Omaha businessman Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, was interviewed by Lou Dobbs (CNN), an interview posted online on May 25. Buffett is regarded as the world’s 2nd richest man – this guy is REALLY rich.
First, they talked of Buffett’s concern about nuclear and other “weapons of mass destruction.”
… there are lots of loose nukes around the world. We’ve got multiple governments that have the capability. We have lots of chemical and biological agents that are ill guarded around the world and it should be at the top of the list for our government.
… If [people] go to LastBestChance.org, they can get a film about it. It’s the number one problem of our time. There are people out there that would like to do a lot more than the World Trade Center or the Spanish trains or that sort of thing.
He has some comments about trade deficit, and running up debt:
… this is a terrifically strong country. We have a lot of assets to trade, and people will take our IOUs. Right now our net position versus the rest of the world is they own $3 trillion more of us than we own of them, and that number grows every day ….
Well, if we keep doing what we’re doing — and we have shown no signs of slowing down — the world will own a substantially greater percentage of this country … 10 years from now than now …
our sons will pay for the sins of their fathers, to a degree.
This is the best country in the world.
But if the rest of the world has $10 trillion of our assets instead of $3 trillion, we will be shipping some of our product abroad every year merely to service the debt that we’ve run up.
…. It can be addressed. We’ll be taxable.
Where is Buffett finding places to invest in the US economy these days? That after all is his business, the way he made his billions.
I just don’t find things that are undervalued. We like to get a lot for our money if we’re buying marketable securities. [To which Dobbs replies, “The rest of us … when Warren Buffett holds cash ($40 billion!) and says he doesn’t see opportunity, it sets off alarm bells for everyone…”]
He is (or at least pretends to be) a bit puzzled about the Administration’s insistence on a looming Social Security crisis.
Well, it’s an interesting idea that a deficit of $100 billion a year, something, 20 years out, seems to terrify the administration. But the $400-plus billion dollars deficit currently does nothing but draw yawns. I mean the idea that this terrible specter looms over us 20 years out which is a small fraction of the deficit we happily run now seems kind of interesting to me.
Ahh. Interesting indeed. He actually advocates increased taxes on the wealthy to solve the Social Security “crisis.”
I personally would increase the taxable base above the present $90,000. I pay very little in the way of Social Security taxes because I make a lot more than $90,000. And the people in my office pay the full tax. We’re already edging up the retirement age a bit. And I would means test … I get a check for $1,700 or $1,900 or something every month. I’m 74. And I cash it. But I’ll eat without it. But I wouldn’t raise the 12-point and a fraction payroll tax, I would raise the taxable base to above $90,000.
A “means test” would stop Buffett from getting the $1700 / month from Social Security, because he has the “means” to get along without it. Dobbs points out that over 1,000,000 other Americans receive SS checks who would lose them if means testing were implemented. And do notice that he is aware of what “the people in my office” have to pay in SS tax.
So. Is this man who is the wealthiest of the wealthy actually advocating increased taxes on his own economic class? Yup.
Yeah. The rich people are doing so well in this country. I mean, we never had it so good …. It’s class warfare; my class is winning, but they shouldn’t be …. The rich are winning.
Just take the estate tax, less than 2 percent of all estates pay any tax ….
Still, we get $30 billion in revenue from the estate taxes.
It’s nice to say, you know, wipe out this tax, but we’re running a huge deficit, so who does the $30 billion come from?
And corporations? Are we taxing them mercilessly?
corporate America is not suffering, I’ll put it that way …. Corporations are doing better in the total tax picture than the people I’m going to walk by on the street when I leave here.
Is there anyone I have forgotten to offend?
DOBBS: I want to close with your thoughts about the future here. You said this is still the richest economy. Let me ask you straightforward: Are you optimistic about the prospects for a country that’s been built on a middle class and those who have aspired to it? Do you see the same opportunity going forward? Are you heartened or concerned?
BUFFETT: I think it’s a terrific country, Lou. You never want to go short on America. The nuclear, chemical and biological threat is real. And it’s one we should attack. But this country — our children and our grandchildren are going to live better than we do in this country. No question about it in my mind.
Well, I hope he’s right, but he’s probably not, unless we quickly heed some of the more critical of his comments above.