"Why Do America's Super-Rich Feel Victimized By Obama?"

Source: NewYorker.com

(Admittedly not a particularly impartial report, especially considering the source. Additional warning, article is a hefty 6 pages in length.)

“Why Do America’s Super-Rich Feel Victimized By Obama?”

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.

The dinner was the highlight of the fourth annual SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, known as salt, a convention orchestrated by the fund manager Anthony Scaramucci; it brings together fund managers with brand-name speakers and journalists for four days of talking and partying. The star guest at the dinner was Al Gore, who was flanked by Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, and the New York hedge-fund investor Orin Kramer, a friend of Gore’s and a top Obama fund-raiser.

Discussion that night was wide-ranging. The group talked about Apple, on whose board Gore sits, and Google, where Gore is a senior adviser, as well as climate change and energy policy. The most electric moment of the evening, though, was an exchange between Cooperman and Gore. Heavyset, with a lumbering gait, Cooperman does not look like a hedge-fund plutocrat: Scaramucci affectionately describes him as “the worst-dressed billionaire on planet earth.” Cooperman’s business model isn’t flashy, either. He began his finance career as an analyst of consumer companies at Goldman Sachs, and went on to make his fortune at Omega as a traditional stock-picker. He searches for companies that are cheap and which he hopes to sell when they become dear. (In 1998, Cooperman made a foray into emerging markets, investing more than a hundred million dollars as part of a bid to take over Azerbaijan’s state oil company, but it went badly wrong. His firm lost most of its money and paid five hundred thousand dollars to settle a U.S.-government bribery investigation.) Cooperman had come to the dinner to give Gore a copy of the letter he’d written to President Obama. “I’d like you to read this,” he told the former Vice-President. “You owe me a small favor. I voted for you,” he said, referring to Gore’s Presidential run, in 2000.

In the letter, Cooperman argued that Obama has needlessly antagonized the rich by making comments that are hostile to economic success. The prose, rife with compound metaphors and righteous indignation, is a good reflection of Cooperman’s table talk. “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,” Cooperman wrote. “It is a gulf that is at once counterproductive and freighted with dangerous historical precedents.”

At the dinner, Al Gore was diplomatic when presented with the letter, and asked Cooperman if he would accept higher taxes. Cooperman said that he would—if he was treated with respect, and the government didn’t squander his money. Cooperman asked Gore what he thought the top marginal tax rate should be. Gore’s reply was noncommittal, but he pleased the group by suggesting that no matter who wins in November the victor should surround himself with advisers with experience in the private sector.

Kramer, the hedge-fund manager and Obama fund-raiser, was quiet, but others in the room were enthusiastic. Villaraigosa gave Cooperman his direct phone number. Barry Sternlicht, the founder of the W hotel chain, and an Obama donor in 2008, said that he agreed totally with Cooperman. Scaramucci, the organizer of the dinner, told me the next day that the guests had witnessed the “activation” of a “sleeper cell” of hedge-fund managers against Obama. “That’s what you see happening in the hedge-fund community, because they now have the power, because of Citizens United, to aggregate capital into political-action committees and to influence the debate,” he said. “The President has a philosophy of disdain toward wealth creation. That’s just obvious, O.K.? We talked about it all night.” He later said, “If there’s a pope of this movement, it’s Lee Cooperman.”

The growing antagonism of the super-wealthy toward Obama can seem mystifying, since Obama has served the rich quite well. His Administration supported the seven-hundred-billion-dollar tarp rescue package for Wall Street, and resisted calls from the Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, and others on the left, to nationalize the big banks in exchange for that largesse. At the end of September, the S. & P. 500, the benchmark U.S. stock index, had rebounded to just 6.9 per cent below its all-time pre-crisis high, on October 9, 2007. The economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty have found that ninety-three per cent of the gains during the 2009-10 recovery went to the top one per cent of earners. Those seated around the table at dinner with Al Gore had done even better: the top 0.01 per cent captured thirty-seven per cent of the total recovery pie, with a rebound in their incomes of more than twenty per cent, which amounted to an additional $4.2 million each.

Notwithstanding Occupy Wall Street’s focus on the “one per cent,” or Obama’s choice of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars as the level at which taxes on family income should rise, the salient dividing line between rich and not rich is much higher up the income-distribution scale. Hostility toward the President is particularly strident among the ultra-rich.

