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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 20, 2018

Warren Buffett silent when we needed him

By Patrick Bosold | Mar 22, 2018

To the editor:

A recent letter to the editor praised mega-investor Warren Buffett for his oft-cited benevolent quotes about the need for higher taxation of the wealthy, more humane approaches to investing, etc.

This is the PR profile that’s been circulating about Mr. Buffett for many years. However, I doubt that Mr. Buffett did much lobbying against the recently passed Tax Atrocity Bill that primarily benefits the wealthiest amongst us, including Berkshire Hathaway to the tune of $37 billion (that’s right, billion).

While I agree that he’s probably a lot better than most of the other billionaires we have to deal with, Warren Buffett is no saint and we all need to remember it. For the reasons why, check out the recent investigation done on how Mr. Buffett has amassed the huge fortune held by himself and Berkshire Hathaway: “Special Investigation: The Dirty Secret Behind Warren Buffett’s Billions: America’s Favorite Investor Loves Monopoly, Not Free Markets.” The latest version is at thenation.com.

My personal experience with Mr. Buffett includes a battle waged by a coalition of conservationists, senior citizen advocates and others in Iowa a few years ago. We wanted to stop MidAmerican Energy from getting the Iowa Legislature to pass a law allowing MidAmerican to bill their ratepayers for millions of dollars in advance, to cover the costs of a feasibility study for a new nuclear power plant.

I’m glad to say that We the People won that particular battle, but no thanks to Mr. Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway, who were major shareholders in MidAmerican at that time. We appealed to Mr. Buffett to use his position to get MidAmerican to drop their efforts, the study and the nuclear plant, or else make their shareholders cover the cost as they should. The silence from the Oracle of Omaha was deafening.

We don’t need to be idolizing people like Mr. Buffett. Instead, we need to take to heart Thomas Jefferson’s admonition, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

We need to get serious about aggressive antitrust enforcement. We need to downsize mega-investors and the holdings they’re allowed to have in monopolies or near-monopolies like utilities, the too-big-to-fail banks, airlines, the meat-packing industry, etc. We need to establish a wealth tax, with the revenue directed into a stock-accumulating sovereign-wealth fund giving all citizens a direct dividend from the gains, as is done with Alaska’s oil wealth and in Norway with their wealth fund.

One way or another, we need to do something about having the top 1 percent in our society own an excessive portion of all wealth. We need to do something about the system which allows them to make money just from having money. Globally, 82 percent of the wealth generated in 2017 flowed to that top 1 percent, according to Oxfam. That is not reasonable, just or sustainable.

 

– Patrick Bosold, Fairfield

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