The Boston Herald by Brett Arends Should Massachusetts residents be encouraged to invest directly in the state pension fund? Treasurer Tim Cahill is promising to look at the idea, floated this week by Joe Kennedy at the Democratic Party’s annual state dinner. Kennedy noted that the $36 billion fund, run by the Pension Reserves Investment board, has achieved competitive returns. “Why can’t we set up a mirror image of PRIM...to invest money for any resident of Massachusetts?” the former congressman asked. “Any amount from $100 to Millions could be invested.” Cahill, who is sometimes tipped as a candidate for the governor’s race next year, gave qualified praise for the Kennedy scion’s remarks. “I’m getting intrigued by the idea,” he said. “Joe deserves a lot of credit for thinking creatively. We’re going to look at it.” Kennedy’s argument: The pension fund offers much better returns than a savings bank. The fund returned 14.4 percent during 2004 and an average of 11.53 percent over the past 10 years. “Right now, there ain’t no money managers getting returns for working people that are available to the richest people on the planet,” Kennedy thundered. His examples of the richest people: Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. The remark raised some confusion. Gates and Buffett made all of their money through public companies that anyone can invest in, even a child. And competitive investment returns are available through hundreds of mutual funds, many run from Boston. Kennedy told the Herald his real target was alternative asset classes, such as hedge funds, private equity and venture-capital vehicles. Federal rules largely bar these to ordinary investors. But big pension funds are allowed to invest. Of course, an alternative plan would allow mutual funds to invest more in such alternative assets themselves.