A recent letter from billionaire Leon Cooperman chastising the President for engaging in “class warfare” is written in a perspective that only some one-percenters can see things from.
In a Nov. 28 open letter to President Barack Obama, hedge-fund manager Leon Cooperman, the Omega Advisors Inc. chairman and former CEO of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS)’s money-management unit, dresses down the President of the United States, charging Obama with creating “a gulf that is at once counterproductive and freighted with dangerous historical precedents.”
Capitalists “are not the scourge that they are too often made out to be” and the wealthy aren’t “a monolithic, selfish and unfeeling lot,” Cooperman wrote. They make products that “fill store shelves at Christmas” and provide health care to millions.” SOURCE
When you have lots and lots of money people tend to have grand delusions about their own sense of value and ability. To pretend also that the President is guilty of anything other than what is obvious to a degree to most observers portrays Mr. Cooperman as one who is too closely tied to his wealthy class and fails to step back and look at the bigger picture.
People like Leon Cooperman do not “make” anything you can find on store shelves. While they may have entrepreneur skills that generate capital in this country, they also are guilty of exploiting their great wealth and power as those who did in his former company, creating toxic mortgage assets that they sold to unsuspecting investors and walked off with billions, robbing their clients’ savings while effecting a collapse in global financial markets. Let’s not forget about all those liar’s loans either made by other wealthy financial bankers to unsophisticated, low-income first-time home buyers. The notion too that they help other businesses make products that “fill store shelves at Christmas” is only true when you understand that the real people who make most of these products are mainly underpaid laborers in foreign markets like China, India and Malaysia.
Without labor, here or abroad, people like Cooperman may never have made it to the Columbia Business school he graduated from, paid for in part by his South Bronx plumber father and enabled by a public education at P.S. 75, Morris High School. The other part of his higher education funding came from a federally funded National Defense Education Act student loan that ultimately enabled him to have a “successful run at Goldman Sachs”, finding ways to use other people’s money to create his own vast fortune.
It’s true that not all one-percenters are “a monolithic, selfish and unfeeling lot”, and as Asawin Suebsaeng points out in his Mother Jones article that “the ‘few bad apples’ argument [they make] really is worth acknowledging”. But this equally applies to the OWS movement where a “few America-denigrating ruffians at an Occupy gathering don’t automatically discredit the protest movement as a whole.” Mr. Cooper wants to undermine the grassroots OWS movement with a media blitz paid for with aid of other members within the elite organization, Job Creators Alliance, a Dallas-based nonprofit that develops talking points and op-ed pieces aimed at “shaping the national agenda,” according to it’s founder, billionaire and Home Depot Inc. executive, Bernard Marcus.
Billionaire Cooperman takes a step further to expose his one-sided view of decency when he says that “You’ll get more out of me if you treat me with respect.” Sure Mr. Cooperman. Just as was done with those former Goldman-Sach clients I mentioned above. Or are you referring to the kind of respect those corporate-friendly cronies in the government gave to financial “humanitarians” on Wall Street in the form of tax payer bailouts while Main Street took a nose dive grasping for some similar life preserver?
It’s one thing to point out the flaws in our economic system that have contributed to the greatest income disparity this country has seen in about a century and yet another to vigorously take action to correct it. In his letter to the President, Cooperman makes us aware that “as a high-income taxpayer, I might be considered one of [the OWS movement’s] targets, I find this reassessment of so many entrenched economic premises healthy and long overdue. Anyone who could survey today’s challenging fiscal landscape, with an un- and underemployment rate of nearly 20 percent and roughly 40 percent of the country on public assistance, and not acknowledge an imperative for change is either heartless, brainless, or running for office on a very parochial agenda. And if I end up paying more taxes as a result, so be it. The alternatives are all worse.”
As magnanimous as this is, there has been little evidence that Leon Cooperman has stepped up to the public microphone as Warren Buffet and Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz, conveying his allegiance to the efforts that call into questions the “heartless” and “brainless” actions and words like the Koch brothers who work with elected officials to undermine labor unions and public employee jobs or GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich who incites ultra conservative crowds by falsely characterizing all Occupy protesters as deadbeat, smelly bums with his denigrating comment that they all need to “go get a job right after [they] take a bath”. Only after Warren Buffet challenged the rich this last August to pay higher taxes for the sake of “shared sacrifice,” did Cooperman go on record and claim he supports “a 10-percent income tax surcharge for three years on those earning more than $500,000 per year.” He also said that he believes in the progressive income tax.”
However, to accuse Barack Obama along with his “‘minions’ role in setting the tenor of the rancorous debate now roiling us”, while ignoring those within his own economic and political circles of making equal or greater abuses, does in my opinion, weaken all of Mr. Cooperman’s more admirable comments in that letter of his that points out the speck in the President’s eye.
The Post-Truth Campaign (Paul Krugman NYTimes)