|From:||J. Brad Hicks, ret.|
|To:||Leon Cooperman, CEO, Omega Advisors|
|Date:||October 1, 2012|
|Subject:||Re: Your Open Letter(s) to the President|
Dear Mr. Cooperman, et al,
I have read with interest your open letter to President Obama regarding what is, in your opinion, the President's hostile tone towards success in a capitalist economy. As one of the now-famous 99%, and indeed, being a retiree, as one of the 47%, I am writing to correct one misconception you seem to be laboring under. We 47%, we 99%, do not resent your success, nor do we resent or covet your money. We fear what you can do with your money.
It may not be a popular opinion, but it is a fact: Citizens United v FEC, 558 US 310 (2010), was correctly decided. That sentence will shock many of my friends, who know that you can predict my position on a Constitutional issue, with 99% reliability, by asking Antonin Scalia his opinion and predicting that I will believe the exact opposite. But in this case, he is right; it is impossible to reconcile the First Amendment with the conduct of the authors of the First Amendment if you do not accept the historical fact that the authors of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights fully intended it to mean that anybody in America is entitled to spend as much of their own money as they want on publishing anything they want to publish. Even later courts that disagreed with Hugo Black's famous "plain and simple" rule ("When the Constitution says 'no law,' I believe it means no law") have upheld that principle when it relates to political speech. Under our system of government, you and your fellow multi-billionaires are, and must be, legally entitled to spend as much of your money as you choose on attempting to influence your fellow voters.
But that's a problem. Because, as you must know as someone who made his fortune investing in companies that manufacture and sell consumer goods, influence works. As you are about to find out, there are limits to how much the voters can be swayed by the side that has a vastly greater advertising budget. But you have doubtless also, by now, observed the transparent relief among President Obama's supporters when George Soros finally "came off of the sidelines" and resumed funding advertisements for the incumbent President.
We are all Americans. We all honor success. We all believe that success should be rewarded. As David Wong recently pointed out, "go into the bedroom of any child in America ... you'll see posters of pro athletes and Disney pop stars and famous actors dressed as action heroes. Millionaires, all. That's because all of our ... heroes are millionaires."
But you know whose posters you won't see up there? The billionaires who use their money to exercise a veto over the nominating process for either political party, or both political parties. Both political parties in America now vet their candidates for statewide or federal office based on "elect-ability" which is defined, in no small part, by "fund raising success," that is to say, based on the extent to which they are acceptable to those of you in the top 1/10th of one percent of us by wealth who have so much money that you are the only people who can fund a successful advertising campaign for statewide or federal office. This reduces the remaining 311 million of us to the position of courtiers, trying to make our case to the Forbes 400, because we can't have anything unless we persuade a majority of you that it's acceptable.
Now, you can describe a political system in which the financial success of the wealthiest couple of dozen or couple hundred people is so honored that they are, in effect, a House of Lords that is above all other branches of government. But you cannot describe any country, so run, as either free or democratic. Nor, in the long run, can you even describe such a country as having a free market. Look at the lobbying behavior of your fellow rich people. Look at the mess they've made of (for example) financial regulation, US energy policy, of health care policy, of intellectual property law and tell me that you don't see what I see: the wealthiest couple of hundred people in the United States are not using the power that their wealth grants them to keep markets free for their potential competitors, they are using that power to make it impossible for potential competitors to succeed.
This, then, is the dilemma that we face: we can be a free, democratic, and free market society, or we can allow unlimited accumulation of wealth. We cannot do both.
(signed) J. Brad Hicks
P.S. I am given to understand, by various journalists who have interviewed you and those who have signed onto your cause, that much of this is less about what Obama has done than about your hurt feelings. According to reporters, you have in fact gone so far as to say that you personally would accept policies that are even less friendly to the wealth accumulation of the 0.1% as long as those campaigning for those policies did not do so by vilifying the 0.1%.
Turn that around, if you will. When President Obama proposed the exact policies that you've expressed support for (for example, your remarks to Mr. Gore suggest that you are okay with allowing the Bush tax cuts for the super-rich to expire), your supporters vilified him in terms far, far harsher than anything anyone has said about people like you, and in far less honest ways at that. If he has made intemperate remarks about (some of) the super-rich, do you think maybe that might be why?
There are a few cranky liberals out here (myself included, I admit, but by no means including the President, who is a self-identified pro-wealthy Blue Dog Democrat) who have expressed some doubt that any of you in the Forbes 400 earned your money entirely legally, and some anger at the two-tier legal system that lets those who stole their wealth or who obtained it by bribery or who obtained it by gaming the legal system rather than by honest competition to deliver affordable high quality services keep their ill-gotten goods (and their freedom). This hurts your feelings. You don't think that you're a crook, maybe it's even true that you're not. (I haven't researched your personal fortune, although your past affiliation with Goldman Sachs raises red flags given that firm's recent lawless history.) You feel tarred by association.
All right, examine those feelings. Now imagine if we cranky couple of hundred far-left liberals could afford to intrude into every hour of television and every hour of radio half a dozen times or so to repeat that accusation. How much angrier would you be? How besieged would you feel? How frightened would you be of that (possibly) unfair accusation becoming accepted as fact through sheer repetition? If President Obama is as angry towards rich people as you think he is, do you think maybe that's why?