Archive for March, 2012

The amazing thing about the Rich List, AR’s ranking of the 25 top-earning hedge fund managers, is not that the faces at the top changed or that the amount they earned was the lowest in three years. What’s really  amazing is that, notwithstanding the fact that the faces at the top changed and that the amount they earned was the lowest in three years, the top 25 hedge fund managers took home obscene amounts of income in 2011.

Altogether the 25 highest-earning hedge fund managers earned a combined $14.4 billion last year, down from more than $22 billion in 2010 and the lowest sum in three years. The median earner made $235 million, down from $400 million in 2010 and $500 million in 2009, while the average earner reaped $576 million, down from $883 million in 2010 and nearly half the $1.1 billion average in 2009. Still, the total rose 24 percent from 2008.

Who were the top three ht: [ja] on the list?

  1. Raymond Dalio (Bridgewater Associates): $3.9 billion
  2. Carl Icahn (Icahn Capital Management): $2.5 billion
  3. James Simons (Renaissance Technologies): $2.1 billion


As  Stephen Taub explains,

hedge fund managers have become modern day Rockefellers, Carnegies and Vanderbilts. And like their predecessors, they have had a major influence on society in everything from real estate to charities. Not only have they helped drive up the value of luxury Manhattan apartments, Fairfield, Connecticut homes, Hampton summer houses, many kinds of art and even major league sports franchises, they have also donated hundreds of millions of dollars to build wings of hospitals and museums and to fund college programs, buildings and sports arenas. They have shelled out billions of dollars to help the poor and medically unfortunate, including those suffering from Parkinson’s disease and autism. Hedge funds have also quietly funded scores of lesser-known charities. . .

Many Rich List regulars also are big givers to political candidates and political action committees as well as major fundraisers for individual candidates on both sides of the political aisle.

Does anyone doubt that we still need the Occupy Wall Street movement?

translation: "We're not numbers or sheep"

Portugal’s National Health Service is on the chopping block, as new austerity measures are imposed.

Here’s one reaction:

No one is more devoted to the NHS than Antonio Arnaut, a lawyer who set up the system when he was minister of social services.

“Today, everyone is equal when it comes to disease. Health is a right, not a privilege of those who can pay, as it used to be and is still the case in the United States, for example,” he said in an interview in his office in Coimbra, a university town north of Lisbon.

A founding member of Portugal’s Socialist Party, which is now in opposition, Arnaut is not against private health insurance and acknowledges there is a lot of scope to reduce waste. But he says the debate is less about financing and more about the political will to preserve what has become, in his eyes, a fundamental right.

“If the government cuts so much that the NHS loses its character, there’ll be a popular revolt, because only revolt can recompense for the humiliation of the oppressed,” Arnaut, who is also a poet and essayist, said.

Special mention

Here’s John Hooper’s dispatch from Rome:

Behind the woeful statistics lies terrible human suffering, as events in Italy have shown.
Since the beginning of March, four people have committed suicide and two others have set fire to themselves — all, by their own accounts, edged to the point of desperation by a recession that comes on top of more than a decade in which the Italian economy has seen almost no growth.

The latest victim was a 27 year-old Moroccan-born construction worker who set alight his petrol-soaked body in the centre of Verona. He told the Carabinieri who put out the flames he had not been paid for four months, was already eating at a soup kitchen and faced being evicted from his home.

The day before, the owner of a small building firm near Bologna who is in dispute with the tax authorities also set himself on fire, but with more serious consequences. The 58 year-old man, who has not been named, suffered burns to 100 per cent of his body after he ignited his car in front of the tax tribunal where his case was being heard.

On Tuesday, a house painter threw himself to his death in the southern city of Trani. On March 20, two men — an employee who had lost his job and an employer who was unable to collect his debts — both hanged themselves. Eleven days earlier, a 60 year-old shopkeeper from the port city of Taranto also hanged himself after being refused a bank loan.

I’m giving a talk today in Kentucky, titled “Trash the System or Crash the Planet” (on capitalism and the environment).

I suspect, however, that the only rivalry people will be thinking about will be taking place tomorrow on Bourbon Street.*

* Don’t believe me? Here’s J. D. Crowe explaining things to Alabamans:

In Kentucky, basketball is at least as big as football in Alabama. I’d argue it’s bigger. I drive around Alabama and see very few homemade goal posts in pastures. Take a drive down any country road or city street in Kentucky and you’ll see a basketball goal on every barn, in every driveway, and on trees. In Kentucky even the squirrels shoot threes.

Special mention

How should we treat enduring legacies?

Some legacies, like the culture of poverty approach, notwithstanding Daniel Little’s defense of current sociological research, need to be undone. Stephen Steinberg, in my view, still gets it right:

Enter the sociologist, to record the agony of the dispossessed. Does it really matter how they define a “good job” when they have virtually no prospect of finding one?

Then, there’s the legacy of Appalachia—of mountains, communities, and workers’ battles against the mining companies—which is being undone by current mining operations and, now, a federal judge’s ruling on behalf of the Mingo Logan Coal Co. to continue to operate its Spruce No. 1 mine.

“This town was already pretty much destroyed [by mountaintop removal mining] in the late ‘90s and early 2000s,” Nida said in a telephone interview. “It went from about 700 people to 60 or 70 now. This will just finish it.”

Blair is of particular significance because of its proximity to Blair Mountain, where in 1921 some 15,000 striking coal miners fought a violent battle with police and coal company-backed strikebreakers. Dozens died, and federal troops had to be called in.

Finally, there’s the legacy bequeathed to us by the unemployment suffered by millions of workers.

People who lose jobs, even if they eventually find new ones, suffer lasting damage to their earnings potential, their health and the prospects of their children. And the longer it takes to find a new job, the deeper the damage appears to be.

Not since the Great Depression have so many Americans been unable to find work for so long. But researchers have turned to the next-worst period, the early 1980s, to seek a better understanding of the likely damage.

A 2009 study, to cite one recent example, found that workers who lost jobs during the recession of the early 1980s were making 20 percent less than their peers two decades later. The study focused on mass layoffs to limit the possibility that the results reflected the selective firings of inferior workers.

Losing a job also is literally bad for your health. A 2009 study found life expectancy was reduced for Pennsylvania workers who lost jobs during that same period. A worker laid off at age 40 could expect to die at least a year sooner than his peers.

And a particularly depressing paper, published in 2008, reported that children also suffer permanent damage when parents lose jobs. The study followed the earnings of 39,000 Canadian fathers and sons over 30 years beginning in the late 1970s. The study found the sons of men who lost their jobs eventually earned about 9 percent less than the sons of otherwise comparable workers.

In order to undo that legacy, we would need to move beyond the culture of poverty, and to have better decisions by federal judges, and to understand that a system that produces massive, long-term unemployment—as well as staggering racial disparities and the ongoing destruction of Appalachian mountains and communities—needs to be replaced.

Protest of the day

Posted: 29 March 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

A nationwide general strike in Spain to protest new austerity measures

Winner of the sixth annual Peeps Diorama Contest sponsored by the Washington Post

Special mention