Politics

Cramer to Warren: Leon Cooperman is the wrong billionaire 'whipping boy' to take on

Key Points
  • CNBC's Jim Cramer defends Leon Cooperman and the "substance of the letter" he sent to Sen. Elizabeth Warren about her wealth tax.
  • The Democratic presidential candidate has the "wrong guy here" as an example of why America needs the rich to pay more, the "Mad Money" host says.
  • "It's not an incendiary letter. He's debating their math," says Cramer, while praising the billionaire investor's philanthropy. 
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Jim Cramer: Leon Cooperman is the wrong whipping boy for Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is picking the wrong billionaire in Leon Cooperman as an example of why America needs a wealth tax, CNBC's Jim Cramer said Friday.

Cooperman is the "wrong whipping boy," said Cramer, praising the Omega Advisors founder — son of a Bronx plumber who became one of Wall Street's most successful investors — for being charitable with his wealth. The Democratic presidential candidate has the "wrong guy here," the "Mad Money" host added.

The Warren campaign was not immediately available to respond to Cramer's remarks, which came a day after CNBC reported on a letter Cooperman sent to Warren, challenging the assumptions behind her case for the need to tax household net worth over $50 million at 2%. On Friday, she doubled her billionaire wealth tax to 6% from 3% to help pay for her "Medicare for All" proposal.

"The substance of the letter is unbelievable," Cramer said on "Squawk Box." "It's not an incendiary letter. He's debating their math."

"It's not a name-calling debate," he added, referring to the part of the 2,600-word letter getting a lot of attention, in which Cooperman wrote that he feels like the liberal Massachusetts senator treated him as a child in her call for him to "'pitch in a bit more so everyone else has a chance at the American dream.'"

Defending the contributions successful Americans make to society, Cooperman wrote, "For you to suggest that capitalism is a dirty word and that these people, as a group, are ingrates who didn't earn their riches through strenuous effort and (in many cases) paradigm-shifting insights, and now don't pull their weight societally indicates that you either are grossly uninformed or are knowingly warping the facts for narrow political gain."

Cooperman, whose net worth is estimated at more than $3 billion, also wrote, "As a result of my good fortune, I have been able to donate in philanthropy many times more than I have spent on myself over a lifetime, and I am not finished; I have subscribed to the Buffett/Gates Giving Pledge to ensure that my money, properly stewarded, continues to do some good after I'm gone."

The Giving Pledge, created by Bill Gates and his wife Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, invites the ultra-wealthy to give away more than half of their fortunes to help society.

Warren responded to Cooperman's letter in a tweet, saying: "Leon is wrong," adding the investor "can and should pitch in more."

Last week, in a Politico interview, Cooperman unloaded on Warren's bash-the-rich rhetoric. "What is wrong with billionaires? You can become a billionaire by developing products and services that people will pay for," he told the website Politico. "I believe in a progressive income tax and the rich paying more. But this is the f-----g American dream she is s------g on."

On CNBC last month, Cooperman said, "If Elizabeth Warren is elected president, in my opinion, the market drops 25%." Cooperman's concern about the senator's policies highlights the angst that Cramer first described in September that he was hearing from executives on Wall Street and in corporate America about a Warren presidency.

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Key Points
  • Leon Cooperman sent a critical letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of the top Democratic presidential candidates, marking the latest salvo in the war of words between the billionaire investor and the economic populist politician.
  • Cooperman declined to provide a copy of the letter, or any specific details of it. But CNBC obtained a copy from people familiar with the matter.
  • "You proceeded to admonish me (as if a parent chiding an ungrateful child) to 'pitch in a bit more so everyone else has a chance at the American dream,'" Cooperman writes.
  • Allies of the investor have privately warned him that an effort like this would only embolden Warren's argument that she successfully battles the rich.