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Who makes more, a welder or a philosopher? That is the question . . .

TRANSLATION Marco Rubio's contention during Tuesday's debate that "welders make more money than philosophers" prompted a barrage of tweets citing figures that indicate the opposite is true. But the real picture isn't quite so simple.

Yes, US Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show that college-level "philosophy and religion teachers" earn a median annual salary of $71,350, compared with $40,040 for "welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers." But that's a lot of occupations folded into two categories. Also, compensation for welders varies widely depending on where you ply the trade. The website of the American Welding Society and Weld-Ed Center says a six-figure salary is attainable if you are "the Tom Brady or Derek Jeter of welding — and you are willing to work in some far-off spots." According to the federal government, the median wage for welders in Alaska is nearly $72,000. It's also easier to find work as a welder. There are more than 370,000 welding positions across the United States, compared with about 23,000 philosophy or religion teachers at colleges.

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Some Rubio rebutters pointed to numbers from PayScale showing mid-career philosophy majors earn far more than welders at the same stage of their careers. But there's a difference between a professional philosopher and someone who merely majored in the discipline. Activist investor Carl Icahn, for instance, was a philosophy major at Princeton. Today, he's worth more than $20 billion. That's a lot more than Socrates took home.

— MARK POTHIER