Big babies

Leon Cooperman, a billionaire hedge-fund CEO, is unhappy with President Obama. Apparently, as far as Cooperman is concerned, the president has adopted a “divisive, polarizing tone.” He elaborated in an interview with the NYT‘s Andrew Ross Sorkin:

“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.”

As far as Cooperman is concerned, this is an example of the president conveying “the sense” that the hyper-wealthy are “bad people.”

I haven’t the foggiest idea what this guy is talking about.

I’ve heard, or read the transcript of, just about every recent Obama speech, and he never belittles the rich or makes them out to be villains. On the contrary, when the president talks about asking more from the wealthy, he invariably will include a phrase such as, “This isn’t to punish folks who are better off — God bless them.”

But as Cooperman apparently sees it, the mere mention of “millionaires and billionaires” is somehow a personal slight. That the president is referring to those who really are, quite literally, millionaires and billionaires, doesn’t seem to matter.

Greg Sargent is asking the right questions: “Can we really be at the point where the phrase ‘millionaires and billionaires’ is too sharp-elbowed for our thin-skinned elites to countenance? Are we really at the point where that little jibe from Obama about corporate jets tantamount to casting the wealthy as ‘bad people’?”

I’m afraid the answer to both questions is, “Apparently, so.”

The overarching realization seems to be that some of the extremely wealthy, who’ve benefited tremendously from tax breaks and federal policies intended to reward their riches, have become, for lack of a better phrase, big babies. It’s not enough that the nation allows wealth to concentrate at the top; we have to be politically correct in our phrasing to protect their delicate sensibilities, too. Even when we’re talking about millionaires and billionaires, we shouldn’t say “millionaires and billionaires” because we don’t want to hurt their feelings.

President Obama, we’re supposed to believe, is a big meanie because he’s trying to rescue the nation from several crisis that were not of his making, but he’s not using phrases that make obscenely wealthy Americans feel good about themselves.

If Dickens and Carroll co-authored a novel, I suspect it’d look a little like this.