One would not expect to see the second richest man in the world to be doing business in Nebraska. And contrary to that assumption, that is exactly the place where 77 year old Warren Edward Buffet calls home. Tucked away in a modest office covered wall to wall in imitation wood paneling is a man who dedicates as much commitment towards the marketplace as he does equality.
It was in that same, humble and unassuming office that Mr. Buffet invited Senator Obama to in order to exchange views on tax policy and inheritance.
The first point of contention that Mr. Buffet made the newly elected Senator aware of was his indifference to the tax structure. He estimated that in 2006, he only paid 19% of his income ($48.1 million) in total federal taxes, while his employees paid 33% of theirs despite making far less money. According to him, “it just makes sense that those of us who’ve benefited most from the market should pay a bigger share.” He was particularly concerned with his receptionist who was taxed almost twice his rate.
He then pointed out how he discouraged getting rid of an estate tax and the tacit aristocracy that would go along with it. Buffet remarked, “When you get rid of the estate tax, you’re basically handing over command of the country’s resources to people who didn’t earn it. It’s like choosing the 2020 Olympic team by picking the children of all the winners at the 2000 games.”
While Buffet may rebuke the passing down of inheritance to those who have not earned it, there are thousands of families who are where they are today not solely based on individual achievement but more due to the trust funds that they started with. In essence, this behavior has spilled its way into universities where “legacy children,” are given more unnecessary advantages and even athletic competition where those who can “pay to play,” become far better off than the children who can’t afford to have the best equipment or travel on AAU teams.
The starting line has become more and more disimilar in America. There are some who get the head start and others who wind up in the back without getting the opportunity to even compete with everyone else. Entitlement has become a way of life for the rich elite and it all starts with a last name.
This false sense of entitlement is best illustrated on MTV’s hit TV show “Sweet Sixteen,” where birthday boys and girls are given extravagant parties on their parent’s dime all the while acting far superior to the rest of their classmates. At sixteen years old, they would have you think that they had earned their places in society.
And yet, outside of the reality TV realm, there stands a world filled with grown up versions of these sweet sixteen brats who feel that by the mere fate of birth, that they hold more stake in the American dream than the founding father’s who created its vision and the millions of immigrants who saw it through. The thousands who wait outside our borders are denied entry because these selfish individuals would rather feed themselves than pay the gift of Democracy forward for future generations of Americans. And still, they are the same people who will have you believe that spreading Democracy overseas in far away lands such as Iraq/Afghanistan is beneficial just as long as it is 'NIMBY.'
Some may call Warren Buffet an enigma by the way he has been able to profit with a unique investing strategy while maintaining a high degree of financial integrity. His views are not always shared by those of similar economic portfolios and perhaps that is what sets him apart from his peers. Mr. Buffet’s net worth is $62 billion and his children will receive less than %1 of that amount when he passes on. His attitudes about his fortune can best be summed up by his description of US capitalism.
“I happen to have a talent for allocating capital. But my ability to use that talent is completely dependent on the society I was born into. If I’d been born into a tribe of hunters, this talent of mine would be pretty worthless. I can’t run very fast. I’m not particularly strong. I’d probably end up as some wild animal’s dinner.
“But I was lucky enough to be born in a time and place where society values my talent and gave me a good education to develop that talent and set up the laws and financial system to let me do what I love doing—and make a lot of money doing it. The least I can do is help pay for all that.”