Who’s afraid of George Soros?
By Linda S. Heard

The word “eccentric” and “billionaire” are often partnered. Jean Paul-Getty, for instance, was one of the world’s wealthiest men yet he was so mean he installed a pay-phone in his home for the use of guests and refused to pay a ransom demand when his grandson was kidnapped with the result the boy returned home minus an ear. Movie-making billionaire Howard Hughes became a recluse. He refused to cut his hair or nails and was waited upon by gloved servants. Bill Gates gives away his money as fast as he can make it. Richard Branson regularly risks life and limb crossing the Atlantic in a hot air balloon.

But there is one billionaire who instills fear into politicians and shakes financial markets for a hobby. He’s George Soros, once dubbed ‘the man who broke the Bank of England’ and now heading the list of George W. Bush’s greatest antagonists.

George Soros is an enigma. Trying to understand him is harder than memorizing the phone book. Superficially he’s a web of contradictions. From toppling economies he’s tried his hand at toppling George W. Bush. Today, he’s in the news for investing millions in Dick Cheney’s old company Halliburton that has made massive profits from the occupation of Iraq when at the same time he has donated millions to anti-war movements such as Move On.


He predicted the Iraq quagmire in his book “The Bubble of American Supremacy” and blames President Bush for ignoring the advice of top military and diplomatic experts. “This is Bush’s war,” he says, “And he ought to be held responsible for it. It’s the wrong war, fought in the wrong way…In spite of his Texas swagger, George W. Bush does not qualify to serve as our Commander-in-Chief.”

Soros is equally scathing of neoconservatives within the administration whom he blames for exploiting the September 11 attacks to further their long held full-scale domination agenda. He calls them “A bunch of extremists guided by a crude form of social Darwinism.”

In 2003, Soros said defeating Bush was “the central focus of my life”, and referred to the 2004 election as “a matter of life and death”.

“America, under Bush, is a danger to the world and I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is,” he said. Indeed, he pledged to sacrifice his entire fortune to anyone who could guarantee Bush’s departure from office.

In 2004, he contributed financially to the campaigns of Howard Dean and other Democratic candidates. For 2008, he’s backing Barack Obama, although given Soros’ outspoken views – including equating the Bush administration with the Third Reich - Senator Obama could be damaged by his public support.

No tribal loyalty

According to the Jerusalem Bureau Chief of CNS News, Soros is considering funding a new left-wing Jewish lobby to include Americans for Peace Now, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace and the Israel Policy Forum. These groups want to put urgency into the Mid-East peace process and serve as a counter to such right-wing pro-Israel organizations as AIPAC. The Jerusalem Post has labeled the new Lobby “anti-Israel”.

Soros has been perceived as being anti-Israel and is often labeled a ‘self-hating Hebrew’ by right-wingers since 2003 when he blamed Israel for being partly responsible for the rise in anti-Semitism due to its harsh response to Palestinian insurgents.

He believes that “the Palestinian people yearn for peace” and condemns the Israeli government for not strengthening President Mahmoud Abbas and the reformists. In his book “The Bubble of American Supremacy” he blamed both Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat for the collapse of the peace process.

Not averse to including himself in the blame game he once told an outraged Jewish gathering that Jewish financiers like him contributed to the rise of anti-Semitism as they gave grist to the mill of the old canard that Jews rule the world by proxy.

His biographer Michael Kaufmann says in his book “The Messianic Millionaire” that the Jewish identity of George Soros does not express itself “in a sense of tribal loyalty that would have led him to support Israel”.

Soros is no stranger to controversy, which seems to bounce off him like water off a duck’s back.

Black Wednesday

In 1992, he was reported to have made a profit of over one billion US dollars in one day known as Black Wednesday at Britain’s expense.

This was the day that Britain catapulted out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), a precursor to the single European currency that tied Sterling and other European currency values to the German Mark. At the time British inflation levels were way above Germany’s. Soros and other FOREX speculators rightly predicted that the pound would eventually be devalued against the Deutsch Mark and sold off billion of pounds with the intention of buying them at a depreciated rate.

The British government, led by John Major, responded by hiking up interest rates to 12 per cent and investing billions in buying back sterling. But as fast as the government snapped up the pound, Soros and friends sold. Naturally Major’s policy failed and so on September 16, 1992 Britain had little choice but to exit the ERM and peg Sterling’s value.

Front Page magazine termed this “economic rape upon ordinary British working-class savings accounts”.

Asian currency collapse

Five years later, in 1997, Soros and his hedge fund came under fire for driving down the Thai Bhat. Predicting the Bhat’s imminent devaluation, speculators offloaded Bhat in exchange for Dollars.

Initially, the Bank of Thailand used its reserves to prop up the currency but eventually the Bhat was floated causing financial tremors throughout Southeast Asia and beyond. The Mayor of Bangkok is quoted as asking “Doesn’t he feel ashamed, coming to see our misery, which resulted from his sinister actions? He deserves a good bang on the head”.

