Senator Elizabeth Warren wants one of her biggest critics to stand in a legislature hearing next week, but that encounter will have to wait.
Warren, a progressive Democrat from Massachusetts, invited billionaire investor Leon Cooperman to testify on taxes before a Senate Finance Subcommittee hearing.
In a response to CNBC, Cooperman declined the invitation, calling it "selfish and insincere".
"As I have said many times (including in my open letter to Senator Warren), I believe in a progressive income tax," Cooperman wrote. “Personally, I'm happy to work 'for the government' six months out of the year and six months for myself. But many of those who live in cities and states with high taxes are already paying more than that effective tax rate of 50 percent. and at some point higher effective rates (federal, state and local authorities combined) will confiscate, which should never be the ethos of this country. "
In a letter to Cooperman, first received by CNBC, Warren urged the financier to attend a hearing organized and chaired by the Financial Responsibility and Economic Growth Subcommittee of the Finance Committee, which she chairs. The hearing, scheduled for April 27, is entitled Creating Opportunities through a Fairer Tax System.
Warren told Cooperman in the letter that she was interested in giving the longtime Wall Street executive "the opportunity to discuss my ultra-millionaire tax bill, which would level the playing field and narrow the racial wealth gap by bringing in the richest 100,000 American households surveyed. " or the top 0.05% to pay their fair share. "The letter was sent to Cooperman on Monday.
A rivalry between Warren and Cooperman exploded during the Democratic presidential campaign. After proposing a property tax while in elementary school, Cooperman blew up her proposal in a letter to lawmakers.
"As much as it resonates with your base, your defamation of the rich is false, ignoring, among other things, the sources of their wealth and the essential contributions to society they are already making without your solicitation," he said at the time.
A month later, Warren's campaign ran a television commercial on CNBC targeting Cooperman and other business leaders. Her campaign also sold a mug that read "BILLIONAIRE TEARS" in response to a CNBC interview where Cooperman was crying.
Cooperman has since conducted numerous interviews ripping out Warren's tax proposals, including a CNBC appearance in March advising viewers to buy gold if there is such a bill.
"When the wealth tax expires, go out and buy some gold because people will be rushing to find ways to hide their wealth," Cooperman told CNBC at the time.
Cooperman was skeptical about Warren's invitation on Tuesday.
"I'm trying to determine if she's being objective or if she's just trying to promote her own agenda," Cooperman told CNBC in a statement. "I'm a little suspicious as she never replied to the letter I sent her earlier."
Cooperman, who turns 78 two days before the hearing, is one of the most outspoken members of the investing community. He often speaks of his rags-to-riches story: he grew up in the South Bronx as a child of working-class Polish immigrants, attended public schools, and started his first job on Wall Street – at Goldman Sachs – with debt and no net worth.
After more than two decades with Goldman, Cooperman founded the Omega Advisors hedge fund in 1991. Today he is CEO of the Omega Family Office. Last year he signed the Giving Pledge, a commitment by the rich to donate much of their wealth to charity.
"That's the American dream," he said. "I want to give others the opportunity to live the American dream."
Warren addresses Cooperman's problems with her idea of property tax in the letter sent Monday and encourages him to raise his concerns before her committee and those watching from home.
"But as we move quickly to examining changes to our manipulated tax laws so that the rich pay their fair share, I think you should be given the opportunity to present your perspective directly to Congress," she wrote to Cooperman. "The opportunity will allow you to express your views fully, not just in front of the financial news audience where you often do, but in front of the entire American people."
Warren and other Democratic lawmakers have imposed a total annual tax of 3% on assets over $ 1 billion.
They also called for a lower annual wealth tax of 2% on the net worth of households and trusts between $ 50 million and $ 1 billion.
According to Forbes, Cooperman's net worth is $ 2.5 billion.
Here is Cooperman's full letter declining Warren's invitation:
As you know, I was invited by Elizabeth Warren to testify at a hearing next Tuesday being held by the Subcommittee on Tax Responsibility and Economic Growth of the Senate Finance Committee (which she chairs) entitled "Creating Opportunities through a Fairer Tax System." . "" The alleged purpose of your invitation is to give me the opportunity to express my views on their latest fair share legislative proposals – specifically their Ultra Millionaire Tax Act. Since the Senator felt it appropriate to publish my invitation in the media, I will do the same with this refusal.
Since I have just informed their office, I will not appear at Senator Warren's hearing for several reasons:
My views on this subject are widespread and well known at this point. In addition to a lengthy open letter I wrote to Senator Warren in October 2019, which was covered in both the print and broadcast media at the time, I had previously written an Op-Ed piece for the Financial Times of London which was subsequently taken up and republished in other print and online media. I have expressed the same views several times on television. I see no reason to repeat in detail what I have said so many times. I am enclosing a copy of my 2019 open letter to Senator Warren for anyone who wants to refresh their memory on where I stand on this matter. I'm confident Senator Warren doesn't need such refreshment himself. I find Senator Warren's invitation to be selfish and insincere. As has been the case since we first banned horns on the matter during her failed presidential bid, she wants to take to the stands at my expense and use this hearing as a platform to advance her own agenda. If she had replied directly to my open letter at this point and accepted my invitation to have a substantive discussion about how we can bridge our philosophical gap, I could feel different now. Instead, she preferred to fire off snarky tweets and sell "Billionaire Tears" mugs on her website to fund her sputtering campaign, and treated me with the utmost disdain. I believe this Senate hearing will be part of that dismissive treatment carried out in a showboating atmosphere that is not conducive to serious debate. I'm not interested in being denounced by her while she uses me as a slide to promote her far-left manifesto. As I have said many times (including in my open letter to Senator Warren), I believe in a progressive income tax. Personally, I am happy to work "for the government" six months a year and for myself six months. But many who live in cities and states with high taxes are already paying more than the 50 percent combined effective tax rate that implies, and at some point higher effective tax rates (federal, state, and local combined) become confiscating, which should never be the ethos this country. I also believe that there are more constructive approaches to pushing a progressive legislative agenda than an explicit wealth tax, the effectiveness of which has been largely exposed in the real world. Congress could begin working on addressing various loopholes in our tax legislation that allow so much seepage through the rifts, including exemption from after-death taxation on capital gains, exemption from interest income for private equity and hedge funds, and the Withholding Tax – The deferral preference granted a like-for-like exchange under Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code. Our lawmakers could then proceed to pass some form of the Buffett Rule (which has been repeatedly rejected by Congress since it was first proposed in 2012) that would introduce a surcharge for taxpayers who earn more than $ 1 million a year, to better ensure that the highest earners pay their fair share. But none of these play as well for the crowd as Senator Warren's campaign to soak the rich – another reason I don't expect a fair hearing would be because I would appear at their show trial. Most importantly, Congress seriously examines how progressive programs can be funded through revenue-neutral proposals that can eliminate bureaucratic waste instead of adding further administrative bloat – again important, but boring, hence for most progressive politicians like Senator Warren of no interest.
I remember the words of the well-known economist Thomas Sowell:
"High tax rates in the upper income brackets allow politicians to win votes with class war rhetoric and portray their opponents as defenders of the rich. Meanwhile, the same politicians can win donations from the rich by creating gaps that prevent the rich from actually closing." pay those higher taxes – or maybe any taxes at all. What's worse than class struggle is fake class struggle. The slippery talk of "fairness" is at the heart of this fraud by politicians trying to squander more of the nation's resources . "
These are my reasons for respectfully declining Senator Warren's invitation. However, I will definitely prepare for the show.