Why Are These Pampered Wall Street Billionaires So Whiny and Thin-Skinned?

If you've been wondering specifically what it is that the wealth coddling, Wall Street protecting Obama has done to offend these greedhead Billionaires, here it is:

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...

Seriously, that's it. (Whatever you do, don't tell him about Roosevelt's 1936 acceptance speech. He could expire on the spot.)

“It’s a question of tone,” Cooperman said. “The President makes it sound like the problems of the ninety-nine per cent are caused by the one per cent, and that’s not the case.” 

Yet some of the harshest language of this election cycle has come from the super-rich. Comparing Hitler and Obama, as Cooperman did last year at the CNBC conference, is something of a meme. In 2010, the private-equity billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, of the Blackstone Group, compared the President’s as yet unsuccessful effort to eliminate some of the preferential tax treatment his sector receives to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. After Cooperman made his Hitler comment, he has said, his wife called him a “schmuck.” But he couldn’t resist repeating the analogy when we spoke in May of this year. “You know, the largest and greatest country in the free world put a forty-seven-year-old guy that never worked a day in his life and made him in charge of the free world,” Cooperman said. “Not totally different from taking Adolf Hitler in Germany and making him in charge of Germany because people were economically dissatisfied. Now, Obama’s not Hitler. I don’t even mean to say anything like that. But it is a question that the dissatisfaction of the populace was so great that they were willing to take a chance on an untested individual.”

That's a pathological lack of self-awareness. These people need an intervention. They are obviously mainlining FoxNews. 

Those quotes and observations come from this fantastic article by Christia Freeland in the New Yorker about the plutocrats and their delicate sensibilities. She lists many of the examples of billionaire's alleged victimization we've chronicled here on the blog since the financial crisis began. And she shows how completely out of touch and entitled these ridiculously influential rich people really are:

It’s easy to see how even a resolutely unflashy billionaire like Cooperman can acquire a sense of entitlement. In a single hour at his desk one morning in April, the C.E.O.s of two well-known public companies were on the phone to Cooperman lobbying for his support. (He is a major investor in their firms.) Companies courting his investment dollars pick up Cooperman at Teterboro Airport in their private jets to give him a tour of their projects. The Coopermans have chosen an emphatically low-key life style, but when they went to visit a grandchild in Vermont one summer weekend they flew in a private plane.

Last July, before he had written the letter, Cooperman was invited to the White House for a reception to honor wealthy philanthropists who had signed Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, promising to donate at least fifty per cent of their net worth to charity. At the event, Cooperman handed the President two copies of “Inspired: My Life (So Far) in Poems,” a self-published book written by Courtney Cooperman, his fourteen-year-old granddaughter. Cooperman was surprised that the President didn’t send him a thank-you note or that Malia and Sasha Obama, for whom the books were intended as a gift and to whom Courtney wrote a separate letter, didn’t write to Courtney. (After Cooperman grumbled to a few friends, including Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, Michelle Obama did write. Booker, who was also a recipient of Courtney’s book, promptly wrote her “a very nice note,” Cooperman said.)

When Cooperman told me the story of his lucky escape from dental school, he concluded, “I probably make more than a thousand dentists, summed up.” (A thousand dentists would need to work for a decade—and pay no taxes or living expenses—to collectively earn Cooperman’s net worth.) During another conversation, Cooperman mentioned that over the weekend an acquaintance had come by to get some friendly advice on managing his personal finances. He was a seventy-two-year-old world-renowned cardiologist; his wife was one of the country’s experts in women’s medicine. Together, they had a net worth of around ten million dollars. “It was shocking how tight he was going to be in retirement,” Cooperman said. “He needed four hundred thousand dollars a year to live on. He had a home in Florida, a home in New Jersey. He had certain habits he wanted to continue to pursue.

“I’m just saying that it’s not an impressive amount of capital for two people that were leading physicians for their entire work life,” Cooperman went on. “You know, I lost more today than they spent a lifetime accumulating.”

What was that story about some cake and the Bastille? I keep forgetting. 

Many billionaires have come to view charity as privatized taxation, paid at a level they determine, and to organizations they choose. “All things being equal, you’d rather have control of the money than the government,” Cooperman said. “Even if you’re giving it away, you’d rather give it away the way you want to give it away rather than the way the government gives it away.” Cooperman and his wife focus their giving on Jewish issues, education, and their local community in New Jersey, and he is also setting up a foundation that will allow his children and grandchildren to support their own chosen causes after he dies.

Foster Friess, a retired mutual-fund investor from Wyoming who was the backer of the main Super pac supporting the Republican primary candidate Rick Santorum, expounded on this view in a video interview in February. “People don’t realize how wealthy people self-tax,” he said. “If you have a certain cause, an art museum or a symphony, and you want to support it, it would be nice if you had the choice.”

Of course those charitable donations for museums and symphonies are tax deductible, but that's not good enough. They don't want to spend any of their money on the "wrong people" which in Friess' case is apparently anyone who doesn't attend the symphony. What could be wrong with that? 

And that attitude has certainly "trickled down" to the right wingers. I won't post it again, but this sickening video spells it out. ("I choose [to throw a dollar in your face and lecture you like a child, Mr Parkinson's victim who needs health care.] I choose!")

Someone said to me the other day that Americans think their problem is that the system is broken and it's not, it's the culture that's broken. I'm increasingly afraid that's true. Certainly, the idea that these filthy rich, privileged elites feel victimized at a time when they are paying historically low taxes and making historically high sums of money is indicative of something very amiss at the heart of our social contract. I'm not sure if that can be fixed. 


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