In 2011, Cooperman took a turn in the spotlight after he published an open letter to President Obama bemoaning what he said was Obama’s “class warfare”— “the divisive, polarizing 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 wrote.
He was roundly mocked. (Wiser billionaires tend to employ highly paid public relations consultants for the sole purpose of telling them not to do things like this, but Leon Cooperman clearly is more, shall we say, self-confident.) Yet here he is, back again, arguing in public that the proposals for a wealth tax floating around our national political dialogue are a bad idea. Take it from him: a billionaire hedge fund manager.
One thing about Cooperman’s 2011 letter and his FT op-ed today: they are similar. Very similar. In fact, here is a paragraph from his letter to Obama:
Just to be clear, while I have been richly rewarded by a life of hard work (and a great deal of luck), I was not to-the-manor-born. My father was a plumber who practiced his trade in the South Bronx after he and my mother emigrated from Poland. I was the first member of my family to earn a college degree. I benefited from both a good public education system (P.S. 75, Morris High School and Hunter College, all in the Bronx) and my parents’ constant prodding. When I joined Goldman Sachs following graduation from Columbia University’s business school, I had no money in the bank, a negative net worth, a National Defense Education Act student loan to repay, and a six-month-old child (not to mention his mother, my wife of now 47 years) to support.
And from his FT op-ed:
While I have been richly rewarded by a life of hard work combined with good luck, I was not to the manor born. My father was a plumber in the South Bronx after emigrating from Poland. I benefited from a good public education system and my parents’ constant prodding, becoming the first in my family to earn a college degree. When I joined Goldman Sachs, I had no savings, a negative net worth, a student loan, and a six-month-old baby (not to mention his mother, my wife of now 55 years) to support.
I wonder.. was Leon Cooperman to the manor born? We may never know.
From his letter to Obama:
I had a successful, near-25-year run at Goldman, which I left 20 years ago to start a private investment firm. As a result of my good fortune, I have been able to give away to those less blessed far more than I have spent on myself and my family over a lifetime, and last year I subscribed to Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge to ensure that my money, properly stewarded, continues to do some good after I’m gone.
My story is anything but unique. I know many people who are similarly situated, by both humble family history and hard-won accomplishment, whose greatest joy in life is to use their resources to sustain their communities. Some have achieved a level of wealth where philanthropy is no longer a by-product of their work but its primary impetus. This is as it should be. We feel privileged to be in a position to give back, and we do. My parents would have expected nothing less of me.
And from the FT:
After a successful run at Goldman, I started a private investment firm. As a result of my good fortune, I have been able to give away to those less blessed far, far more than I have spent on myself and my family over a lifetime, and I have joined Warren Buffett and Bill Gates in pledging that the majority of my money will continue to do some good after I’m gone. I know many people who are similarly situated, by both humble origin and hard-won accomplishment. We feel privileged to be able to give, and we do. My parents would have expected nothing less.
To be fair to Leon Cooperman—it’s hard to write two decent things in eight years. I feel your pain, man.