Warren Buffett

individual

Overview

Warren Edward Buffett was born in Omaha, Nebraska on August 30, 1930. His father, Howard Buffett, was a stock broker who was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1942. Warren entered the University of Pennsylvania at age 16 to study business, and transferred two years later to the University of Nebraska, graduating at age 20. After earning a


Warren Edward Buffett was born in Omaha, Nebraska on August 30, 1930. His father, Howard Buffett, was a stock broker who was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1942. Warren entered the University of Pennsylvania at age 16 to study business, and transferred two years later to the University of Nebraska, graduating at age 20. After earning a master’s degree from Columbia Business School in 1951, he spent three years selling securities for Buffett-Falk and Company, followed by two years working as an analyst for the Graham-Newton Corporation under the late economist and finance professor Benjamin Graham, who had been his mentor at Columbia. Buffett would later credit Graham’s book, The Intelligent Investor, for the great impact it had on his life.

In 1952 Buffett married Susan Thompson, a rebellious New Age leftist with whom he went on to have three children. Thompson was a strong ideological influence on Buffett, passing on to him her views in support of population control, abortion rights, and a nuclear freeze. According to Forbes magazine, these issues “remained a life-long passion, even an obsession, for both,” and were “heavily funded by their foundation” – a reference to the Buffett Foundation, which the couple used as a vehicle for charitable giving, and which was renamed the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation (STBF) in 2004 after Thompson’s death. Over the years, STBF has contributed huge sums of money to pro-abortion groups like the National Abortion FederationNARAL, Catholics for Choice, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood. Buffett once described Planned Parenthood as “the closest thing we have” to a vehicle by which to “make every child born in this country and this world a wanted child,” adding: “Until women have the right to determine their reproductive destiny, we’re in an unequal society.” Even before the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973, Buffett helped sponsor a “church” named Ecumenical Fellowship, which assisted women in finding places to obtain abortions.[1]

In 1956 Buffet founded the Omaha-based investment firm Buffett Partnership Ltd. (BPL). Utilizing techniques he had learned from Benjamin Graham, Buffett was successful in identifying undervalued companies, including a textile company in New England named Berkshire Hathaway. He began buying stock in that company in the 1960s and assumed control of it by 1965.

After his father died in 1964, Buffett, who was already a liberal Democrat at heart, officially changed his party affiliation to Democrat.

In 1969, Buffett dissolved BPL despite its success, to concentrate on Berkshire Hathaway. Phasing out its textile division, Buffett expanded the firm by buying assets in media, insurance, and oil. His success in investments earned him the moniker, the “Oracle of Omaha.”

Buffett and his wife separated in 1977 but remained married until the end of Susan Thompson’s life 27 years later. Before relocating to San Francisco in ’77 to pursue a singing career, Thompson arranged for Astrid Menks, a Latvian-born woman whom she and her husband had met and befriended in recent years, “to become,” as Forbes put it in November 2012, “Warren’s live-in housekeeper and to look after him in whatever ways he needed … as a kind of wife substitute in all ways except in law.” Two years after Thompson’s death in 2004, Buffett and Menks married.

In 1980, Buffett denounced the famed publisher William Randolph Hearst for having spent so much of his wealth on the construction of his mansion in San Simeon. “Just as the Pharaohs did when building pyramids,” wrote Buffett, “Hearst commanded massive amounts of labor and material away from other societal purposes to satisfy his personal consumption desires.” Buffett also stated that people who lived off of their family inheritance “might feel themselves perceptive in observing the debilitating effects of food stamps for the poor but would fail to observe that they themselves are the beneficiaries of an almost boundless lifetime supply of privately-funded food stamps bestowed upon them at birth.”

Buffett became director of Berkshire Hathaway in 1989, by which time he had accumulated a net worth of $3.8 billion, and he held that position until 2006.

In 2006 Buffett announced that he planned to donate, over time, his entire fortune to charity, with 85% going to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2010, Buffett and Bill Gates collaborated to form The Giving Pledge, a campaign intended to recruit wealthy contributors to charitable causes.

In March 2012, bestselling author Peter Schweizer explained how Buffett in 2008 had exploited his political connections to President Barack Obama to push for federal bailouts of the banking industry, bailouts that in turn generated an enormous windfall for Buffett. Wrote Schweizer:

“During the financial crisis in the fall of 2008, Buffett … [w]hile pushing for calm and advocating specific market interventions in both public and private … was also investing (sometimes quietly) so he could profit once his policy advice was implemented….

