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How to Earn $900,000 an Hour While Unemployment Soars

The top 10 hedge fund honchos each averaged $1.87 billion in 2009 -- wouldn't you like to know their secrets? Here are a few.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week (Oct 14, 2010).

Let's be honest. Wouldn't you like to rake in a cool $900,000 for one hour's work? No? Still have hippie ideals, perhaps? You could work for just 10 minutes and walk off with $150,000. Push yourself to work one entire day and we're talking $7.2 million. Hang in there for a month, and you'll pull in more than the richest athletes make in 10 years -- $256.5 million. And in one year? Well, you'll be earning what the top ten hedge fund honchos each averaged in 2009 -- $1.87 billion. Wouldn't you like to know their secrets? Here are a few:

Step 1: Check your conscience at the door.
You must be able to live with the knowledge that while you were making $900,000 an hour, more than 29 million other Americans had no job at all or were forced into part-time work. Also you'd have to live with the uncomfortable fact that your sector -- high finance -- crashed the economy, leaving eight million Americans jobless in a matter of months.

You're obviously good at math so you'll be able to calculate that it will now take 22.5 million new jobs to bring the economy back to full-employment (an unemployment rate of 5 percent or less). That's the equivalent of creating 630 new corporations the size of Apple Corp. (35,000 employees each). Sadly, you're also a realist, so you know that unemployment is likely to remain at record post-WWII highs for years to come.

Feeling guilty? Don't. Remind everyone again and again that hedge funds like yours didn't get bailed out. You're not too big to fail. You just figured out how to be better at investing than anyone else. You're what capitalism is supposed to reward. You earned your $900,000 an hour fair and square! Suppress all your doubts and just keep telling yourself -- and everyone else -- that you have nothing to do with rising poverty or the fact that nearly 50 million people can't afford health care. You're the solution, not the problem. Conscience be damned!

Step 2: Remember: None of this is your fault!
Yes, a few tiresome critics will keep pointing the finger at you, saying that the financial sector crashed the economy. Ignore them and put the blame where it belongs - somewhere else. When in doubt, seek guidance from the pros on Wall Street. They know exactly who to blame:

  • The few bad apples who gave out mortgages like candy
  • The greedy Americans who bought homes they couldn't afford (they should have ignored the bankers who told them they could!)
  • The politicians who pushed for risky loans for "low-income" buyers (subtext: favoritism for minorities.)
  • The Fed, which kept interest rates too low for too long, inflating the bubble
  • And, most importantly, American consumers who "lived beyond their means," running up too much debt. (Those people, not you, really need to tighten their belts!)

Assert with the utmost confidence that it's Wall Street billionaires who make our system the envy of the world, so help me god.

Step 3: Proclaim that you are the solution:
It's not enough to dodge the blame. You've got to convince academics and journalists to anoint you as the savior. You see, it's you and your fellow high finance moguls who will save us from ever having to endure a crisis like this again. Fortunately for you, they've already bought the story. For example, in More Money than God, Sebastian Mallaby writes:

How can governments promote small-enough-to fail institutions that manage risk well? This is the key question about the future of finance; and one part of the answer is hiding in plain sight. Governments must encourage hedge funds....The chief policy prescription can be boiled down to two words: Don't regulate." (p 380-81)

Imagine that! Top hedge fund managers who earn $900,000 an hour are the answer to too-big-to-fail bailouts, and you don't even need government regulations to keep them honest! People who suggest that Wall Street billionaires are essentially card counters in a Las Vegas casino? They're just envious. People who question whether the entire casino has any redeeming social or economic value at all? They're just stupid. (For my envious and stupid account, see The Looting of America.)

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