In hedge fund manager’s letter, an echo of the 1930s

Prominent hedge-fund manager Leon Cooperman wrote a widely distributed letter to President Obama this week in which he decried the President’s role in framing the national economic debate in “class warfare” terms.

Cooperman’s words are remarkably similar to those of another pubic figure who warned a President about the risks stemming from a bruising policy debate.  In 1936, Alfred E. Smith, the former Governor of New York, famously cited the perils he saw as the Depression extended its grip on the country:

“What are these dangers that I see? The first is the arraignment of class against class. It has been freely predicted that if we were ever to have civil strife again in this country, it would come from the appeal to passion and prejudices that comes from the demagogues that would incite one class of our people against the other.

“In my time I have met some good and bad industrialists. I have met some good and bad financiers, but I have also met some good and bad laborers, and this I know, that permanent prosperity is dependent upon both capital and labor alike.

“And I also know that there can be no permanent prosperity in this country until industry is able to employ labor, and there certainly can be no permanent recovery upon any governmental theory of ‘soak the rich’ or ‘soak the poor.'”

Smith made is remarks at a famous gathering of the Liberty League, a group that was fiercely opposed to Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms.  The full text of the speech is worth reading for its many echoes, found today in Cooperman’s letter and other outlets.


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