Warren Buffett wealthy

Posted: Mar 09, 2004 12:00 AM

I'll be the first to admit that the Bush campaign's recent TV ads appear to be a huge waste of money. With references to Sept. 11, they appeal only to his core supporters, while giving his detractors misplaced but effective ammunition with which to attack both the president and his political tactics.

Aside from all these commercials and their lack of a clear message, however, the truth is that life in the United States isn't all that bad. Yes, there is unemployment, but for many years it's been widely accepted by economists that anything under a 6 percent unemployment rate signals a robust job market. We continue right now at under 6 percent.

And yes, we have faced plenty of crises of late, including that of corporate corruption. But slowly, the Bush administration is addressing these problems one by one. The Martha Stewart conviction, although in my mind an effort to single out a celebrity, nevertheless broadcast an important lesson: Don't lie to the government (a lesson that wasn't clear during the previous administration).

Sure there's plenty of second-guessing that can take place over Iraq; many people question whether our own leaders fudged the truth about weapons of mass destruction. But few can deny that Bush's boldness on the international front has done anything but strengthen our hand in the high stakes game we play with despots and terrorists. They now know that when the U.S. speaks, it means business.

Despite all this, we now have the likes of billionaire sage Warren Buffett telling us how the Bush administration's tax policies favor wealthy people and big corporations. That's intriguing commentary from a fellow who just this week was quoted in a newspaper as bemoaning his corporation's excess of cash. Buffett says there's nowhere to put it all!

I for one would be happy to tell him where to put it. It seems that rather than see more money invested in America, Buffett would make it impossible for small businessmen and women who are just starting out to make decent money, much less to have a chance one day to enter his stratospheric league.

Here's a good idea, Mr. Buffett: Instead of labeling as "wealthy" anyone who is creating jobs as their fortunes increase, or who is inheriting resources earned by their families, let's create an "Untouchable Super Wealth Tax." Let's say that anyone with a net worth of more than $500 million must pay, say, 75 percent tax on the balance of their net worth. That way, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, the two wealthiest people in America -- both of whom take the ironic, populist stance of railing against "tax cuts for the wealthy" -- can join forces and help to truly equalize our tax system.

As for Bush, I've been quick to point out that the White House has maintained a weak hold on public sentiment. As predicted months ago, the president had very low approval ratings by the effective end of the Democratic presidential nomination sweepstakes. Indeed, much to the delight of the Warren Buffetts of the world, the president runs a genuine risk of losing in November. But that is primarily a function of the Bush team's somewhat lethargic and misguided response to the rash of media reports that spotlight the problems of our day, including the so-called "jobless recovery."

The fact is that following 9-11, we have enjoyed a miraculous recovery in our financial markets. Our skies, bridges and ports are safer today because of Bush's efforts. Now companies that employ Americans are growing and starting to invest in the all-important development of future products and services.

Even so, the Bush campaign would better spend its money in telling the American people the good news they otherwise are unlikely to hear. Right now, the only message the president's handlers are getting out is that the nation should stay the current course, and that we should trust Bush because he knows what America needs. But no specifics are offered. If they continue down this road, the Bush team will waste their campaign's financial advantage and gain few points in the polls.

And in the process, they will continue to leave the door open for people like Warren Buffett, who owns more jets, insurance companies and (obviously) cash than he knows what to do with. Buffett will keep fueling the fires of class warfare, a battle that is safely removed from his own "untouchably wealthy class."