Having written a newspaper column for more than 10 years, I’ve become something of a connoisseur of the genre. I suppose that I read a dozen columnists regularly. Some I admire, some I abhor, but one stands out – and he’s not really a columnist.
He’s Bill Gross, an investment advisor who runs PIMCO, the biggest and, it must be said, the best-managed bond fund in the United States. He writes an occasional piece for the company’s Web site, entitled ‘Investment Outlook’. Here’s his latest gem.
“The rich are different from you and me,” wrote Fitzgerald and I suppose they are, but the differences – they wax and wane with the economic tides. Gilded ages come, go, and are reborn on the monsoon cloudbursts of seemingly intangible forces such as globalization, innovation, and favorable tax policy. For the rich to be truly rich and multiply their numbers, they need help. Adept surfers they may be, but like all riders, the wealthy need a seventh wave that allows them to preen their skills and declare themselves masters of their own universe, if only for a moment in time. That the golden glazed surfboards of the 21st century seem unique with their decals of “private equity” and “hedge finance” is mostly a mirage. Wealth has always gravitated towards those that take risk with other people’s money but especially so when taxes are low. The rich are different – but they are not necessarily society’s paragons. It is in fact society’s wind and its current willingness to nurture the rich that fills their sails.
What farce, then, to give credence to current debate as to whether private equity and hedge fund managers will be properly incented if Congress moves to raise their taxes up to levels paid by the majority of America’s middle class. What pretense to assert, as did Kenneth Griffin, recipient last year of more than $1 billion in compensation as manager of the Citadel Investment Group, that “the (current) income distribution has to stand. If the tax became too high, as a matter of principle I would not be working this hard.” Right. In the same breath he tells, Louis Uchitelle of The New York Times that the get-rich crowd “soon discover that wealth is not a particularly satisfying outcome.” The team at Citadel, he claims, “loves the problems they work on and the challenges inherent to their business.” Oh what a delicate/tangled web we weave sir. Far better to admit, as has Warren Buffett, that the tax rates of the wealthiest Americans average nearly 15% while those of their salaried and therefore less incented assistants just outside their offices are nearly twice that. Far better to recognize that only twice before during the last century has such a high percentage of national income (5%) gone to the top .01% of American families. Far better to understand, to quote Buffett, that “society should place an initial emphasis on abundance but then should continuously strive to redistribute the abundance more equitably.”
See what I mean? Not only is he rich and smart, but he writes beautifully…further evidence that life isn’t fair. You can read more on Pimco.com