The former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has called Soros “a moron” and accused him of targeting the Malysian Ringgit out of political motives. Mahathir believes that Soros deliberately undercut Asian currencies in an effort to punish ASEAN for allowing membership to Myanmar’s military regime.

There is some suggestion that Soros has contributed to the depreciation of the Dollar by bolstering the Euro.

Soros, who is generally thought of as a man with the Midas touch, hasn’t always turned a profit. Indeed, in 1998 it is believed he lost US$ 2 billion when the Russian Ruble devalued. In 2000, he lost an unknown amount when tech stocks went south and in 2002, he was heftily fined by a French court for insider trading; a charge he is currently appealing.

But overall his financial acumen has paid off to the tune of US$ 7 billion or more. Much of this has been gleaned from his hedge fund that during the years from 1969 to 1999 provided an average annual return of thirty percent. In other words, if someone had invested US$ 100,000 in the fund in 1969 by the year 2000 he would have had a whopping US$ 420 million in the kitty.


Those who have been burned by George Soros accuse him of being unscrupulous but in fact he has been a prominent and generous philanthropist since the 1970s, when he funded the studies of Black South African students at the University of Cape Town and gave financial support to a number of anti-Soviet Union dissident groups. He was also a keen supporter of Poland’s Solidarity Movement.

In recent times, via his Open Society Institute and Soros Foundation and their offshoots, he has helped Muslim Bosnian civilians, pledged US$ 50 million to alleviating poverty in Africa and has given hundreds of millions to universities and scientific research projects. Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank are also believed to have benefited from his largesse.

It is believed that as many as 20 subsidiaries of the Soros Foundation are today active in former Soviet Union countries and up to 30 elsewhere. They claim they are “dedicated to building and maintaining the infrastructure and institutions of an open society”.

It’s said that his Open Society Institute helped underwrite Georgia’s Rose Revolution but Soros denounces this as an exaggeration.

Early years

No doubt his natural affiliation with Eastern Europe stems from his birthplace Budapest, Hungary, where he was born György Schwartz in 1930. Due to growing threats against Jews, the family - which George Soros once said was uncomfortable with its religious roots - changed its name to Soros.

Some members of his family later converted to Christianity. While interviewed by “60 Minutes” Soros admitted to being an atheist. People close to him have described him as a “devout secular ideologue”.

When Hungary was occupied by the Nazis in 1944, Soros was sent by his father, an author, to live with a Christian couple masquerading as their godson in the hopes he would escape being sent to a death camp.

It was a wise move. In 1947 Soros escaped communist oppression by moving to London where he studied at the London School of Economics working variously as a waiter, a railway porter and a shop mannequin maker to fund his stay. Eventually he found a position more suited to his talents with an investment bank.

He was impressed with the British National Health system, which treated him without charge when he broke a leg but bitter that Jewish agencies were not more helpful to him during a time of financial hardship.

In 1956, lured by the American dream and full of admiration for American values, Soros left England for the US.

“I chose America as my home because I value freedom and democracy, civil liberties and an open society. When I had made more money than I needed for myself and my family, I set up a foundation to promote the values and principles of a free and open society,” Soros once said.

There, he soon found work as a trader in bonds, stocks and currencies. He later joined several companies as a financial analyst before being elevated to the Vice-President of Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder.

Quantum Fund

But Soros held a burning ambition to go it alone and in the early 1970s he started up his own investment company along with his famous Quantum Fund credited with providing the bulk of his fortune.

The fund that allows investors to gamble on the rise and fall of stocks, bonds and currencies has often been denigrated as immoral due to its applying pressure on currencies to benefit cut-and-run speculators.

Soros has been known to respond to these attacks by saying “as a market participant, I don’t need to be concerned with the consequences of my actions”. He also refutes accusations that his charitable and philanthropic instincts are in any way fuelled by guilt or out of a desire for good public relations.

“Markets are designed to allow individuals to look after their private needs and to pursue profit,” he says. “It’s really a great invention and I wouldn’t under-estimate the value of that, but they are not designed to take care of social needs.”

It is thought that over the years he has given away as much as US$ 5 billion, most of it to fund pro-Democracy and liberal causes. He reasons he couldn’t have given money away unless he made it first.

Icon of the left

Recently George Soros has emerged as an icon of the left due to his anti-Bush stance. The left also appreciates his battles against racism and championing of affirmative action groups. Soros also strongly believes in open borders, immigration entitlements, tax increases, higher government spending, legalizing pot and euthanasia while just as vehemently opposing the death penalty.

But for all his unbounded ambition, powerful opinions and financial puissance, there is one thing that he is precluded from being by an accident of birth – President of the United States. Under the US constitution presidential candidates must be home grown. Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger is limited by the same constraints.

The rightwing must be gratified there’ll never be a Soros in the White House even if his name is George, but, in truth, a man described as ‘the only US citizen with his own foreign policy’ who can overturn economies, break banks and oust governments is just as powerful out as in – perhaps more so.


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