Tuesday, May 22, 2007

John Edwards: Rich Fat Cat Acting Like a Rich Fat Cat

From the Wall Street Journal:
Let us say right up front that it’s terrific that John Edwards lives in a country where he can lose an election and still land a $480,000 part-time job as a consultant to an investment firm that keeps its hedge funds in the Cayman Islands as a tax shelter for its clients. This truly is the land of opportunity.

We’re also encouraged to hear that, according to the former Senator’s spokesman, “John Edwards is running for President to give every American the opportunities that he’s had.” While there may not be enough half-a-million-dollar-a-year part-time consulting gigs to go around just yet, the hedge fund industry is growing. And there’s always private equity if you find yourself, as Mr. Edwards described his 2005 circumstance, making $40,000 a year at an antipoverty think tank and wanting to learn something about “capital markets.” Thus did he turn, in his time of need, to Fortress Investment Group LLC, pride of the Caymans.

It would also be churlish to repeat the by now tired line about which of his “Two Americas” Mr. Edwards lives in--notwithstanding his $30 million in assets, about $16 million of which is invested in Fortress. And in any case, no one should have to apologize for his wealth and success.

That said, we can understand why the former Senator’s campaign wants to change the subject. Mr. Edwards has campaigned, both in 2004 and now, against the use of offshore tax shelters, the supposed rising tide of U.S. inequality and the plight of the American worker. Mr. Edwards’ employment at an investment firm that headquarters most of its hedge and private equity funds in one of the world’s most notorious tax shelters underscores all of those themes--albeit not quite in the way the Edwards campaign has chosen to emphasize.

Mr. Edwards did tell the Associated Press that he took the job not merely to make money, but also to learn about the relationship between the capital markets and poverty. How refreshing it would have been, then, for Mr. Edwards to have emerged from his toil in the crucible of high finance to explain that all is not moral darkness in the upper reaches of the investing class; that people who invest in businesses help alleviate poverty and make the economy strong; and that it is risk-taking that offers Americans their best--indeed, their only--chance to have “the opportunities he’s had.”

It was not to be, alas. Mr. Edwards said instead that if he’s elected President he’ll still try to abolish offshore tax shelters. At least he’ll have already made his money.
That is the story of the liberals. Having achieved a very affluent lifestyle, they look askance when other people aspire to achieve the same thing.

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