Omega Advisors Founder Leon Cooperman sent a scathing letter to President Obama yesterday, [via @andrewrsorkin] and its contents are just short of being outright brutal.
In the three page letter, Cooperman outlines his grievances with Obama’s administration, calling his policy decisions “profligate and largely ineffectual” and calling Obama out for using a political rhetoric that promotes the ideas of class warfare.
Cooperman came from very humble roots (his dad was a plumber in the South Bronx) but is now worth around $1.8 billion after rising through the ranks at Goldman Sachs in the 1980s and 1990s and starting Omega Advisors, a hedge fund sponsor.
The letter has clear and eloquent prose, but that only adds a sharper edge to the biting statements made by Cooperman. We picked out the best parts…
Cooperman’s biggest gripe with Obama is his policitizing of class division, which he feels exacerbates the problems facing Amercia.
I can justifiably hold you accountable for is your and your minions’ role in setting the tenor of the rancorous debate now roiling us that smacks of what so many have characterised as “class warfare”. Whether this reflects your principled belief that the eternal divide between the haves and have-nots is at the root of all the evils that afflict our society or just a cynical, populist appeal to his base by a president struggling in the polls is of little importance. What does matter is that the divisive, polarising tone of your rhetoric is cleaving a widening gulf, at this point as much visceral as philosophical, between the downtrodden and those best positioned to help them.
He supports the policy debates and possible reforms going on in Capitol Hill, and says he doesn’t mind being taxed more to help get. Cooperman has also signed Warren Buffett’s giving pledge. Yet..
But what I do find objectionable is the highly politicized idiom in which this debate is being conducted. Now, I am not naive. I understand that in today’s America, this is how the business of governing typically gets done – a situation that, given the gravity of our problems, is as deplorable as it is seemingly ineluctable. But as President first and foremost and leader of your party second, you should endeavour to rise above the partisan fray and raise the level of discourse to one that is both more civil and more conciliatory, that seeks collaboration over confrontation.
And Cooperman keeps going back to Obama’s use of class division as a political strategy…
To frame the debate as one of rich-and-entitled versus poor-and-dispossessed is to both miss the point and further inflame an already incendiary environment. It is also a naked, political pander to some of the basest human emotions – a strategy, as history teaches, that never ends well for anyone but totalitarians and anarchists.
He ends the letter by using an anecdote from Obama’s past, saying Obama is now supporting the groups that he used to fight against in Chicago.
Rather than assume that the wealthy are a monolithic, selfish and unfeeling lot who must be subjugated by the force of the state, set a tone that encourages people of good will to meet in the middle. When you were a community organiser in Chicago, you learned the art of waging a guerilla campaign against a far superior force. But you’ve graduated from that milieu and now help to set the agenda for that superior force. You might do well at this point to eschew the polarising vernacular of political militancy and become the transcendent leader you were elected to be.
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