If you see a lot of people going around with neck collars soon, it’s probably because they got whiplash when reading today that the top 50 hedge fund managers last year earned $29 billion. The number-one winner, John Paulson, made $3.7 billion in 2007. If the U.S. Treasury issued them, and it may have to the way things are going for some on Wall Street, Mr. Paulson would have been handed 3,700 one-million dollar bills. That’s enough to run New York Presbyterian Hospital, one of the nation’s largest, or the City of Boston for 18 months. It would provide tuition for four years at a flagship public university like U.C.L.A or Penn State for at least 74,000 students, or a year’s worth of life-saving clean bottled water for 2.5 million children in Africa.
There was a time when multi-billion dollar figures were connected mostly with the creation of lofty projects and the operation of large organizations. Now, in the modern Gilded Age that obligingly continues for a happy few, they have become a number that appears on one individual’s annual paycheck. Not a bad situation considering the view expressed by the Fed and other U.S. government officials that had they not intervened recently in the Bear Stearns implosion and come up with their generous bailout plan giving JPMorgan Chase a helping hand, capitalism, or at least Wall Street as we know it, would have faced certain calamity.
Speaking of Wall Street, there must be something popular there about the sum of $29 billion. It is the same amount the Fed came up with to bail out Bear Stearns/Wall Street. It seemed like Jamie Dimon had to go to a lot of work to get the Fed to come up with the money, staying up all night over the weekend a while back. All he really had to do was talk to some of his hedge fund friends. They don’t appear to have a problem coming up with $29 billion -in just one year.
If only the poor, the uninsured or the struggling to survive each day in Africa and elsewhere could be so smart -or at least worked on Wall Street.