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With heated discussion about raising the debt ceiling for the U.S., this is a good time for some perspective about America’s top earners and for some ideas of how their enormous earnings could lead to public good. No, they can’t solve our spending problem, tax system or get us out of debt, but they do have some options unavailable to the average citizen. Public indignation over huge bonuses for bankers is old news, but a recent report that the top 25 hedge fund managers averaged $1 billion per year is a bit much.

Even more striking is the top ten list, with David Tepper (Appaloosa Management) ranking first by earning $4 billion, and Philip Falcone (Harbinger Capital Partners) at the bottom of the list, at $825 million per year, or about $430,000 per hour.

The most recent data from the State of New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, indicates that the average household income is $64,076, representing the compensation that Mr. Falcone earned last year for working about 9 minutes.

Undoubtedly, the investors on this list are competitive – how disappointing to find oneself number ten in the top ten. Below is a guide for how Mr. Falcone could trump each of his competitors by one simple act: do good by paying it forward.

Establish your own Foundation to support microlending, the inspiration of Muhammad Yunus, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for developing a banking system for seed funding to the developing world. Given that the average microloan is $200, you could support 5,000 microgrants to build small businesses across the globe for $1 million – and keep your remaining $824 million. The media coverage alone is worth the investment to show us that hedge fund managers can really do good beyond your business acumen.

President Obama’s use of his $1.4 million award from the Nobel Peace Prize is an exemplar. You can see how much good can come from thoughtful use of disposable income. Surely, Mr. Falcone, you can trump this.

Charities:

$250,000 to Fisher House

Fisher House provides housing for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers.

$200,000 to the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund

The fund, headed by former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, is raising money for long-term relief efforts in Haiti after its devastating earthquake in Haiti.

$125,000 to College Summit

College Summit partners with elementary and middle schools and school districts to strengthen college-going culture and increase college enrollment rates, so that all students graduate from high school career and college-ready.

$125,000 to the Posse Foundation

The Posse Foundation identifies public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes. Posse’s college and university partners award Posse Scholars four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships. The scholars graduate at a rate of 90 percent.

$125,000 to the United Negro College Fund

The United Negro College Fund plays a critical role in enabling more than 60,000 students each year to attend college through scholarship and internship programs.

$125,000 to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund

The Hispanic Scholarship Fund is the nation’s leading Hispanic scholarship organization, providing the Hispanic community more college scholarships and educational outreach support than any other organization in the country. In its 34-year history, the fund has awarded close to $280 million in scholarships to more than 90,000 students in need.

$125,000 to the Appalachian Leadership and Education Foundation

ALEF supports and enables young men and women from Appalachia to pursue higher education though scholarship and leadership curriculum.

$125,000 to the American Indian College Fund

The fund transforms Indian higher education by underwriting and creating awareness of the unique, community-based accredited Tribal Colleges and Universities, offering students access to knowledge, skills, and cultural values which enhance their communities and the country as a whole. The fund disburses approximately 6,000 scholarships annually for American Indian students seeking to better their lives through higher education. The fund also provides support for tribal college needs, ranging from capital support to cultural preservation curricula.

$100,000 to AfriCare

AfriCare has more projects in Africa than any other U.S.-based charity, reaching communities in 25 countries, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. Its programs address needs in three principal areas: health and HIV/AIDS; food security and agriculture; and water resource development.

$100,000 to the Central Asia Institute

The institute promotes and supports community-based education and literacy, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Its co-founder, Greg Mortenson, was also a Nobel Peace Prize nominee this year, whose book, “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace, One School at a Time,” recounts his attempt to successfully establish dozens of schools and promote girls’ education in rural Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A version of this article was published at NJ Voices.

Comments

  1. #1 Bill
    July 16, 2011

    And just days ago Doonesbury was re-running the strips where Warren Buffett was trying to get one of his piggy billionaire friends to donate to charity. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I think this will turn out the same.

  2. #2 Susan Hale Whitmore
    July 17, 2011

    Gates + Buffett included, the overall idea will benefit from all of the publicity it can get. We want the hedge fund managers’ children to go to their parents and say, “Mom, Dad, I just read Doonesbury… do YOU donate like Mr. Buffett does???”

    cf: categorical imperative!!

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