Hedge Fund Founder: “I Probably Make More Money Than A Thousand Dentists”

Ed Raymond

Actually, Leon Cooperman, founder of the hedge fund Omega Advisors and a One Percenter (one of 1.4 million taxpayers in the top one percent), has a net worth more than what a thousand dentists would make in ten years if they paid no taxes or living expenses. Leon once trained as a dentist. I guess that’s why he used that comparison. I get emails and letters from Republicans whenever I pick on One Percenters or bishops or popes or evangelicals for screwing up the world. More tax cuts so that One Percenters can invest in businesses and create millions of jobs? Evidence? Wall Street banksters, CEOs, hedge fund founders, and manipulators of Wall Street Casino financial crap hardly created a million jobs during the Bush debacle. Trickle-down turned into pissed-on for the befuddled middle class. But the One Percenters scurried away to the banks and their estates with billions of ill-gotten dollars stolen from middle-class workers. Think 401ks and pensions.

Is Obama’s Goal A
European “Socialist”
State? Of Course!

   We hear the cry from Republicans that President Barack Obama is a “Kenyan-Lion African” socialist bringing European-style socialism to a country that worships vulture capitalism. Actually, the ideology of socialism built our roads, bridges, viaducts, and most of our railroads. Oh, and a few major dams like Grand Coulee in Washington, Hoover in Nevada-Arizona, and the Tennessee Valley Authority projects. And interstate highways? Created by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, that old four-star socialist who defeated the fascists Hitler and Mussolini. And socialistic principles brought the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) to all those Republican farmers in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and North and South Dakota. That was an idea of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, called by Republicans “a traitor to his class.” Our family sure enjoyed turning on the lights before we took the snowy path to the two-holer out back. Almost turned me into a socialist. Yes, government can be the solution some of the time.

Are Land-Grant
Colleges A Socialist Idea?

   I wonder if all those millionaires and billionaires taking advantage of the idiocy of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision have made their millions and billions by having their trucks drive in the ditches and ferrying them across rivers on private ferries built by their companies. I assume they ship “stuff” by railroads built with the financing of every other section of land next to the lines given to railroad companies by the citizens of the United States.  This “socialistic” endowment ensured transportation for people and products to faraway places. That’s how the railroads were financed—with public land given to the railroads. Actually a good socialist idea. My God, are our land-grant colleges a socialist idea, too?
    When you pull on to an entry to I-94, I-29, or other interstate highway and see all those Walmart and Costco trucks making deliveries to thousands of stores, perhaps you could send an email to the richest family in the world, the Waltons, and ask them if they have ever thanked the taxpayers for those magnificent roads and bridges that enable them to stock over 4,000 stores they have in the U.S. Their two million employees might appreciate that.

   I wonder if the Bible Thumpers in Kansas realize that I-35 is really a socialist road. Do Oklahoma Tea Party members realize that I-40 was built by socialists? Does former Vice President Dick Cheney, the Wyoming guy who told economic conservative Republicans that “deficits don’t matter,” drive in the ditches of I-25 to get to the socialist state of Colorado by wagon train? Why do North Dakota Republicans take great pride in the state-owned mill and elevator complex and the Bank of North Dakota, both socialist enterprises created to do economic battle with vulture capitalists?

Can We Learn Anything
From Socialists?

   Some time ago, members of the U.S. Supreme Court had a big kerfuffle over whether foreign court decisions might be used in making judgments about U.S. cases. In resolving a 1999 decision about lengthy death-row delays, sometimes longer than 20 years, liberals on the court referred to decisions from Europe, Canada, and a number other countries in dissenting opinions. Even Sandra Day O’Connor, a Ronald Reagan appointee, agreed that the U.S. courts would “rely increasingly” on foreign legal decisions. Justice Antonin Scalia and his shadow Clarence Thomas wrote, “We don’t have the same moral and legal framework as the rest of the world, and never have.” Yes, Tony and Clarence, that’s for damn sure. Do you mean we can learn nothing from countries that have been dealing with legal problems for thousands of years? We can learn nothing from the First Crusade, Magna Carta, the French Revolution, and the English Corn Laws? Where do we find such arrogant xenophobic idiots? With the Citizens United case turning corporations into nice, cuddly, rational people, the Supreme Court’s approval rating slipped to 44 percent and may challenge Congress for the lowest governmental rating soon.

