The war of words between Wall Street and Elizabeth Warren heated up on Thursday as former Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein took aim at the Democratic presidential candidate, saying that “maybe tribalism is just in her DNA”.
Mr Blankfein’s comment on Twitter was seen as a reference to the controversy over Ms Warren’s past claims of Native American ancestry, which have included President Donald Trump referring to her as “Pocahontas”.
Ms Warren released a DNA test last year showing she had Native American ancestry, but only at a distance of many generations. The Massachusetts senator later apologised at a Native American forum for the “harm I have caused”.
Mr Blankfein reacted on Thursday to his appearance in a Warren campaign video calling for a US wealth tax, tweeting: “Surprised to be featured in Sen Warren’s campaign ad, given the many severe critics she has out there. Not my candidate, but we align on many issues. Vilification of people as a member of a group may be good for her campaign, not the country. Maybe tribalism is just in her DNA.”
Attempts to reach Mr Blankfein for comment on his tweet were unsuccessful.
Ms Warren has been criticised in recent weeks by Wall Street figures including Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase chief executive; Ray Dalio, founder of the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater; and Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone chief executive.
Leon Cooperman, founder of Omega Advisors, sent Ms Warren a letter last month calling her “vilification of the rich” misguided and has aired his grievances in several CNBC interviews, even appearing to shed a tear as he took umbrage at the “morally and socially bankrupt” wealth tax plan. He also appeared in the Warren video.
While expressing concerns about growing inequality, many US billionaires have argued that Ms Warren’s plan to introduce a “ultra-millionaire” tax of 2 per cent on assets above $50m, and a 1 per cent “billionaire surtax” on assets above $1bn, would hurt the overall economy.
Ms Warren has argued that her wealth tax would help fund public healthcare for all without having to raise taxes on America’s middle and working classes. In real terms, Bill Gates, who is worth $107bn, would pay $6.4bn next year under the Warren plan.
In the video posted on her campaign website on Wednesday, Ms Warren included Mr Blankfein in a list of billionaires who oppose her wealth tax plan, describing him as having earned $70m during the financial crisis.
The video attributes a net worth of $1.3bn to Mr Blankfein, who is shown saying that Ms Warren “probably thinks more of . . . cataclysmic change to the economic system as opposed to tinkering”.
The spat came the week after another billionaire, Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, moved closer to entering the presidential race on the Democratic side. He is considered a moderate alternative to former vice-president Joe Biden, who is near the top of the polls but is seen as vulnerable.
Another new entrant to the Democratic field, Deval Patrick, a former Massachusetts governor, also distanced himself from Ms Warren’s position on Thursday, saying: “I don’t think that wealth is the problem. I think greed is the problem.” Mr Patrick worked at the private equity firm Bain Capital after leaving office.
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