Mr. Cooperman acknowledged that he had received at least one negative e-mail. “I got one that said, ‘Be very careful when you start you car in the morning because there might be a bomb in it.’ ” He tried to laugh it off.
Some critics of Mr. Cooperman’s letter say President Obama has not been hard enough on big business and questioned what it was that the president has said that has drawn the ire of the business community.
“What pushed me over the fence was the president’s dialogue over the debt ceiling,” Mr. Cooperman said, explaining that just when it seemed like a compromise was near, President Obama went on national television and pressed harder on “millionaires and billionaires,” a phrase that has stuck in the craw of many of the elite. For example, Mr. Cooperman zeroed in on what he described as the president’s belittling remarks about taxing the wealthy: “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 1950s. And they can afford it,” the president said back in June. “You can still ride on your corporate jet. You’re just going to have to pay a little more.”
The president’s tone can be debated. Some people would argue it is simply factual, others contend that it is dripping with derision.
Mr. Cooperman acknowledges that, in the debt ceiling debate this summer, it was as much the fault of Republicans and House Speaker John Boehner’s inability to gain support for a compromise as it was the Democrats that a deal did not get done. And Mr. Cooperman accepts that taxes are indeed at record lows.
But he says the president could do a better job of pressing for higher taxes on the rich without “the sense that we’re bad people.” He added, “I pay federal income tax. I don’t have any tax dodges.” He paused, before saying, “Most people I know are prepared to pay more in taxes as long as it’s spent intelligently.”
He added that he understood the politics of what he called “class warfare.” “Now, I am not naïve. I understand that in today’s America, this is how the business of governing typically gets done — a situation that, given the gravity of our problems, is as deplorable as it is seemingly ineluctable.”
Mr. Cooperman said he personally had been advocating adding a 10 percent tax surcharge on all incomes over $500,000 for the next three years. He also advocates that the military “get out of Iraq and Afghanistan” and that every soldier should be “given a free four-year education.” His personal “platform” — he insists he is not running for any office — also includes setting up a peacetime Works Progress Administration to rebuild United States infrastructure; freezing entitlements; raising the Social Security retirement age for full benefits to 70 “with an exception for those that work at hard labor”; adding a 5 percent value-added sales tax; and “tackling health care in a serious way,” among other things.
Mr. Cooperman, who recently signed the Giving Pledge, Bill Gates’s and Warren Buffett’s effort to press the world’s billionaires to give away at least half of their wealth, said he felt he came into his money honestly and said proudly, “I spend more than 25 times on charity what I spend on myself.” Asked whether he had received any response from the president for his letter, he replied with a chuckle, “I’m not optimistic I’ll hear from him.”