News for the rich and famous

To help correct what has been a decided bias by this newspaper in favor of the working class and its allies, we hereby help put things in balance by offering news of interest to the rich and famous:

Hedge funds make comeback

Researchers at the Hennessee Group, an investment firm, posted the great news this week that hedge funds have “totally recovered” from the “economic unpleasantness of 2008.” In fact, assets in hedge funds rose by $751 billion in 2009.

Improvement of that magnitude will allow the top 25 hedge fund managers to do what they haven’t been able to do since 2007, a year before the “unpleasantness” began. Estimates are that they can each, once again, pocket more than $360 million in annual salaries.

In other good news for the hedge fund managers, the Washington Post reports that efforts to plug the “carried interest” tax loophole that lets hedge fund managers treat their income as capital gains (with lower tax rates) have “lost momentum in the Senate.”

The hope is that the mean-spiritedness exhibited in the House last December, when it voted to raise the tax on hedge fund manager income from 15 to 35 percent, will not be repeated by senators who generally have a better understanding of problems faced by the rich.

Forbes fingers the culprit

Forbes magazine, beloved by big business for being a “capitalist tool,” last month revealed both the cause and the cure for large federal deficits. Taking note of the “obscene” paychecks earned by public workers, the magazine said cutting pay for millions of government workers is “the only way to get serious about the deficit.” A 10 percent salary cut for all federal, state and local government non-teaching employees, Forbes said, “could generate almost $40 billion a year.”

The beauty of the Forbes proposal is that, while protecting the rich, it raises almost exactly the same amount that would be raised if the top 400 earners in the United States paid the same income tax rate that applied to them in 1955.

Dangerous idea in Wales

The Welsh government, in response to the desire of its people to be happier, has decided to undertake a program of tracking national progress on happiness.

Statistics are being gathered to compute an index of “Gross National Happiness.”

Helen Mary Jones, a member of the Welsh National Assembly leading the study, says gross domestic product and other traditional economic indicators don’t always get at what it is that really enhances “subjective well-being.” In short, she says, “the best societies to live in aren’t always the wealthiest. The best societies appear to be nations where wealth is shared more equally.”

It ain’t easy being rich

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is apparently the victim of a scam.

Accustomed to making offers that can’t be refused, he was taken aback in 2005 when the widow of banker-billionaire Edmond Safra said “no” when he tried to buy her cliff-top mansion on the French Riviera.

Determined to get what he wanted, he kept upping his offer – all the way up to $534 million, the highest price ever offered for a private home.

As much as she loved the mansion, Lily Safra could no longer resist and, in 2008, agreed to sell the joint to Prokhorov who immediately put down a $55 million dollar deposit.

Soon after he put down the money the global recession hit and his worldwide operations started to go belly-up. He reneged on the sale and demanded his deposit back. Safra refused.

Now, to add to his humiliation, pain and suffering, French courts have ruled in her favor and have ordered him to pay an additional $2 million in damages.

Et tu, Wall Street Journal?

What’s this world coming to when even the Wall Street Journal can’t be trusted to refrain from bashing the rich? The following is excerpted from a recent article in the paper:

“Corporations are now busily reporting CEO pay totals for 2009, but take those totals with a grain of salt. The figures now being released value stock awards to each executive at the time of their grant. Actual rewards can run far higher. One example: Occidental Petroleum CEO Ray Irani took ‘expected pay’ for 2008 originally valued at $58.3 million. His actual ‘realized’ pay for the year: $222.6 million.

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John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York. John Wojcik es editor en jefe de People's World.