Tuesday, October 02, 2012

D*I*S*R*E*S*P*E*C*T

Chrystia Freeland has a great article on America's aggrieved billionaires in the New Yorker. Leon Cooperman seems to be the leader of this courageous band of freedom fighters:

One night last May, some twenty financiers and politicians met for dinner in the Tuscany private dining room at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. The eight-course meal included blinis with caviar; a fennel, grapefruit, and pomegranate salad; cocoa-encrusted beef tenderloin; and blue-cheese panna cotta. The richest man in the room was Leon Cooperman, a Bronx-born, sixty-nine-year-old billionaire. Cooperman is the founder of a hedge fund called Omega Advisors, but he has gained notice beyond Wall Street over the past year for his outspoken criticism of President Obama. Cooperman formalized his critique in a letter to the President late last year which was widely circulated in the business community; in an interview and in a speech, he has gone so far as to draw a parallel between Obama’s election and the rise of the Third Reich

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/10/08/121008fa_fact_freeland#ixzz28Bpw5y5z

Now nobody has profited so much under Obama as these super rich, so what are they so angry about? I can't summarize Freeland's long article, but the central theme seems to be that they feel disrespected - Obama just hasn't accorded them quite the worshipful deference to which they have become acustomed.

Although he voted for McCain in 2008, Cooperman was not compelled to enter the political debate until June, 2011, when he saw the President appear on TV during the debt-ceiling battle. Obama urged America’s “millionaires and billionaires” to pay their fair share, pointing out that they were doing well at a time when both the American middle class and the American federal treasury were under pressure. “If you are a wealthy C.E.O. or hedge-fund manager in America right now, your taxes are lower than they have ever been. They are lower than they have been since the nineteen-fifties,” the President said. “You can still ride on your corporate jet. You’re just going to have to pay a little more.”

Cooperman regarded the comments as a declaration of class warfare, and began to criticize Obama publicly. In September, at a CNBC conference in New York, he compared Hitler’s rise to power with Obama’s ascent to the Presidency, citing disaffected majorities in both countries who elected inexperienced leaders

Brad DeLong and Felix Salmon have another idea.

Which brings me to the final third of the answer to the question of why America’s billionaires are feeling so victimized: I think that in fact most of them simply don’t…. [Y]ou don’t see Mark Zuckerberg or Mike Bloomberg or Larry Page kvetching about how Obama hates them. Neither do you see a lot of old money (the Waltons, the Mars family) pouring money into Super PACs…. The rhetoric that Chrystia is picking up on started I think with Jamie Dimon… but it’s not particularly contagious outside Wall Street circles….

So my feeling is that the sense of victimization is one part narcissism, one part greed, and one part tactical…