Higher Taxes Wouldn't Have Big Impact on Hedge Funds

The top 100 hedge funds control $1 trillion in assets and their managers make "staggering" salaries. Should they be taxed?

Michael Peltz, executive editor of Alpha Magazine, and Gary Weiss, author of "Wall Street Versus America," took up the question on "Street Signs." Their answers -- and the reasons behind them -- may surprise you.

Peltz, whose magazine calculated the top funds' gains, said he was "stunned" by the numbers: The rate of hedge fund asset growth is actually increasing from the 30% average of the past several years, to 40% from 2006 to date.

The editor said that taxation not only wouldn't stifle investment, it likely would have no effect on the funds whatsoever. "Money is just their way of keeping score," Peltz declared. He said that most players in the private-equity realm own "more assets than they can ever spend" -- and if the money doesn't go to the government, it will probably just go to charity.

Weiss said that a tax hike might lead to "a little less enthusiasm about going into the hedge fund business" -- but he agrees with Peltz that it wouldn't lead to "a major change."

Would such a tax amount to punishment for success? Weiss concedes that "a class-warfare argument is valid," as the funds are "blamed for more [problems] than lunar eclipses." But he feels there is nothing wrong with increasing taxes on the very wealthy: "If they make a couple of million less, big deal."