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The US elections as seen by a hedge fund trader

The US elections as seen by a hedge fund trader
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First Published: Tue, Feb 12 2008. 11 53 PM IST
Updated: Tue, Feb 12 2008. 11 53 PM IST
There comes a time in the life of every successful hedge fund manager when he realizes that his political opinions are seriously undervalued.
For me, that time has been slower in coming than for most. Even after I bought my first jet I thought of myself, politically, as an ordinary American citizen.
It wasn’t until one night, a couple of weeks ago, as I sat alone in my $17 million (Rs67.49 crore) apartment, that it finally dawned on me: Ordinary people don’t have a net worth of $475 million.
This night of my political awakening started out just like every other night. I was preparing to spend it with a young woman I took to be perfectly rational. She’ll remain nameless because I don’t want to pretend that I actually caught her name. I like to keep things real.
Anyway, I’d talked her back to my place, persuaded her to shed a certain amount of inhibition and, in general, had the mojo working overtime. Then the clock struck midnight and I checked my BlackBerry—just like I always do.
When I walked back into my own bedroom, staring down at me in high definition and talking to me in surround sound was Hillary Clinton.
Keep it light
Not wanting to spoil the mood, I kept it light. “Now there’s a lady who knows how to use her teeth in a street fight,” I said.
“You’re talking about Hillary?” asked the woman in a cold tone I’ve rarely heard from a woman in my own apartment.
“She smiles when she’s angry,” I said. “Only it’s not a smile. She’s using her teeth as fangs.” In less time than it takes to buy subprime mortgages, the woman was fully clothed and arguing with me about Hillary. She went on about how men like me didn’t understand Hillary, didn’t respect Hillary, couldn’t accept the idea of a powerful woman, etc., etc.
An hour later she was gone.
That was the moment I realized that I might be the one man left in America willing to come out and say what every other man was just thinking. And so for the past two weeks, as a kind of public service, I’ve paid closer attention to our presidential campaign, so that I might share my views of it with you.
Prepare to starve
I now have two of them.
Opinion No. 1: Before this thing is over, every straight male in America is going to realize that if Hillary Clinton wins, he’s looking at years of sexual famine.
The American female’s lack of humour about anything regarding Hillary Clinton has a momentum all its own, with the women inching their backs ever closer up against the wall and the men growing ever more certain that this Clinton woman is a serious problem.
Which brings me to my second point: The so-called issues of these campaigns are overrated. The only two subjects that mean anything in politics, as in life, are sex and money.
Lucre trumps lust
In healthy political times money trumps sex—thank God! Americans as a group vote their perceived financial self-interest. I can hear you saying, “If that’s true, why do a handful of rich keep getting richer and the great masses of Americans struggle to pay their bills?”
That’s only because rich people are better at voting. We vote for candidates who actually will make us richer, while poor people vote for candidates who pretend they are going to make them less poor while, in fact, doing nothing at all to help them. That’s why we’re rich and they’re not.
At any rate, I look around Wall Street and see many signs that our times are not normal—that sex has overwhelmed money as the issue of primary political importance.
The guys at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., for instance. They gave more money to Hillary—113 grand in the last quarter alone—than to any candidate. I promise you that no male Lehman Brothers trader is under the impression that Hillary Clinton will be good for him financially.
Render unto Hillary
Those people didn’t give that money to Hillary because they liked her, or even because they hoped she might win. They gave it to her to mollify their wives.
An even more troubling sign is the rise of Barack Obama. When hedge fund guys hear him talk they forget, maybe for the first time in their entire lives, their own narrow interests. Ask them why and they can’t explain it.
In my experience, this is how people behave when they’re thinking about sex. Seriously, Obama has got me wondering if a lot of the guys in my industry have suddenly gone a little gay on me.
Flamers, cavemen
There’s a spectrum on which the total flamer is a one and a total caveman is a 10. Objectively speaking, I’ve always been a 10—and so have most of my colleagues. Now, I see that look in their eyes as they talk about “Barack this” and “Barack that” and I’m thinking that a lot of them are, at best—8Ks.
In the long run, that’s an emotional weakness I can exploit the next time I take the other side of one of their trades. But in the short run it’s not a good sign for my class. Or for America. America needs its rich people. And if we aren’t rich, who will be?
Michael Lewis is an author, most recently of The Blind Side, a Bloomberg columnist, and not a hedge-fund trader. The opinions expressed are his own.
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First Published: Tue, Feb 12 2008. 11 53 PM IST