Leon Cooperman, a 68-year-old Wall Street veteran, says he is for higher taxes on the wealthy. He would happily give up his Social Security checks. He voted for Al Gore in 2000. He says the special treatment of investment gains, or so-called carried interest, for private equity and hedge fund managers is “ridiculous.” He says he even sympathizes, at least to some extent, with the Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Last week, in a widely circulated “open letter” to President Obama that whizzed around e-mail inboxes of Wall Street and corporate America, Mr. Cooperman argued that “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.”
Look, I’m willing to give this guy the benefit of the doubt that he has genuinely progressive instincts, but I have two big problems with this.
1) While it is absolutely true that not all, or even (hopefully) most rich people are greedy amoral looters who have used their money to turn our government into a corrupt ruin, it’s also pretty safe to say that most, if not all, of the predators and parasites who hijacked America are rich. It’s great that there are wealthy people who are willing to pay more taxes, but the Black Bloc capitalists who fight tooth and nail to pay less are the ones who are winning, and they must be opposed.
2) As with most other progressive issues, Obama may – occasionally – talk a good game about taxing the rich, but his actions don’t live up to his words. Populist speeches about how we’re all in this together are all well and good, but I’d rather have a president who extols the 0.1%’s innovative job-creating genius while pushing their effective tax rate somewhere up above that of their secretaries. (Call it praise-and-raise, the opposite of scold-and-fold.)
Jesse Ventura’s comparison of politics to pro wrestling is very apt, and I think it applies here too: Obama pretends to insult the 0.1%, the 0.1% pretends to be offended, and then they all have a good laugh together at his next $35,000-a-plate fundraiser. No one’s really fighting for us, because no one’s really fighting at all.