Bunch of f*cking rent-seeking whiners. Everyone should be so “victimized.”

It does make an amusingly galling counterpoint to Papageno’s thread. Some invocation of Poe’s law seems apropos here.

If your super rich, pretty much everyone is a payed lackey. How can you trust anyone?

No they’re like the kids who have everything, they want more… and squeaky they are, and the rich are republicans pretty much so of course they hate obama. Simple stuff.

The super-rich appear to be angry at Obama simply because he would raise taxes on anyone with income greater than $250,000 a year. Simple economic self-interest, measured across one dimension.

A large number of conservatives appear to dislike Obama for no better reason than that they associate all Democrats with increased regulation (always perceived as a stop on efficiency) and rising taxes across the board. Many business owners, even those who appear to have benefitted tangentially from the bailouts of certain industry sectors or the general investment in national infrastructure, also perceive those actions as characteristic of somebody who does not believe fully in fair play. Were Obama truly a capitalist, they argue, he would have allowed failing industries to fail as they deserved.

Then there’s Obama’s persistent reputation as a socialist on the European model, which seems to exist completely apart from reality, and the fact that, because of his race and tendency to lecture, he is not only culturally alien, but seemingly academic as well. (The irony is that he was once a professor.) Conservatives have been distinctly hostile to academia since the 1960s: teachers are viewed as failures in other walks of life; strident critics who cast stones at “ordinary” people whose work and values they misunderstand; leeches who draw too much pay, and certainly far too many lifetime benefits, for little “real” work; and self-important troublemakers who take advantage of their authority to indoctrinate, rather than educate, their students. My sense is that the last two images are highly significant to explaining why so many Americans dislike The Academy. Obama’s likeability problems – which lately have gone largely unremarked because Romney carries his own formidable reputation for woodenness – are compounded by the popular narrative that casts him as an avid apologist who is somehow distinctly uncomfortable with his own country (playing into the bizarre narratives of whites who fear minorities and suspect that they are being judged for historical injustices perpetrated by their predecessors).

and all that ‘propaganda’ that fills american air waves and TV channels. You can easily paint anybody any colour you like with all that, facts never matter.

I don’t think “taxes duh” are the only reason. There are uber-rich folks on both sides of the line that spend immeasurably more on super-pac funding and campaigning than it would cost in taxes to support their party. Take the Koch brothers. Economically, they’re not evening out. If it was just a tax issue, they’d have been better off just paying the increased rates and moving on with their lives.

If you throw many millions of dollars at a presidential race, you likely expect something back in terms of regulatory behavior. Citizens United makes bribing politicians even easier.

It’s probably cheaper to bribe politicians than it is to compete in a fair marketplace.

I suspect we’d see more of this at the state level, such as AT&T throwing tons of money into the 2010 NC legislative race, and in return getting municipal broadband banned in NC (outside of the places that already had it)

I’d expect these big donors are more likely to get nice juicy government contracts, or rights to mineral rights on government land, etc. As long as you avoid an obvious exchange, it’s not bribery.

Big donors, small boners, as Eleanor Roosevelt famously put it.

Reminded me of the shallow-but-interesting GQ article about anecdotes of folks with ever increasing net worth. The richest guy felt so persecuted.

Simple explanation as to why the rich don’t like the PResident: rich people are usually Republicans. The End.

Are they? That’s always been my impression, too, but I’ve been challenged on it by right wing friends who feel it’s the opposite and I didn’t have anything to back up my impression. Neither did they, so it was a heated stalemate of dueling anecdata resolved only by ordering another round. Google gives some info about upper middle class and upper class, but it’s the truly rich (like, top .1% types) I’m curious about here.

On the one hand, making more money makes you more likely to vote Republican:

Then again:

Then again, again:

Isn’t this article about a bunch of rich guys at a democratic fundraiser?

I honestly couldn’t tell exactly what the actual context of the dinner was, other than “room full of crazy rich people and politicians”.

Where in the sam hell did Frank get a poll for 30 million+ income earners?

NORC, possibly. You can bet it was a hell of an expensive poll, at any rate.

Heh. OK, so it’s not completely a failure of my google-fu. Thanks, Anders. Good links.