Is Leon Cooperman planning to run for president of the U.S? In a conference call with investors last week, the fed-up founder of New York hedge fund firm Omega Advisors threatened to throw his hat into the ring.
Cooperman insists that he was not kidding but was talked out of it by his spooked investors, who urged him to continue managing their money.
The plainspoken New York native, 68, who never shies from giving his opinion, nevertheless fired off a nine-point presidential plan, challenging some politician to take it and run with it.
The plan is a healthy mixture of Franklin Roosevelt, Ron Paul, Sarah Palin and Barack Obama. No kidding.
Since Im not cut out for politics, lets both find the person who will support the following program and work hard for him or her, he told clients.
No. 1 on his list: Get all troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. He then would give every returning soldier a free four-year education at a college or trade school of his or her choice.
No. 2: He would use some of the savings from leaving those two wars to create a Works Progress Administration, similar to the one established by Roosevelt during the Great Depression, to rebuild the nations infrastructure.
No. 3: Cooperman also wants to unleash the domestic energy industry to develop supplies and reserves, with the goal of ending dependency on foreign oil.
No. 4: In his fourth point, he asserts that government spending should be limited to a growth rate of at least 1 percent below the level of nominal GDP growth.
No. 5: Freeze entitlements and raise the Social Security retirement age to 70. However, he would exclude those who work at hard-labor jobs such as coal mining.
No. 6: Cooperman would also levy a 10 percent surtax for three years on individuals earning more than $500,000 per year.
No. 7: He would then institute a 5 percent value-added tax similar to the European model to rein in the underground economy and help reduce the deficit.
No. 8: Tackle health care in a serious way. He offers no specific recommendations, though.
No. 9: Last, he would ban or curtail high-frequency trading and limit the trading of credit default swaps to those that own the underlying bonds. The high-frequency traders are turning the best capital market in the world into a casino and scaring the public, he told his clients. This is not in the public interest.
Cooperman, the son of a South Bronx plumber, likes to point out that he attended New York Citys public schools and got his undergraduate his undergraduate degree from Hunter College, part of the City University of New York. He is the first American born in his family, as well as the first to earn a college degree. He initially enrolled in dental school but dental school but quit after less than two weeks to pursue an MBA at Columbia University.
The day after he graduated, he joined Goldman, Sachs & Co., where he remained for 25 years, rising to general partner and chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. In 1991, Cooperman left to launch his hedge fund.
He is one of a handful of hedge fund managers who have taken the Giving Pledge, Bill Gatess and Warren Buffetts effort to get the wealthiest individuals to promise to donate the majority of their wealth to their favorite philanthropic causes and charitable organizations, either before or after their deaths. (Coopermans wife, Toby, also took the pledge.)
So how serious was Cooperman about running for president? Alas, he says hes not, stressing that he enjoys investing too much. I would rather find a candidate who embraces this platform, he says. Ill help him or her raise a lot of money and work for them.