Class warfare is vicious and counterproductive for so many reasons—one of them being that it targets people whose “sin” is having applied their talents, worked hard, and risen in the world, thus turning the very people who should be regarded as exemplars into villains.

One such person, New York investor Leon Cooperman, has written an open letter to President Obama on the subject of class warfare. Cooperman is a self-made billionaire, described eloquently by Tina Korbe of HotAir:

In New York City, Leon Cooperman is a legend, the quintessential self-made man. His parents were Polish immigrants, his father a humble, hard-working plumber. Cooperman became the first in his family to attend college — and, when he started work at Goldman Sachs, fresh out of business school at Columbia University, he had no money in the bank.

He worked his way up to eventually run Goldman before he founded his own private investment firm, Omega Advisors. Today, he’s worth $1.8 billion — and has the philanthropic chops to prove it. He’s given away more than he’s ever spent on himself — and he has committed to the Warren Buffett Giving Pledge, which  means he has promised to give the majority of his wealth to philanthropy.

In the letter, Cooperman, who had hoped that an Obama administration would bring “salutary change,” says he doesn’t blame the president for the economic mess he inherited, even if the president’s response has been “profligate” …

But what I can justifiably hold you accountable for is you and your minions’ role in setting the tenor of the rancorous debate now roiling us that smacks of what so many have characterized as “class warfare”.

Whether this reflects your principled belief that the eternal divide between the haves and have-nots is at the root of all the evils that afflict our society or just a cynical, populist appeal to his base by a president struggling in the polls is of little importance.

What does matter is that the divisive, polarizing tone of your rhetoric is cleaving a widening gulf, at this point as much visceral as philosophical, between the downtrodden and those best positioned to help them. It is a gulf that is at once counterproductive and freighted with dangerous historical precedents. And it is an approach to governing that owes more to desperate demagoguery than your Administration should feel comfortable with. …

And this:

Capitalism is not the source of our problems, as an economy or as a society, and capitalists are not the scourge that they are too often made out to be. As a group, we employ many millions of taxpaying people, pay their salaries, provide them with healthcare coverage, start new companies, found new industries, create new products, fill store shelves at Christmas, and keep the wheels of commerce and progress (and indeed of government, by generating the income whose taxation funds it) moving. To frame the debate as one of rich-and-entitled versus poor-and-dispossessed is to both miss the point and further inflame an already incendiary environment. It is also a naked, political pander to some of the basest human emotions – a strategy, as history teaches, that never ends well for anyone but totalitarians and anarchists.

With due respect, Mr. President, it’s time for you to throttle-down the partisan rhetoric and appeal to people’s better instincts, not their worst. …

The president apparently plans to run in 2012 on class warfare and the politics of personal destruction.

It will be interesting to see how the American people respond.