Big government has bailed out wide swaths of American capitalism in the wake of the pandemic like never before. Now it has every right to tax and regulate business in ways it didn't used to. Those were the views of former hedge fund manager and billionaire Leon Cooperman, who was interviewed earlier today at John Mauldin's Strategic Investment Conference by financial advisor David Bahnsen.

Bahnsen opted to question him at length about his exchange last fall with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. When Warren took the lead among contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination in Ocotber, Cooperman sent her a "respectful" letter sharing his views on inequality, a wealth tax and other issues. Warren never responded to Cooperman, who converted his hedge fund to a family office.

Instead, Warren attacked Cooperman in a tweet, blasting him for insider trading (he was charged but never convicted) and investing in Navient, a student loan company. After Cooperman discussed the incident later on CNBC and appeared to tear up, Warren mocked him openly, saying "boo hoo" at a campaign rally.

It appeared that Warren's contempt for Cooperman is reciprocal. "How do you tell when a politician is lying?" he asked. "When their lips move."

In principle, Cooperman agrees with Warren that the wealthy should pay more in taxes. He has signed the billionaire's pledge to give away over half his net worth and he mentioned several of his favorite charities during the webcast.

What he has complained about is the manner in which some politicians like Warren try to vilify wealth. "I work six months a year for the government," he said.

That rate of 50% or thereabouts didn't seem to bother him the way rates of 70% to 90% tossed around by some left-wing Democrats did. As it turned out, Warren's campaign faded fast after she struggled to credibly explain how she would finance her Medicare for All plan without raising taxes on the middle class.

For his part, Cooperman said he expects tax rates to increase as a result of all the pandemic-related federal debts and deficits. In his view, they will rise "fast" if former vice president Joe Biden is elected and more "slowly" if President Trump is re-elected.

He also said free market capitalism needs to change as the country moves to the left. Already, several congressmen are talking about requiring airlines to fly at no more than a 60% or 70% load factor.

Cooperman noted they can't make "any money" with that many empty seats. It's a complex situation that needs resolution, as it is questionable how many people will want to fly in the old, densified environment. Qantas Airlines said social distancing could result in a nine-fold increases in seat prices. Whatever happens, the compliance cost of new post-pandemic regulations is likely to raise prices and slow growth in a number of industries.

Faster GDP growth and more investment in education could go a ways toward reducing income inequality. The wealthy may indeed pay more in taxes, but simply soaking the rich isn't the answer, "You don't make poor people rich by making rich people poor," he said.

Voicing fears about many millennials’ infatuation with socialism, Cooperman said they need to be educated. He recalled a trip he made to Cuba three years ago and said it was sad to see how little economic progress the "hard-working" Cuban people had enjoyed under 60 years of communism.

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