“[O]n September 23 [he invested] $5 billion in Goldman Sachs, which was overleveraged and short on cash. Buffett’s play gave the investment bank a much-needed cash infusion, making a heck of a deal for himself in return: Berkshire Hathaway received preferred stock with a 10 percent dividend yield and an attractive option to buy another $5 billion in stock at $115 a share.

“Wall Street was on fire, and Buffett was running toward the flames. But he was doing so with the expectation that the fire department (that is, the federal government) was right behind him with buckets of bailout money. As he admitted on CNBC at the time, ‘If I didn’t think the government was going to act, I wouldn’t be doing anything this week.’

“Buffett needed the bailout. In addition to Goldman Sachs, which was not as badly leveraged as some of its competitors, Buffett was heavily invested in several other banks, such as Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp, that were also at risk and in need of federal cash. So it’s no surprise that Buffett began campaigning for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that was being hammered out in Washington….[2]

“During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama made it clear that … ‘Warren Buffett is one of those people that I listen to’ and was one of his ‘economic advisers.’ […]

“Early in the financial crisis, Obama … had been cautious and lukewarm about a possible bailout. But in the days following Buffett’s multibillion-dollar play for Goldman Sachs, and with fears of economic collapse mounting, Obama became a powerful champion of the government rescue…..

“Publicly, Buffett struck a posture of cheering on the bailout from the sidelines. ‘I’m not brave enough to try to influence the Congress,’ he told The New York Times in a September 24 article. But Buffett’s actions directly contradicted his words. Days later, he participated in a conference call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House Democrats during which he pushed them to pass the bill, warning that otherwise the country faces ‘the biggest financial meltdown in American history.’

“The stakes were high for Buffett as well. If the bailout went through, it would be a windfall for Goldman. If it failed, it would be disastrous for Berkshire Hathaway. The first vote failed, as Congress faced enormous heat from voters angry about the prospect of aiding Wall Street. On the eve of the second TARP vote in the House, Buffett moved toward the fire again, buying a $3 billion stake in corporate giant General Electric (GE). As with Goldman, he was able to negotiate advantageous terms, receiving a 10 percent dividend on his shares. He also purchased the option to buy $3 billion in stock at discounted terms. GE was in even worse financial shape than Goldman, thanks to its financial arm, GE Capital. Eventually it would receive $140 billion in taxpayer capital to stay afloat….

“In all, Berkshire Hathaway firms received $95 billion in TARP money. Berkshire held stock in Wells Fargo, Bank of America, American Express, and Goldman Sachs, which received not only TARP money but also Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) backing for their debt, worth a total of $130 billion. All told, TARP-assisted companies constituted a whopping 30 percent of Buffett’s publicly disclosed stock portfolio…. [T]he Houston Chronicle concluded in an April 2009 investigative piece [that Buffett] was ‘one of the top beneficiaries of the banking bailout.’

“Buffett received better terms for his Goldman investment than the government got for its bailout. His dividend was set at 10 percent, while the government’s was 5 percent. Had the bailout not gone through, and had Goldman not been given such generous terms under TARP, things would have been very different for Buffett. As it stood, the arrangement with Goldman Sachs earned Berkshire about $500 million a year in dividends…. The General Electric deal also was profitable [to the tune of $1.2 billion]. As Reuters business columnist Rolfe Winkler noted on his blog in August 2009: ‘Were it not for government bailouts, for which Buffett lobbied hard, many of his company’s stock holdings would have been wiped out.’

“By April 2009, Goldman share prices had more than doubled. By July 2009, Buffett had already received a return of $2.5 billion from his investment.”

Buffett’s political connections to Obama also gave Buffett the confidence to invest heavily in railroads in 2009. As Peter Schweizer explains:

“In late 2009, Buffett made his largest investment ever when he decided to buy Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF). It was not just an endorsement of the railroad industry’s financials; it was also a huge bet on the budget priorities of his friend Barack Obama. As The Wall Street Journal reported, ‘Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s planned purchase of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. represents a bet that upcoming Washington policies to improve infrastructure and combat climate change will be a boon to the freight-railroad industry. President Barack Obama has said railroad investment will be a cornerstone of his transportation policies, given the environmental benefits and improved mobility that come with taking cars and trucks off roads.’ […]

“Buffett bought BNSF just as the Obama administration was beginning a series of initiatives to rapidly expand the government’s spending on railroads. After Buffett took over the railroad company, he dramatically increased spending on lobbyists. Berkshire spent $1.2 million on lobbyists in 2008, but by 2009 its budget had jumped to $9.8 million, where it more or less remained….