Let’s Look At The Record

   We might learn something from our “socialist” friends in Europe and around the world. Walter Angell, a freelance writer, has written about European societies for years and has these observations: (1) Americans are three times as likely to be raped here in the U.S. as in Europe, (2) We have significantly higher teenage pregnancy and abortion rates and much more child sex trafficking, (3) European teens are half as likely to smoke pot as our teens and overall teen drug use is much lower, (4) Europeans are half as likely to divorce and their children are more than twice as likely to live with both biological parents, (5) Fifty percent of European children are more likely to eat meals with their parents and half as likely to live in single-parent families, (6) Europeans have fewer problems with alcohol than we do, although 16-year-olds can order beer in restaurants and bars and children often drink wine with their parents, (7) Sexting is not against the law and is handled by parents, (8) Europeans have half the highway fatality rates we do, traffic flows more smoothly, and they have fewer traffic jams, (9) Europeans have much lower rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other preventable diseases (perhaps it’s because they have universal health care!), and (10) They realize they cannot reduce prostitution (nor can we) so they make it as safe as possible when consensual and focus on eliminating sex trafficking.
   Is it possible we just might learn something from these terrible “socialist” Europeans? The French have the best all-around health care in the world and even teach children life-saving nutrition through excellent school lunch programs. (The French live about four years longer.) The Swedes demand that all students have adequate recess periods. The Finns teach English by having students watch TV with English subtitles. Gee, maybe there’s a good idea somewhere in this list.

Why Middle-Class
Incomes Went To Hell
Even If Productivity
Increased 80 Percent

   For 25 years following World War II, the American middle class made us a world economic superpower by grabbing a fair share of the ever-growing pie. Actually, when Charlie Wilson said, “What is good for General Motors is good for the country,” he was telling the truth. Families bought homes, cars, vacations, and life-saving consumer products with the income of one family worker, protected somewhat by the power of industrial unions.

   But over the last three decades, there has been a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to One Percenters. What happened? Because of environmental degradation, the dangers of the workplace, and consumer “let the buyer beware” practices, the government  started to pass laws controlling the three. Big business began to believe that capitalism was under attack. So an aroused Chamber of Commerce and over 1,000 “think tanks” such as the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation went to work to change taxes and regulations. Oh, have they ever succeeded! “Greed Is Good!” has won out. One Percenters now control 43 percent of the nation’s wealth; the top five percent control 72 percent.

How Come We’re Broke?

   We think we’re broke because the middle class has been shredded and diced over the last thirty years by One Percenters. Through “trickle-down” and Reverse Robin Hood scams, they have bankrupted Social Security and Medicare and have drowned our democracy in a small bathtub. On top of that, we have the absolute idiocy of George W. Bush and Congress putting two senseless wars on Visa and MasterCard. Priceless profit—for the One Percenters. So now we have a fascist state ruled by big business, the best Congress money can buy, and the economic conservative politicians on the Supreme Court.
   Our wealth is in the wrong hands. Our collective net worth is huge compared to other countries. Even at the end of the recession as defined by the Treasury Department, all households had $30 trillion in assets and only $13.6 trillion in liabilities. So our net worth was still $16.4 trillion. That’s a debt-free $141,000 per household. But this is why we are “broke”: In 30 years, the number of households with a million dollars of net worth grew by 202 percent, the households with a net worth of $5 million grew by 494 percent, the households with a net worth of $10 million grew by 598 percent.
   We now have 464,000 households worth $10 million or more. That 43 percent of financial assets the One Percenters own, or a total of $5.7 trillion, doesn’t even count the value of their Versailles-like homes. It is now fairly common for the super-rich to own homes that are worth more than $100 million.

How About A Wealth
Tax On The Super-Rich?

   Leon Cooperman, the guy who makes more money than a thousand dentists, says President Obama makes him very angry when he says the rich should pay their fair share. He thinks that’s “class warfare.” Of course, Cooperman as a hedge fund operator pays only a 15 percent tax rate, while his secretary pays 28 percent. He says the president thinks the problems of the 99 Percent are caused by the One Percent. Good Heavens! Blame Wall Street banksters? Hedge fund operators? Big business CEOs? The best Congress money can buy? Mortgage brokers? Investment banksters manipulating credit default swaps, derivatives, and other financial junk?  Greed, selfishness, and “me-me-me-me” dominate the present plutocracy.
   A traditional conservative named Winston Churchill gave everyone a warning years ago: “One of the signs of a great society is the diligence with which it passes culture from one generation to the next. This culture is the embodiment of everything the people of that society holds dear; its religious faith, its heroes, and its traditions, arts and ceremonies. When one generation no longer esteems its own heritage and fails to pass the torch to its children, it is saying in essence that the very foundational principles and experiences that make the society what it is are no longer valid. This, of course, leaves that next generation without any sense of definition or direction, making them the fulfillment of Karl Marx’s dictum, ‘A people without a heritage are easily persuaded.’”
   When will it be pitchfork time in the United States? Will it be soon—or when the middle class totally disappears?