Bill Steigerwald

A: There are two things: A), it’s all the rich and over-leveraged people in the ownership class in this country that are trying to basically hold on to the status quo, and they can do that by causing panic and appropriating your wealth. But more to the point, what has caused the large downturn that we are experiencing is 70 years of policies that have funneled capital and money at below-market rates into real estate and propped up the real-estate ownership class and the landlords of the world with targeted tax tricks. After 70 years, that bubble has popped and what the proposal now is is to figure out ways to continue to keep real estate and housing unaffordable for the average American – quote-unquote, “We’ve got to stabilize real estate,” which is another term for keeping it unaffordable.

Q: And you would prefer that they do what?

A: That they respect contract law. All I ask, all that I think the American citizenry asks, is that if you signed a contract – if you bought a stock or if you’ve lent a company money (that went bankrupt) – you deal with those losses. The biggest issue is that they keep telling us that we have to contain these losses on Wall Street, and the Republicans and Democrats tell us that in order to contain the losses on Wall Street we need to spread them out among the entire citizenry. That’s exactly the Catch-22 double-think that has gotten us into this mess.

Q: What kind of politics and economics do you ascribe to?

A: I call myself a “free thinker” and I hate and loath and will fight till my dying breath the two-party/fraternity/political/partisan system that these socialists and power-hungry people have created in this country. There’s no need to have parties. Let’s have a democracy. Let people, individuals, think freely and not align themselves with a political party. You’re supposed to be representing your constituents and the individuals where you’re from. You’re not supposed to be representing a political platform.

Q: Did you vote in 2008?

A: Yes, I absolutely did. Q: Did you vote for Ron Paul or someone else?

A: I do not vote for Republicans or Democrats under any circumstance. They are all part of the problem. I’ll leave you with that answer for that.

Q: What did you learn in your business career as a hedge fund manager that better helps you understand the current economic crisis and its causes and cures?

A: Certainly the experience of trading and being a part of that system itself opens up your eyes and allows you to see the machinations that are underlying the system. I guess the answer to your question is, for so long what I see are these regulations and these regulatory bodies that supposedly are trying to protect investors; but what always ends up happening is the corporations that are being quote-unquote “regulated” end up with too much political and lobbying power. They end up creating policies that are totally counter-productive to the actual regulation idea and they end up creating policies that they are able to game. So what you look at is, the more regulation, the more direct and specific regulation that is created in the name of protecting investors, the less protection you have. There’s an article in the New York Times today about J.P. Morgan pulling out their own company’s money out of (Bernie) Madoff's company a year before the Ponzi scheme came down, but they quote “Couldn’t tell their investors by law.” So in other words, we protect ourselves from being protected.

Q: Who are some of your intellectual influences – people books, etc?

A: I love Aristotle. Milton Friedman was a big influence on me… Um, I’m trying to think of some other different names, instead of just throwing out political figures…. Oh, Jim Cramer has been a big influence on me. He’s been a mentor to me. I would not have been able to launch my hedge fund without his mentorship.

Q: If someone came to you and said “I’ve got $100,000 under my mattress right now, what do I do with it?” what do you tell them?

A: I tell them that you put $10,000 to work in the three safest, best companies you can find. You make sure they have no debt on the balance sheet, because debt is death right now. Then you are going to put $10,000 to work every quarter for the next nine quarters, and eventually you will be fully invested.

Q: What will tell you we have hit bottom in this economic crisis?

A: You and I will not be wondering when we’ve hit the bottom. That’s when we’ll know we’re at the bottom.

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..