It was Matt Lauer’s final interview question for his guest, on last Tuesday’s episode of NBC-TV’s “Today” show.
“No,” the guest adamantly replied. “No… and I think it would have a great effect in terms of the morale of the middle class..”
The guest was famed investor Warren Buffett, CEO of the Berkshire Hathaway holding company and a personal friend of President Obama (and by the way, did you know that Obama calls him, and not the other way around? Mr. Buffett would want you to know). He was spouting the usual “it’s time to raise taxes on us rich folks” rhetoric for which he’s become famous.
But Buffett’s closing comments were a bit different this time. Higher taxes on the rich will provide a “morale boost” for those of us in the middle class? How is that so? Why would I, a mere middle class guy, be made to feel better simply because my government is confiscating greater portions of somebody else’s money?
Buffett’s remarks during the NBC TV interview, while in-step with prevailing political sensibilities, were nonetheless mostly illogical. Earlier in the interview Lauer brought up a recent quote from Honeywell CEO David Cote who had noted on another national TV program that he (Cote), and others like him, were feeling a lack of confidence in the political process, so much so that the uncertainty was making them keep their money on the sidelines and preventing them from making additional investments and hiring new workers.
“Well,” Buffett responded, “At Berkshire Hathaway, we're investing 9 billion in plant equipment, that’s a record, breaking last year's record.” That was an interesting response, and it was certainly a nice “plug” Mr. Buffett offered for his own company.
It was also a very artful “dodge” from the facts, and rather irrelevant to the discussion. Cote has articulated some grave concerns about a lack of leadership at the White House, and in Congress, and has noted how this lack of leadership has created serious, stifling uncertainty in the business market. So has Cisco CEO John Chambers, Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn, and Intel CEO Paul Otellini (who, ironically, serves on President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness). Buffett would prefer to ignore this (it’s always uncertain” he told Matt Lauer).
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.