A hedge-fund billionaire called Leon Cooperman wrote an open letter to Obama which has been “widely circulated in the business community.”
Evident throughout the letter is a sense of victimization prevalent among so many of America’s wealthiest people. In an extreme version of this, the rich feel that they have become the new, vilified underclass. T. J. Rodgers, a libertarian and a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, has taken to comparing Barack Obama’s treatment of the rich to the oppression of ethnic minorities—an approach, he says, that the President, as an African-American, should be particularly sensitive to. Clifford S. Asness, the founding partner of the hedge fund AQR Capital Management, wrote an open letter to the President in 2009, after Obama blamed “a small group of speculators” for Chrysler’s bankruptcy. Asness suggested that “hedge funds really need a community organizer,” and accused the White House of “bullying” the financial sector. Dan Loeb, a hedge-fund manager who supported Obama in 2008, has compared his Wall Street peers who still support the President to “battered wives.” “He really loves us and when he beats us, he doesn’t mean it; he just gets a little angry,” Loeb wrote in an e-mail in December, 2010, to a group of Wall Street financiers.
Oh lordy – it’s so funny and so disgusting, both at once.
It’s familiar, certainly. I’m distantly acquainted with some rich people who talk that way. Aggrieved; resentful; embattled…in their huge SUVs and their 14 expensive houses.
It’s also familiar from the way MRAs and white supremacists and the Vatican talk. We are the real victims around here – we the rich, we the white, we the men, we the priests and cardinals and popes. We are not the bullies, we are the ones who get bullied.
Nick Hanauer is a Seattle entrepreneur and venture capitalist who was one of the first investors in Amazon. In a book published this year, he argues that since the Reagan era American capitalists have enjoyed a uniquely supportive set of ideological, political, and economic conditions. Their personal enrichment came to be seen as a precondition for the enrichment of everyone else. Lower taxes for them were a social good, rather than a selfish perk.
“If you are a job creator, your fifteen-per-cent tax rate is righteous. If you aren’t, it is a con job,” Hanauer told me. “The idea that the rich deserve to be rich is a very comforting idea if you are rich.” Referring to Obama’s “You didn’t build that” remark, at a rally in Virginia in July, which became a flashpoint with the right, Hanauer said that “the notion that you built it yourself is what you need to believe to feel comfortable with yourself and your desire not to pay too much in taxes.”
I know people like that. They don’t just think all that, they even think everybody agrees with them. It’s bizarre.