Columns » Hightower

The hedge funder’s soft life




An old cliché says: "Hard work always pays off."

Really? Ask a farm worker about that, or talk to a McDonald's fry cook working three shifts to piece together an income that still leaves him in poverty.

"Work your fingers to the bone," goes the old song, "and what do you get? Boney fingers."

If it's a big payoff you want from a job, go for what my Uncle Emmett called "soft-hands work." I recommend hedge-fund huckstering! Those guys (and they're nearly all guys) never get a callus and do nothing of social value, yet they make the biggest haul of anyone.

Last year, the 25 highest-paid hedge funders raked in a collective $21 billion in personal pay, with half of that grabbed by the top four guys. Their billions are what's called "unearned income" — money made from money, not from one's labor. And it's not even their money!

Other rich people, big pension funds, endowments, etc., entrust them with big piles of their money, which the soft-hand guys then bet on such screwy "financial products" as packages of subprime-mortgage derivatives. (Yes, that's the one that crashed our economy in 2008.)

But even when they bet poorly, the hucksters get richer, for they charge what's called "2 and 20" to get into their casino game — that's 2 percent off the top of the millions of dollars a person or group turns over to the hedge fund, plus 20 percent of any profits made from the bets. So a guy like Ray Dalio, who runs the world's biggest hedge game, made a lousy showing for his backers last year, yet he still walked away with $600 million in personal pay.

Also, to further rig the unearned income game, the hedge-crew is lobbying furiously in Washington to let them get away with paying only half the income tax rate that you working stiffs are assessed. Why do we even allow these worthless scoundrels to exist?

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit

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