Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway who has become a big player in the political world of late with his stance on tax policy, had sharp words for both Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Monday.
Asked about Christie’s comment for Buffett to “shut up and write a check” to the U.S. government if he felt U.S. tax policy was unfair, Buffett responded during an appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box: “It’s sort of a touching response to a $1.2 trillion deficit isn’t it? That somehow the American people will just all send in checks and that’ll take care of it.” He also criticized McConnell, R-Ky., for voicing similar sentiments. “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.”
While Buffett is a supporter of President Obama, he reiterated his preference in the Republican field: "If one of them is going to be president, I would probably prefer it would be Mitt Romney," he said. "I think he would be more likely to make more sensible decisions, and fewer nonsensical decisions, than any of the other three." Nonetheless, he did take a swipe at Romney and the low tax rate he pays: "He is paying a much lower tax rate, counting payroll taxes, than anyone in my office, except for me." He said he did not fault Romney, but instead, "I do fault the U.S. Congress for writing a tax code that allows that kind of return to be filed."
Buffett said that the real problem was the deficit and debt and that both Republicans and Democrats agreed on the need to solve that problem. But he said each side was afraid to put their neck out first.
“Republicans and Democrats know we need more revenue and lower expenditures,” he said. He intimated that, in private, both sides of the political aisle have told him that more money needs to be taken in by the government, and spending needs to be cut. The issue, he said, was that Democrats and Republicans “believe there’s a tactical advantage for the other guy to go first.”
He also stopped just short of endorsing the Simpson-Bowles deficit plan, calling both Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson men of “integrity” and “conscientious, decent,” adding that “I would like to see that plan voted on…I think Congress owes them a vote on it.” He also said that he did not agree with letting the Bush tax cuts expire, saying that a new plan needed to be enacted. “They should not act on a default basis,” Buffett said of Congress.
Buffett also said he does not believe higher gas prices will necessarily derail the economic recovery. “They're a minus, but I don't see them stopping anything,” he said. “I do not think it will derail what has been going on for two and a half years.”