Eminentoes

The Sage Who Won’t Stay Put in Omaha

The world's most irritating billionaire is back in town.

By 11.28.12

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I was afraid it might come to this. Mungo's back in town. Well, not Mungo, exactly, but Warren -- Warren Buffett, that is -- who is gifted in inflicting maximal irritation, if not pain, in playing the role of a virtuous and self-sacrificing billionaire. 

So here we go again with more of same false but folksy advice on why it's okay to raise taxes on the "rich" -- which includes anyone making as much as $500,000 a year, according to Buffett's op-ed in Monday's New York Times.

And then again he turned up in the Charlie Rose show on PBS, this time nominating JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon to replace Timothy Geithner as U.S. Treasury Secretary. "World leaders would have confidence in him," he said -- as if conferring the Warren Buffett Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval on Dimon will be enough to keep "world leaders" in Greece, Spain, Italy, and other countries -- including the U.S. -- from spending their way into bankruptcy.

I canceled my subscription to Fortune several years because I had tired of seeing his face on so many fawning cover stories… and had wearied of his habit of addressing every question as if he were the infinitely wise Alec Guinness playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars.

To his credit, Guinness was no fan of the character he created -- as Buffett so plainly is. When a small child told Guinness that he had seen Star Wars 100 times, the great actor replied that he would give him an autograph if he promised never to see it again. Perhaps he was not displeased to see the spoiled kid burst into tears. Guinness also claimed that he tried to get the screenwriter to plan an early death for Obi-Wan Kenobi. Finding the Star Wars movies "banal" and "mumbo-jumbo," he said in his autobiography that he threw out all the Star Wars-related fan mail unopened.

But the 82-year-old Sage of Omaha isn't about to hang up his light saber any time soon. 

So after two years of having to listen to Barack Obama spout off about "millionaires and billionaires," the president's favorite billionaire is back on his soap box -- calling for more taxes and more government. Said Buffett in the New York Times:

So let's forget about the rich and ultrarich going on strike and stuffing their ample funds under their mattresses if -- gasp -- capital gains rates and ordinary income rates are increased. The ultrarich, including me, will forever pursue investment opportunities.

And, wow, do we have plenty to invest. The Forbes 400, the wealthiest individuals in America, hit a new group record for wealth this year of $1.7 trillion. That's more than five times the $300 billion total in 1992. In recent years, my gang has been leaving the middle class in the dust.

But his "gang" -- to use Buffett's word -- was never anywhere close to being in the same neighborhood with the middle class to begin with -- having an average net worth back in 1992 of three quarters of a billion dollars. In campaigning to increase taxes on sole proprietors and "S" corporation with "pass through" income of starting at $500,000, Buffett is swinging his light saber at millions of entrepreneurs and small business owners. 

They are going to hurt -- and so too are millions of others who rely on those same people for their jobs and income. Will small business owners be as keen to reinvest their money in expanding their businesses after a whooping series of tax increases? No. As the old saying has it: Any time you tax something, you get less of it.

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About the Author
Andrew B. Wilson is a resident fellow and senior writer at the Show-Me Institute, a free-market think tank based in St. Louis, Missouri.