DAVOS, Switzerland–George Soros is a traitor to his class. That’s not an insult or a tabloid exaggeration. It is, instead, a direct quote from my conversation with the billionaire investor and philanthropist at the World Economic Forum here.
‘‘I am a traitor to my class,’’ Soros said. ‘‘I think that the income differentials are too wide and ought to be narrowed,’’ he added, which is why he favors a bigger hit on those, like himself, at the very top.
But among his plutocratic peers, he said, that is very much a minority opinion. In fact, Soros, who helped spearhead the muscular Wall Street support for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, particularly among hedge fund and private equity investors, believes the president’s call for higher taxes is the reason he has been ditched by the financiers: ‘‘That has led my hedge fund community to abandon Obama in favor of any Republican, because they don’t like to be taxed.’’
Henry Blodget, a former (and formerly disgraced) Wall Street analyst who has been resurrected as one of the smartest writers on business and politics, agrees that the financial class is strongly attached to its tax breaks. After his Wall Street friends have had a few drinks, he said, ‘‘they are cackling that they have fooled everybody into thinking that there’s some justification for this.’’ ‘‘This’’ is the carried interest tax provision, which allows some private equity and hedge fund managers to pay tax at 15 percent.
But the cackling may be coming to an end — and the hostility toward the president mounting — following his State of the Union speech on Tuesday. A centerpiece of that address, and most likely a central theme on the campaign trail over the next nine months, was Obama’s insistence that the 1 percent must pay up.