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.
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