Elizabeth Warren Invites Billionaire Leon Cooperman to Testify on Tax

by Ryan

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren has invited billionaire and wealth tax critic Leon Cooperman to testify at a hearing.
  • Cooperman has been an outspoken critic of Warren and her wealth tax proposals.
  • The hearing, which is for the Senate Finance subcommittee Warren chairs, will examine taxes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has extended an invitation to one of her most vocal critics to debate her marquee policy, the wealth tax, on Capitol Hill.

On Monday, Warren invited billionaire Leon Cooperman  to testify at a hearing for the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth, which Warren chairs, first reported by CNBC. The hearing’s topic: “Creating Opportunity Through a Fairer Tax System.”

It’s the latest in an ongoing debate between the two. In a March CNBC segment, Cooperman criticized Warren’s Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act, which would levy additional

on households with net worths $50 million and over. He has also criticized Warren’s wealth tax advocacy, and wrote her a five-page letter in 2019 in response to a tweet she sent asking him to “pitch in a bit more.” Warren even incorporated Cooperman into one of her presidential campaign videos about the need for a wealth tax.

Cooperman’s perspective: The rich would hide their assets from a wealth tax

In March, Cooperman told CNBC: “If the wealth tax passes, go out and buy yourself some gold because people are going to rush to find ways of hiding their wealth.” This remark was in reference to his previous assertion that people would utilize gold as an asset for hiding their wealth. 

He said that a wealth tax is “foolish,” has “no merit,” and that there are other, better ways to raise revenue, with eliminating waste as the best option.

“I don’t think it’s intelligent. I don’t think it’s legal,” he told CNBC of the wealth tax at the time.

leon cooperman crying about taxes on cnbc

Screenshot, CNBC

Implementation issues — and whether the wealthy would simply dodge a wealth tax — have emerged as the two most prominent criticisms of Warren’s plan. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has previously cited the difficulty of implementing such a tax, although the Biden administration hasn’t explicitly ruled it out. A recent study from IRS researchers and economists found that the top 1% of Americans fail to report about 21% of their income. Over $1 trillion a year in taxes may be going uncollected, according to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.

Warren’s perspective: A wealth tax could help address inequality, and raise trillions

Warren campaigned on a wealth tax in the 2020 presidential campaign, and has continued to advocate for it as one measure to help address growing inequality during the pandemic. Her Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act could raise at least $3 trillion in the next 10 years, according to an analysis from economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. 

If the wealth tax had been implemented in 2020, it would have raised $114 billion from billionaires, according to an analysis from Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). Over the last 13 months alone, American billionaires have added $1.62 trillion to their collective net worths, according to a report from ATF/IPS.

A wealth tax is also a popular measure among Americans: A recent poll from Hill-HarrisX found that over half of Americans see a wealth tax as a way to address inequality. Wealth taxes have also gained traction internationally, with the International Monetary Fund saying one-off measures could help support economic recovery.

Now, the two may discuss their views at a Congressional hearing

Warren invited Cooperman to testify on this legislation at the April 27 hearing; and she asked him to RSVP by April 22.

“This hearing is an opportunity to share your views on how to strengthen the nation’s tax system to address economic inequality, raise revenues to fund critical pro-growth investments in families and communities, and bolster our long-term fiscal and economic outlooks,” she wrote in her invitation, which was viewed by Insider.

In a statement to CNBC, Cooperman said that he was “trying to determine whether she’s being objective or whether she’s just trying to promote her own agenda.” He added: “I’m a bit suspicious given how she never responded to the letter I sent her before.” Cooperman did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

In her invitation, Warren said that, “as we move expeditiously toward consideration of changes to our rigged tax code so that the wealthy pay their fair share, I believe you should be afforded the chance to present your perspective directly to Congress.”

She added: “The opportunity will allow you to fully air your views, not merely in front of the financial news audience where you often express them, but before the entirety of the American people.”

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