On December 7th, JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon, while attending a Goldman Sachs conference, ranted on CNBC… “because you’re rich you are presumed to be bad.” This follows a similar rant that morning by Barry Sternlicht, Chairman and CEO of Starwood Capital Group, on CNBC’s SquawkBox. A week earlier my esteemed fraternity brother Leon Cooperman, head of Omega Partners, published an “Open Letter to President Obama”, also complaining about the tone of the President’s remarks about the rich.
To all of these guys and others I have one thing to say: enough already. While I’m in the 1% and proud of it (like Cooperman and Sternlicht, I came from nothing, and while not in their league by a long shot, managed to do pretty well), I have a different point of view.
Now Leon is absolutely a first rate guy – honorable, charitable and thoughtful. I suspect Sternlicht and Dimon are the same. But they miss the point. The rich have always been targets, especially of politicians around election time. So what else is new? Do these guys think that the middle class cares that their feelings are hurt? The middle class is hurting big time because the game is no longer fair. It favors the rich and it makes the economic gap between us too divisive. Obama is right. We need to fix our broken system. We may not like how he says it, but we can’t take issue with the message.
So guys, my advice is to stop complaining. Snap out of it. The divide between rich and poor is inexcusable. The tax system favoring the rich is inexcusable. We all know this. This country must have a strong middle class so future kids like Cooperman, Sternlicht, Dimon and Middleberg have a chance, through hard work and opportunity, to join the 1%, which should be the 5%.
Sorry if anyone’s feelings are hurt, but we’d all be better off if the complaining stopped and the doing started. We need more guys like Howard Schultz, founder and CEO of Starbucks Coffee and Fortune’s “Business Person of the Year.” He’s working at making a real difference.