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Ultra-rich hedge funders to poor: We feel your pain

For a group that's only supposed to think about making more money, hedge fund managers have spent a lot of time recently talking about economic inequality.

"The inequality of income is unprecedented, particularly if you look at the median wage and the top 1 percent wage," Richard Robb, co-founder and CEO of $1.8 billion hedge fund firm Christofferson, Robb & Co., said last week at a Wall Street Journal conference in New York.

John Arnold
Melissa Golden | Bloomberg | Getty Images
John Arnold

"There's just a growing sense that post-crisis, post-'08, that the game isn't fair," Jim Chanos, founder of $5 billion hedge fund firm Kynikos Associates, added at the same event. "We went out of our way to protect the financial economy and gave short shrift to other parts."

John Arnold, a 39-year-old billionaire former hedge fund manager who now focuses on philanthropy, was so fed up with the government shutdown and its effect on poor children that he gave $10 million last week to reopen Head Start centers.

"We believe that it is especially unfair that young children from underprivileged communities and working families pay the price for the legislature's collective failures," Arnold and his wife, Laura, said in a statement.

(Read more: Billionaire couple donates $10 million to Head Start programs)

The top 25 hedge fund managers alone made a total of $14.14 billion in 2012, according to Institutional Investor's Alpha.

The top earner was David Tepper of Appaloosa Management, who made an estimated $2.2 billion. At the same time, real median household income in the U.S. for 2011 was $50,054, according to government data.

It's not clear how common concern over the growing disparity between rich and poor is among hedge funders. A majority of them supported former private equity executive Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in the presidential elections last year; the Republican nominee was arguably less concerned with narrowing the gap, at least in terms of addressing it through higher taxes on the wealthy.

But even billionaire Paul Singer of Elliott Management, a major Romney donor and anti-tax advocate, recently lamented the income gap.

"It hasn't really done very much that's good. And it has created a lot of distortions and...the exacerbation of inequality," Singer said of the government's quantitative easing programs at the Journal conference.

Stanley Druckenmiller, the retired founder of Duquesne Capital Management, recently echoed Singer's views.

"This is fantastic for every rich person…This is the biggest redistribution of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the rich ever," the billionaire investor, speaking on CNBC, said of the government's market stimulus. "I mean, maybe this trickle-down monetary policy that gives money to billionaires (in hopes that) we go spend it is going to work…but it hasn't worked for five years."

(Read more: Druckenmiller: Fed robbing poor to pay rich)

In New York City—hedge fund central—a small minority of money managers are supporting populist mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio.

Most prominent was billionaire investor George Soros.

"Mr. de Blasio's commitment to create a truly universal pre-K and after-school system is sound public policy and will have a powerful impact on reducing inequality and improving the lives of generations of New Yorkers," Soros said in an August statement. "New York's next mayor needs to possess conviction, intelligence, and a clear vision for where they want to take the city. I believe Bill de Blasio possesses these qualities and will be an outstanding mayor for all New Yorkers."

(Read more: In New York, the billionaires have allthe fun)

Other big names have talked about potential solutions in recent weeks.

Mike Novogratz, a billionaire executive at hedge fund Fortress Investment Group, recently suggested in Fortune that government should help people find work.

"We have a whole lost generation. It's not unlike the hobos during the depression era. These men never got jobs; never got married; never have a reason to build a nest egg," Novogratz said in reference to the chronically unemployed.

"That's the really scary and depressing thing. The best way to spur employment is to get the business community to believe you're on their side. It's why blaming is such bad policy. We need to unleash the pent-up capital and creativity."

Novogratz also recommended companies pay more, partially through a higher minimum wage, and hinted that the government should raise tax rates on the wealthy.

Hedge fund manager Robb echoed those points while acknowledging there's no easy solution, especially given the cantankerous political climate.

"It's not one that's going to be solved by monetary policy or even the tax system—although a progressive tax system is certainly part of the solution," Robb said. "It's something that's going to be debated politically."

—By CNBC's Lawrence Delevingne. Follow him on Twitter @ldelevingne.

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