Tuesday, November 16, 2010
- Re: How Obama Can Fix It All (But Won't)
Sometimes people are so desperate to seem clever that they don’t make any sense at all. I’d bet that’s happened to Tim Heffernan on more than one occasion, but it certainly has at least this once. His response to my post from November 4th about eliminating the corporate income tax was so incoherent that I wasn’t precisely sure how to address it or for that matter whether I should go to the trouble. When someone makes as little sense as this it reminds me of arguing with a homeless guy screaming at you from a traffic island. It doesn’t really matter what he’s saying, there’s really nothing to be gained from discussing it. Still...I had an hour to kill this afternoon so I figured… what the hell.
In a situation like this where someone has registered their disapproval of one of my ideas, I’ll usually try to stick to the substance of their argument rather than the personality of the person offering it. But when the criticism offers as little substance as Mr. Heffernan’s did, I’ve got to confess I find that tough. As near as I can tell his only real compliant was that simplifying the tax code in the way I suggested would negatively affect the employment prospects of 1.3 million accountants. Toward substance that was really the best he could do.
In the meantime however, he does very effectively offer gobs and gobs of snarky condescension. So much so in fact, that it makes you wonder if he thinks the best way to learn about Economic and Tax policy is not to do what I’ve done for the last 20 years, but to get a journalism degree and go to work for a fashion magazine. (In my experience, people with journalism degrees think that’s the best way to solve EVERY problem… but I digress.) His level of empty sneering is really quite astounding. Even more so when you consider that he has basically no expertise at all upon which to draw when discussing this topic. To me it seems like he didn’t understand my argument but was hoping that his sophisticated wordsmithing would be so impressive that it would keep anyone else from noticing.
That’s not how we manage our disagreements in my world, where there are consequences to being wrong, and real money to be made based on ideas. But knowing as little as I do about men’s fashion, maybe it would be best if I defer to Mr. Heffernan’s much more vast knowledge in that area.
No wait… we weren’t talking fashion were we? That’s right we were talking tax policy. I guess I got confused for a minute because Mr. Heffernan writes for such a prestigious fashion magazine. That is what Esquire is isn’t it… or at least … what it used to be once... a fashion magazine? I guess I just assumed from his dismissive tone that we must be discussing something about which he has a vast knowledge and I have very little. But we were actually talking about a tax policy issue. Well then maybe I am qualified to say something about it after all.
I’ve worked on Wall Street for 20 years as a Research Analyst and Portfolio manager. I started out at JPMorgan on the Commodity derivatives desk designing energy swaps and SPV’s, but most of my career has been spent at ‘Macro’ hedge funds where we make trades based on big issues like changes to tax, economic, and monetary policies. I still work at one today.
My contract prohibits me naming my present employer, but I can say that it’s a very well known multi-billion dollar hedge fund, not too dissimilar from my last two employers, Caxton Associates and Moore Capital. I can also say that in all the time I’ve been managing investment capital I’ve never had a down year, and my average annualized return is well into the double digits. Even people who dislike me call me an expert in my space. And analyzing things like the effect of tax policy have been my bread and butter for most of my career.
Prior to working on Wall Street I was in school like everyone else. Tragically, I didn’t study journalism like I guess I should have if I REALLY wanted to be an expert in something. Instead I was a part of the only undergraduate labor economics specialty program in the country at the time. So am I qualified to render a comment on the effect of a change in the tax code? As a matter of fact I think I am yes, and that opinion has been shared by all of my employers over the last 20 years who were paying me to do that very thing. But as far as Tim Heffernan is concerned those qualifications pale when compared to his vast knowledge of inseam stitching and the button count of suit vests, or whatever else it is that he thinks he knows.
I wasn’t put off by his calling me a dunce any more than I would have been if he called me a tub of lard. (I’m 6’1” and a very fit 183 pounds) It’s just something that people don’t say about me so it doesn’t hurt my feelings. But the fact that he would go to that trouble does make me think that he feels deeply threatened by me in some way. Since I can’t imagine ever going to work for a fashion magazine for any amount of money that they could possibly afford to pay, I’d say he has little to worry about. But my impression was that he disagrees and is worried.
I think the thing he’s most threatened by is the fact that I am doing for free what he would like to charge people for. All he does is write after all. And I got the impression he doesn’t like his turf being trod by an amateur. I think that’s why he spent so much time criticizing my blog instead of criticizing me or my ideas directly.
And if I want to be fair about it, those criticisms are probably valid. This blog is hastily thrown together; the writing is rushed and is usually rife with my dyslexic spelling and grammatical errors. And it would probably be nice if I could remember to start sentences with a capital letter. But then again, I’m not trying to compete with Esquire in any way, Tim Heffernan’s insecurities notwithstanding. I'm no journalist, and I don't aspire to be one. I couldn't possibly afford the pay cut.
Ask the people I’ve worked with and they’ll tell you that thinking outside the box is one of my very great strengths. Even the people who hate me will probably tell you that I’m much smarter than the average bear, and that really means something when 90% of the people you work with are geniuses. And in truth, my job for two decades has been to find innovative and profitable solutions to economic problems, not to draft sneering commentary. So in that respect, in comparison to Tim Heffernan, I guess I really am an amateur and should better know my place.
Then again, everyone needs a hobby.