Booker’s other unforced error was endorsing pension funds chasing fools gold

Pension Funds Have Mixed Results With Alternative Investments
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Pension Funds Have Mixed Results With Alternative Investments

(source: NYTimes.com - April 1 2012) Figures as of June 30, 2011, the latest available. Median public pension fund five-year return was 4.9 percent. Send Feedback Sources: Preqin, “2011 State Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports”; Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service

Cory Booker is Mayor of Newark. He will run for statewide office in NJ sometime soon. A lot of people that work in New York, live or are from New Jersey. Wall Street is either their employer or pays their bills. That means Wall Street is a primary source of campaign funds and political inertia in NJ as it is in New York. Booker can’t be a big bank buster because of these political ambitions. Neither can Deval Patrick the Democratic Governor of Massachusetts nor can Ed Rendell, former Governor of Pennsylvania. I’m sure some folks at Bain have helped fill their campaign coffers at some point and time.

Booker was a sh*tty surrogate for the Obama campaign on MTP Sunday, but he is not an outright traitor. He just ain’t the guy you want out in front anymore. He’s a pretty good  Democrat on the issues and he’s been a good mayor, far as I can tell (see his jumping into burning buildings or defense of marriage equality).

This is what I rationally told myself when I heard Corey Booker had endorsed “both sides do it” false equivalence. But I just had to say to myself: “come on Corey Booker!” He f*cked up (and I know he f*cked up no matter what he says because Harold Ford, Jr. said he didn’t). To be caught slippin’, on Meet the Press by David Gregory no less:
But to me, I really believe the thing everyone is mad about regarding Booker’s statement isn’t the main thing they should be upset about…
Everyone seized on the “both sides” statement. It is ridiculous and frustrating to hear this come from Democrats. But it’s not a new ridiculous. Republicans have said they want the President to failwanted to stop every Obama Administration initiative and they have acted upon that. That’s not both sides. Distance from moderate positions matters when you discuss political polarization. President Obama made it a point to speak out against false equivalence in the media, Booker basically helped to clobber it.

MAYOR BOOKER: Well, two points I want to make real quick. First of all, I think it’s a race for President Obama to remind the American public the kind of things he’s been doing and stop letting the other side steal his narrative. He’s a guy that’s cut taxes on small business , the lowest discretionary spending we’ve had in decades in theUnited States . Start telling the truth about the Obama record to let people know that not only is he doing the kind of things, cutting taxes on the majority of Americans , but he’s also doing things to stimulate the economy , the economy ‘s getting better. As far as that stuff , I have to just say from a very personal level, I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity . To me, it’s just this — we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America , especially that I know. I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people are investing in companies like Bain Capital . If you look at the totality of Bain Capital ‘s record, it ain’t — they’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses, And this, to me, I’m very uncomfortable with.

[…]

MAYOR BOOKER: But the last point I’ll make is this kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides. It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity , stop attacking Jeremiah Wright . This stuff has got to stop because what it does is it undermines, to me, what this country should be focused on. It’s a distraction from the real issues. It’s either going to be a small campaign about this crap or it’s going to be a big campaign , in my opinion, about the issues that the American public cares about.

An analysis of the sampling presents an unflattering portrait of the alternative bets: the funds with a third to more than half of their money in private equity, hedge funds and real estate had returns that were more than a percentage point lower than returns of the funds that largely avoided the riskier assets. They also paid nearly four times as much in fees.

In a time when the baby boomers are becoming retirees during the great recession, this is not a good trend. The pension payer of last resort for most of these funds? US Pension Board Guaranty Corporation aka the taxpayer. They just aren’t investments a Mayor should be defending, not because Bain is full of evil scumbags, because they aren’t the best.

It’s not good administrative policy for state run funds and it’s not sound fiscal policy anyone at the federal level should endorse.