Three very rich guys talk about Trump, taxes, and the 'vilified' 1%

Three very rich guys talk about Trump, taxes, and the 'vilified' 1%

T. Boone Pickens, who made a fortune on oil and natural gas, says he hasn't paid any federal taxes in the last three years. And he says that's as the tax code permits.

Pickens made the disclosure about his tax bill to CNN's Carol Costello in a joint interview with billionaires Ken Langone and Leon Cooperman. The conversation touched on the three men's wealth, their charitable work, and the current presidential election. Pickens, who fell off the Forbes billionaires list in 2014, said he isn't paying taxes because he's working off of large losses he posted in the past. But he stressed that he did pay millions in federal income tax in the years before those losses.

Related: Warren Buffett to Trump - 'I've paid federal income taxes every year'

Pickens, who is 88, said that since he turned 70, "I have paid $675 million dollars in taxes."

The three said that it's not a surprise if Donald Trump took a $916 million loss in 1995 and didn't pay taxes for 18 years, as has been reported. They said such a filing would be standard operating procedure for many businesses.

"Only a fool gives the government money it doesn't have to," said Cooperman, who made his fortune at Goldman Sachs (GS) and Omega Advisors. The SEC charged him with insider trading last month, an allegation he denies.

All three said they feel the top 1% in the country are vilified for their success, more than they're admired or appreciated for the charitable donations they've made.

"To show you how the world is turned upside down," said Cooperman, "four years ago President Obama successfully made [Mitt] Romney's success a liability."

Related: How Trump could lose a billion bucks and still live a billionaire life

All of the men said they've given away more money than they've spent on themselves, and that they'll give away more money than they will leave for their children. But they're not apologizing for the success they've achieved.

"Let me say something very probably not politically correct. I've been rich and I've been poor. Rich is better," said Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot (HD).

Both Langone and Pickens said they back Trump in an interview that was conducted before the controversial Access Hollywood tape became public. Cooperman said he can't support fellow billionaire Trump in this election, but he's not willing to vote for Hillary Clinton either.

"I just may waste my vote and vote for either Alfred E. Neuman or Mitt Romney on a write in," he said, referring to the Mad Magazine mascot.

Pickens did express some doubts about Trump, adding that he would not have chosen Trump as nominee. But, he added, "My history is that I am a change advocate. And I want change. So I'm ready to go with Trump."

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