Saturday, 31 March 2012

Money bomb!

The $640 million Megamillions jackpot had us all agog this week, and I do hasten to confess the ‘us’ part. I played three times and once hit two of the six numbers. The hour of fantasizing about the fun I would have and the good works I would perform was well worth the three bucks.

Nonetheless, there is something demented about a society that can drum up a fortune of that size for a single person the same week as we witnessed hordes of humanoid figures actively fighting against the provision of basic medical care for the rest of their fellow bipeds. But an even more germane story was not to be found on the steps of the Supreme Court but in the pages of the New York Times business section yesterday. It turns out that in 2011 top hedge fund owners earned at least as much as the lucky gamblers in Maryland and Kansas each, to wit:

Ray Dalio, Bridgewater Asscoation, $3.9 billion
Carl C. Icahn, $2.5 billion
James Simons, Renaissance Fund, $2.1 billion
Kenneth C. Griffin, Citadel, $700 million
Steven A. Cohen, SAC Capital Advisors, $585 million

The article further notes that the hedge fund industry as a whole didn’t do all that well and failed to even beat the major indexes. But just as I blew $3 on the lottery, rich people seem willing to blow $3 million on the possibility of a big payout. Both of us choose to ignore the evidence and have our fun. Fair enough.

But the hedges are not Atlantic City casinos where everyone knows the rules when you walk in. These are the guys whose free ranging across the electronic money world was permitted, encouraged and empowered by Congress and the political duopoly, thereby contributing mightily to the implosion of the real economy four years ago. The Dodd-Frank bill was supposed to rein in these antics so as to prevent a repeat. Instead, we look below the story about the cool $10 billion these five suits walked away with last year alone and find the following:

‘A Bill to Loosen Hedge Fund Marketing’

‘. . . a little known provision in the [JOBS] bill that would relax rules on how investment firms can market themselves to the public. . . .’

‘While the bill could ease the path to fund-raising, it could also introduce new risks to small investors unaccustomed to the complex and risky strategies the firms deploy’. Oh, like maybe the small investors recently burned by Jon Corzine’s MF Global stealing their cash?

Obama’s JOBS bill is the best and most recent example of his profound dishonesty. Touted as somehow favorable to what its acronym promises, the ‘Jump-start Our Business Start-ups Act’ (who comes up with this shit?) will stimulate penny-stock scams and further deepen the already rampant criminality and cynicism poisoning our economic system. Those doubting what I just wrote should consider this one fact: the JOBS bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, including the Paul Ryanites. Any questions?

I’m amazed when visiting the corner delis anywhere around New York to see the constant stream of poor people shuffling in to buy up the gambling tickets peddled to them as a way out of the burdens of their lives, which are easily visible from their postures. Soon we will all get to be like them even if we don’t live check to check. We will place our fragile nest-eggs with Vinnie and Louie at the big banks and pension funds and hope they’ll give some of it back once we’re in a wheelchair and hungry.

The Egyptians knew about institutionalized thievery and bore it throughout the Sadat-Mubarak decades until they couldn’t take it any longer and were ready to die first in their 2011 revolt. We’re just getting started. At times like these I’m glad to have reached a certain age and can anticipate being gone for the much worse to come.

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