their irresponsibilities. I just don’t see Judge Sotomayor’s financial position as precarious. She has equity in her real estate and as secure a wage income as one can have these days. But, bottom line, I try to keep enough the emotional distance to allow people the right to fail.


    Employers are allowed to look at a prospective employee’s credit history to determine several factors.

    Whether or not the judge’s spending habits have a negative effect on her appointment is yet to be seen.

    Me…I am still questioning why she didn’t get a second opinion on that high dental bill. Hopefully, someone is ‘drilling’ for answers (Yeah, pun intended).

    If the TARP/Bailout issues ever reach the Supreme Court (in another administration of course) as to their legalities and I bet somewhere down the road there will be a challenge when another industry is swallowed for whatever reasons-how a Supreme Court judge looks at money and responsibility will take center stage.

  • suek


    I think I disagree with you for two reasons:

    First, and more relevant: taxes. Unless someone is forthcoming about their finances, you can’t really know if their tax record is “clean”.

    Second, and less relevant: judgment. We _are_ after all, interviewing a person who will base her judgments on her life’s experiences – she’s told us that. So what _are_ her life’s experiences? If her experience involves a complete lack of understanding of economics, what basis will she have in making judgments about business law?

    Not exactly on topic, but it’s about the activism in the courts…

  • 11B40


    If I may give this one last shot: I’m not arguing that Judge Sotomayor shouldn’t have to file financial disclosure documents. I’m not arguing that the Judge shouldn’t have to pay her taxes. I’m not arguing that personnel financial management has no national security implications.

    What I’m trying to get across is that having a low savings rate is not a sign of malfeasance or even nonfeasance. In the part of the Bronx where I grew up, most of the housing stock was large, 5 or more stories apartment buildings of 35-50 units. The local folk-wisdom included “one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor”. It’s her money and, if she wants to hide it in her mattress, that’s her business and none of mine. And if she can’t hold onto her dollars for more than a New York minute, I’m okay with that, too. They’re her dollars.

    What I don’t like about this discussion is the creation of a new (double-secret) standard that none previously have been measured against and that has no specific criteria of measurement. In writing about the “Rule of Law” in his “The Road to Serfdom”, F.A. Hayek stresses that rules are not necessarily bad or anti-competitive economy-wise. What Mr. Hayek requires of them is that be publicly known and effect all similarly situated. The “savings rate” argument seem, to me, to fail on both counts.

  • Bookworm

    I definitely agree, 11B40, when you say “having a low savings rate is not a sign of malfeasance or even nonfeasance.” It is, nevertheless, a bit surprising given her income and the life she ostensibly leads (sober jurist, no kids). It would therefore be useful to discover what she did with all that money. It could be innocuous or even charming, but it could also be something that reflects poorly on her. Her lack of liquidity is sufficiently anomalous that I feel it deserves some attention. It’s not a sneak attack, creating a new standard. It is a recognition that there’s something a bit unusual here, something we’ve never before seen in one nominated to the United States Supreme Court.

  • suek

    Well, Book,

    On the other hand….

    The fact of the matter is that she _isn’t_ married, and has no kids. So her only consideration is her personal needs. If you have the guarantee of a lifetime job with a substantial retirement that continues until death with a guaranteed health plan as well, why _should_ you save? You can’t take it with you…and with no offspring to pass it on to, why accumulate? why not give it to them while you’re alive when they probably need it more and you can enjoy the glow of being the gift giver? Avoid the death tax – give gifts while you’re alive!

    So while I think there should be _some_ investigation to verify the fact that there’s no tax avoidance going on etc. I guess I have to agree with 11B40 that her choice of how she spends/gives her money just isn’t relevant. In answer to my own objection, the fact that she really doesn’t have to worry about her personal income during her lifetime eliminates the question of judgment. She has no financial worries for her lifetime, so why not spend it any way she chooses.

  • suek

    Also wanted to plant this little item. Irrelevant to the Sotomayor issue, but may be relevant to the “Follow the Money” issue.