Bellyaching Billionaires Fan Flames Of Left-Wing Populism

Richard Brodsky Campaign Trail, Finance, Governance, History, National, New York City, New York State, Op-Ed, People, Political Analysis, Politics, Westchester County, NY, Yonkers, NY 6 Comments

Richard Brodsky. Photo by and courtesy of: H&H Photographers.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY — November 11, 2019 — It is instructive and appalling to listen to the whining of billionaires as their power and greed are challenged by Elizabeth Warren. They are adding daily to a long history of tone-deaf and politically inept responses to real economic populism. We’re headed back in time to when the super rich were politically vulnerable and smart politicians led the charge.

The whiner-in-chief is Leon Cooperman, a Wall Street money manipulator who authored an off-the-wall tirade against Warren and her “wealth tax.” He was subsequently joined by the normally rational Bill Gates.

What seems to provoke these outbursts of self-pity is Warren’s proposal for a wealth tax. Warren’s proposal would tax accumulated wealth at 2 percent over $50 million and at 3 percent over $1 billion. That would leave Cooperman with $970 million to feed his family.

What says Cooperman about the Warren plan? “This is the f***ing American Dream she is s****ing on.” Really. That’s what he said in an interview with Politico, without the asterisks.

There certainly can be reasoned debate and hesitancy about the Warren tax and its consequences. But after decades of tax cuts for billionaires, a ballooning national debt and astounding income inequality, it ought to get a rational analysis, not an expletive-doused rant.

Put the merits aside for a moment and look at the politics. Warren has been justly criticized for promising a lot of stuff and not clarifying how to pay for it. Now she’s told us. Average Americans will decide for themselves between Cooperman’s version of the American Dream and Warren’s. I predict that most Americans will side with Warren. And the repulsive outbursts of the privileged will help her.

There is a large and growing political constituency for soaking the rich. Voters who were alienated by a Democratic Party at ease in corporate boardrooms and in the globalist elites will listen to a message that focuses on fairness and taxing the super-wealthy. But Warren cannot be intimidated by these attacks. If her message is to survive she needs to double down and explain again and again that the wealth tax is an important element of restoring the health of the American middle class. She seems to understand the challenge, so far.

This kind of uncompromising progressive rhetoric has been successfully used by American presidents and won elections for them.

President Teddy Roosevelt was unsparing. “Too much cannot be said against the men of wealth who sacrifice everything to getting wealth. There is not in the world a more ignoble character than the mere money-getting American, putting his fortune only to the basest uses — whether these uses be to speculate in stocks and wreck railroads himself, or to allow his son to lead a life of foolish and expensive idleness and gross debauchery. These men are equally careless of the working men, whom they oppress, and of the State, whose existence they imperil. They are curses to the country.”

President Franklin Roosevelt was more nuanced but no less pointed. “We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.”

Cooperman and Gates are setting the stage for a resurgence of left-wing populism. It’s an unexpected turn that benefits Warren, and should lead to a more reasoned debate over wealth taxes and income inequality. TR and FDR would be pleased.

Richard Brodsky is a former state Assembly member.

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Original publication by Times-Union on November 10, 2019. 


Richard BrodskyBellyaching Billionaires Fan Flames Of Left-Wing Populism

Comments 6

  1. Honestly with the finances the way they are in the country any candidate talking about new programs or any sort of tax cut should have their head examined. The whole country is in hock from the federal government on down through the local governments to individuals. It has to collapse under it’s own weight at some point. If you really look at the numbers you probably have to raise taxes on everyone and still cut programs…but no politician will suggest that. To me, its hard to cry for a billionaire being taxed another 1 or 2% – especially when their rates are around historic lows – but I can see why a billionaire would be upset at such a proposal.

  2. Just demonstrates that class warfare is still a very real thing in the United States. The people who are extremely class-conscious are the wealthy elites, who are destroying the fabric of the United States in order to cling to their ill-gotten wealth at the expense of public health, education, the environment, infrastructure, and, more generally, the common good of our country.

    Millionaire Warren has said that she is “capitalist to her bones,” which should be music to Wall Street’s ears. The elephant in the room – who is predictably unmentioned in this article – is Bernie Sanders, the real threat to Wall Street.

  3. The problem with Warren’s is that her models are static. People will work to avoid taxes. Nobody will work to pay taxes. Forget about her plan being confiscatory. She will never realize the revenue to pay for her “free” giveaways.
    Ron Matten

    1. Your point about working to avoid taxes is valid, but will an additional 1 or 2% tax on a billionaire really have a significant impact, and does it rise to the level of “confiscatory”…I think that is going a little too far.

      1. Warren’s plan does not tax income, but wealth. There are multiple problems with this strategy. Who is going to value these assets? Trump says he is worth $10 billion. Bloomberg and WSJ put his worth closer to $3 billion. The only ones who will make money with this plan are the tax accounts. This plan also sucks working capital out of the economy, which will impact growth and retirement accounts. The plan is dead on arrival. When billionaires don’t invest, it hurts pension funds and the working class.
        Ron Matten

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