Leon G. Cooperman is a member of the Forbes 400, a self made billionaire and philanthropist. He is also the CEO of a successful Wall Street investment firm. As such, he could be a poster child for the 99 percenters who claim that Mr. Cooperman and his ilk are “too successful.” But these people do not appreciate the contributions to our economy and our society of such successful business owners.
Mr. Cooperman recently wrote an open letter to President Obama in which he admonished the President for stimulating the concept of socioeconomic divide.
. . . I can justifiably hold you accountable for . . . setting the tenor of this rancorous debate now roiling us that smacks of . . . ‘class warfare’. . . . the devisive, polarizing tone of your rhetoric is cleaving a widening gulf . . . between the downtrodden and those best positioned to help them. It is a gulf . . . frightened with dangerous historical precedents. To frame the debate as one of rich-and-entitled versus poor-and-dispossessed is to both miss the point and further inflame an already incendiary environment.
In his letter, Mr. Cooperman outlined his background:
While I have been richly rewarded by a life of hard work. . . I was not to the manor born. My father was a plumber. . . in the South Bronx after he and my mother emigrated from Poland. I was the first member of my family to earn a college degree [from a public institution].
Later when he finished his master’s degree in business from Columbia, he:
had no money in the bank, a negative net worth, a . . . student loan to repay, and a six month old child. . . his mother, my wife, . . . to support.
Mr. Cooperman’s background closely parallels that of most economically successful Americans today. In an earlier blog, it was mentioned that:
I have consistently found that at least 80% of America’s millionaires are self made.
From my national sample of 944 millionaires
I found that about 1 in 4 [24%] reported that their fathers were blue collar workers [the largest occupational category to produce millionaires]. Only 47% of their fathers and 40% of their mothers attended college. About 42% of millionaires had a net worth of $0 or less when they began working full time.
Often the good deeds of the wealthy are buried in the back pages of the press or not covered at all. As Mr. Cooperman mentioned in his letter:
As a result of my good fortune, I have been able to give away to those less blessed far more than I have spent on myself and my family over a lifetime [twenty-five times more according to The New York Times] , and last year I subscribed to Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge to ensure that my money, properly stewarded, continues to do some good after I’m gone.