“Obama’s plans to invest heavily in railroads, including a commitment to high-speed rail, put BNSF in a position to benefit handsomely…. The 2009 stimulus package [officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] include[d] $48 billion (of the total $787 billion) for infrastructure improvement, a chunk of which [was] headed for railroads.”

In 2010, Buffett penned a folksy New York Times op-ed thanking his “Uncle Sam” for the bailout funds; he signed the letter as Sam’s nephew, “Warren.”

Later that year, Buffett became a key propaganda figure in President Obama’s push to raise taxes. Most notably, he was a vocal advocate for tax hikes on wealthy Americans like himself, calling it unjust, for instance, that he himself was taxed at a lower rate than his own secretary simply because his income came from investments rather than in the form of a salary. “My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress,” Buffett wrote in 2011. “It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.” President Barack Obama, of whom Buffett was an enthusiastic supporter, often cited and lauded the so-called “Buffett Rule” which held that households earning more than $1 million per year should be taxed at a higher rate than their middle-class counterparts.

By early 2011, Obama had placed the Presidential Medal of Freedom around Buffet’s neck.

Continuing to build his Berkshire Hathaway empire, Buffett purchased the H.J. Heinz Company in 2013, Duracell in 2014, and Kraft Foods in 2015.

In 2015-16, Buffett praised the presidential bid of Senator Bernie Sanders, even though he formally backed Hillary Clinton‘s campaign. Characterizing Sanders as an “articulate” spokesman for his cause, Buffett said: “I think we all have lessons to learn from him.”

Calling it “highly likely … that climate change poses a major problem for the planet,” Buffett in 2016 boasted that Berkshire Hathaway Energy “has invested [$16 billion] in renewables and now owns 7% of the country’s wind generation and 6% of its solar generation.”

In 2017, Buffett opposed the Republican tax cut bill which was signed into law by President Donald Trump.

In 2017 as well, Buffett criticized President Trump’s calls for enhanced border security and the stricter enforcement of immigration laws. “A tide of talented and ambitious immigrants” had been key contributors to “the greatness of the country” during its development, said Buffett, implying that Trump’s position was blind to that reality.

In March 2020, Buffett — much as he had done eight years earlier by investing heavily in Goldman Sachs at the dawn of the financial crisis — suddenly invested enormous sums of money in airline companies whose stocks were plummeting as a result of the increasingly serious coronavirus pandemic. His expectation was that those companies would eventually receive financial bailouts from the federal government. Thus, Buffett increased his stake in Delta Airlines to 11% ownership.  He also owned between 8% and 10% of United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and American Airlines.

For additional information on Warren Buffett, click here.

Further Reading:Warren Buffett” (Biography.com); “When Warren Went Left: The Ideological Seduction Of Warren Buffett” (Forbes, 11-29-2012);  “Warren Buffett Gives Millions to Pay for Abortions” (National Review, 3-5-2014); “Soros Clones: 5 Liberal Mega-Donors Nearly as Dangerous as George Soros” (Media Research Center); “Warren Buffett: The Billion-Dollar King of Abortion” (Media Research Center); “Warren Buffet: the Sugar Daddy of Baby-Killing” (PoliticalOutcast.com, 5-14-2014); “Warren Buffett: A Wealthy Philanthropist with Some Bad Ideas” (Capital Research Center, 11-2-2011).

Footnotes

  1. STBF has also supported organizations like DKT International and Gynuity Health Projects, both of which work to expand access to abortion in developing countries. Moreover, the Foundation has gone so far as to purchase abortion machinery and donate it to clinics in poor nations.
  2. TARP allowed the Treasury to buy or insure up to $700 billion in “troubled assets” from banks and other financial institutions.  These assets included subprime mortgages, mortgage-backed securities, and derivatives.

Additional Resources

Warren Buffett: Baptist and Bootlegger
By Peter Schweizer
March 2012

A $50 Billion Airline Bailout for Warren Buffett
By Daniel Greenfield
March 23, 2020

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