Warren Buffett ends rocky week by announcing heir apparent
As Warren Buffett's public profile took some rare hits, the 'Oracle of Omaha' moved Saturday to shore up Berkshire Hathaway's future by locating a successor.
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“I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get,” Buffett wrote last year in the New York Times op-ed. “But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate."Skip to next paragraph
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“My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress," he wrote. "It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.”
But as Buffett moved to shore up succession at Berkshire, his public profile also took some unusual hits. Frustration with Buffett's appeals for others to pay higher taxes boiled over when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on Piers Morgan's CNN show that Buffett “should just write a check and shut up” instead of advocating for higher tax rates.
“The fact of the matter is that I’m tired of hearing about it,” Gov. Christie said. “If he wants to give the government more money, he’s got the ability to write a check — go ahead and write it.”
That rebuke gave an opening to media critics, who contend that Buffett has been uncritically hailed as an impartial voice of reason by supporting a number of Obama White House gambits, including industrial bailouts, even while he stood to profit from some of those initiatives. Buffett says he makes investment decisions based on data available to every other investor.
Citing an Obama administration foreclosure settlement with Bank of America that boosted Buffett's BofA holdings by $154 million overnight, libertarian commentator Matt Welch of Reason magazine, wrote on CNN, “The man who has become the left's favorite billionaire in the service of bashing plutocrats could be perceived as the single most successful crony capitalist in the country.”
In his shareholder letter, Buffett also criticized himself for spending $2 billion on a bond purchase "that tanked shortly after our purchase and remains depressed ... [I]n tennis parlance, this was a major unforced error by your chairman."
But despite an unusually rough week for the “Oracle of Omaha,” there's little doubt that Buffett's unique brand of billionaire populism continues to resonate. A majority of Americans support Buffett's broader notion of raising taxes on the super-rich. A January CBS News/New York Times poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe that the rich pay too little in taxes.