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The Warren Buffett Haters Club


The Warren Buffett Haters Club

Photograph by Matthew Staver/Bloomberg

After his manifesto in the New York Times last August titled “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich,” Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Warren Buffett—a man who had seemed universally admired in capitalist circles for both his business acumen and kindly Midwestern disposition—found himself under attack. In the article he’d questioned a tax code in favor of the “mega-rich,” and declared “it’s time for a shared sacrifice.” A Republican chorus called on him to simply open his checkbook if he felt his taxes were too low. Corporate titans such as former General Electric (GE) Chairman Jack Welch and former American Express (AXP) CEO Harvey Golub expressed their disappointment, as well. Now that the Obama administration hopes to make the “Buffett Rule” official policy (in his State of the Union speech in January, President Obama invoked it as a proposed 30 percent minimum tax on incomes over $1 million), Bloomberg Businessweek compiled some of the criticisms of Buffett and his namesake rule—and the instances when the Oracle of Omaha deigned to respond.

“He should just write a check and shut up. Really. And just contribute. OK? I mean, the fact of the matter is that I’m tired of hearing about it. If he wants to give the government more money, he has the ability to write a check. Go ahead and write it.” —New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Feb. 22, 2012, regarding the Buffett Rule

Buffett’s Response:
“It’s sort of a touching response to a $1.2 trillion deficit, isn’t it? That somehow the American people will all send in checks and take care of it?” —Feb. 27, 2012

“If he’s feeling guilty about it, I think he should send in a check. … But we don’t want to stagnate this economy by raising taxes.” —Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sept. 18, 2011, regarding the Buffett Rule

Buffett’s Response:
“It’s sort of astounding to me that somebody that has the responsibility for being the Minority Leader in the Senate would think that you attack a $1.2 trillion or so deficit by asking for voluntary contributions.” —Feb. 27, 2012

“If Warren Buffett believes that he is not paying enough taxes, then he should write a check today to the United States Treasury.” —Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Sept. 19, 2011, regarding the Buffett Rule

“I think Mr. Buffett is a real intelligent individual, but I can promise you, he doesn’t know what’s going on in places where the job creation is at a zero because of over-taxation and over-regulation.” —Texas Governor Rick Perry, Sept. 29, 2011, regarding the Buffett Rule

“If Warren Buffett really believes in BYD’s electric car technology, then why doesn’t he drive a BYD car instead of an American car? Doesn’t that tell you something about what he really thinks of BYD?” —Terry Gou, chairman and founder of Hon Hai Precision Industry (HNHPF) and Foxconn, June 9, 2011 (Buffett is an investor in BYD, Hon Hai’s competitor. The two companies were embroiled in an intellectual property lawsuit)

“Class warfare will simply divide this country more. It will attack job creators, divide people, and it doesn’t grow the economy. Class warfare may make for really good politics, but it makes for rotten economics.” —Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Sept. 18, 2011, regarding the Buffett Rule

“I pay over 30 percent every year. I don’t feel undertaxed in any way at all.” —Jack Welch, Feb. 22, 2012, regarding the Buffett Rule

“Buffett has skirted our attention for many years and he will be in our crosshairs. He has made a bet on coal being around for longer than we anticipate, and we are going to make sure he never sees that dream.” —Bruce Nilles, director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, Dec. 22, 2011, referring to Berkshire Hathaway’s investments in coal

“Apparently, Warren Buffett thinks that the best way to get out of debt is to go deeper into debt. I agree with his premise that the dollar’s going to go down—and that there’s a lot of inflation in the future, and it’s a problem—but I disagree that he supports the Obama administration, Congress, all the actions they’re doing now that are causing these problems. Apparently, Warren Buffett thinks the short-term benefits of inflation outweigh the long-term pain of suffering inflation. He is dead wrong.” —Peter Schiff, chief of Euro Pacific Capital, Aug. 19, 2009, regarding Buffett’s support of federal stimulus during the financial crisis

“What is this? Is he completely a socialist and he’s playing into Mr. Obama’s hands of ‘Tax anyone who makes money’ and give it to people who don’t work?” —Eric Bolling, Fox News host, Aug. 15, 2011, regarding Buffett’s column in the Times

“He wants to raise taxes on other people, but he doesn’t want to pay a dime more than he has to pay. And he doesn’t trust Washington with his money, either.” —Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), Nov. 6, 2011, regarding the Buffett Rule

“[I] resent that Warren Buffett and others who have created massive wealth for themselves think I’m ‘coddled’ because they believe they should pay more in taxes. I certainly don’t feel ‘coddled’ because these various governments have not imposed a higher income tax.” —Harvey Golub, former CEO of American Express, Aug. 22, 2011, regarding Buffett’s Times column

“They are paying for national defense, infrastructure, basic research, education. And when you have a small group providing all of the government to the rest of America, it strikes me as exceedingly weird to say ‘Pony up.’ They’ve already paid for the whole thing. Why are we asking for more?” —Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a top economic adviser to President George W. Bush who now runs the American Action Forum, Feb. 4, 2012, regarding the Buffett Rule

“The President is promoting and marketing a Buffett Rule policy that he may never produce and that it appears he may not really want Congress to enact. That’s vaporware.” —Keith Hennessey, former Assistant to the U.S. President for Economic Policy and Director of the U.S. National Economic Council, Feb. 22, 2012, regarding the Buffett Rule

Bailey is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor.

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