Bloomberg News

Buffett Says Tax Rich Money Shufflers to Relieve Families

September 30, 2011

(Updates with Buffett’s comment on taxes and the economy in the last paragraph.)

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Warren Buffett, the billionaire who partnered this year with President Barack Obama to push for tax increases on the wealthy, urged policymakers to target gains made by speculators with short-term investment horizons.

“If you give me a choice between taking $1,000 from 20 million families or hitting 50,000 people who shuffle money around all day, I’ll take it from the people who shuffle money,” Buffett told Bloomberg Television’s Betty Liu today in an interview from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Buffett, 81, built a fortune of more than $35 billion by picking stocks and making takeovers as chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. His buy-and-hold investment approach made Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire the biggest shareholder in companies including Coca-Cola Co., American Express Co. and Washington Post Co.

“Somebody that buys a stock-index future and sells it 10 seconds later and gets 60 percent by long-term gains -- he would have a different world to live in,” Buffett said of his push for changes to the tax code.

Buffett advised Obama on his 2008 election campaign and is scheduled to attend a fundraiser in New York today to benefit the president’s re-election bid. Obama, in an effort to reduce the U.S. deficit, asked Congress to enact a so-called Buffett rule, requiring those earning annual incomes of $1 million or more to pay taxes at a rate similar to that of middle-income Americans.

Investors Back Obama

Raising taxes on about 50,000 “ultra-rich” individuals who pay low taxes may add as much as $20 billion to government revenue each year and help reduce the deficit, Buffett said.

Republicans including Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin have called Obama’s approach “class warfare” and said raising taxes may stifle the economic recovery.

Global investors overwhelmingly back Obama’s proposed tax increase for the wealthy to cut the deficit, according to a Bloomberg Global Poll. By a margin of 63 percent to 32 percent, respondents in the quarterly survey of 1,031 investors, analysts and traders who are Bloomberg subscribers supported the call for the rich to pay more. In the U.S., support for the idea was lower, with more than half opposing it, although four in 10 supported it.

“The economy will not be hurt at all by taxing those who pay very low rates a higher rate,” Buffett said.

--Editors: William Ahearn, Rick Green

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Frye in New York at afrye@bloomberg.net; Charles Mead in New York at cmead11@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Kraut at dkraut2@bloomberg.net


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