Oracle of Omaha? No, Orifice of Omaha
You’d never know the avuncular Buffett, lionized by so many commentators for his support of higher taxes on the rich, may actually be the most deft political operator of all — and that he was, in the words of a Sacramento Bee investigation three years ago, “one of the top beneficiaries of the banking bailout” even as he promoted it to Congress and the public as an undeniable necessity.
Through a nakedly political and self-aware self-promotion campaign to form himself into the Yoda of value investing, Buffett has avoided comparisons with the bad guys of Wall Street, the rent seekers, crony capitalists, and regulatory capture crowd. These comparisons, as it turns out, are quite unfair to the rent seekers, crony capitalists, and regulatory capture types.
As the Bee noted in a now neglected report, Berkshire’s holdings in companies bailed out by the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) constituted “30 percent of its publicly disclosed stock portfolio, and that proportion reflects at least twice as much dependence on bailed-out banks as any other large investor.”
And as the line goes, ‘When the legend eclipses reality, print the legend.’ The legend, of course, is that Buffett is a white-hat, a hard working, patient value investor. Hardly; he was knee-deep in the financial meltdown:
Not only was Buffett invested in companies threatened by the meltdown, he also added to such holdings in the teeth of the crisis, beginning with a $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs in September 2008 that The New York Times portrayed as a “sign of confidence.”
It was a sign of confidence on Buffett’s part — confidence that Congress would heed his advice to pass TARP. And in the coming days he did his utmost to ensure it happened, reportedly even participating in a conference call with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other key Democrats.
So… do you ever get the feeling the fix is in? That the game is rigged? There’s a reason you feel that way: it’s true!
The same was true of Buffett’s big investment at the time in GE, at terms unavailable to the “poor saps who ponied up $12 billion for GE via the ordinary share offering,” according to Summers. “But then, Buffett goes on CNBC — a GE subsidiary — to discuss how great an investment GE is!”
Peter Schweizer, author of “Throw Them all Out,” asks the obvious question that such scheming raises about Buffett: “Why do so many people continue to heed his policy advice without considering his enormous self-interest?” After all, Schweizer wrote recently in Reason magazine, “the success of some of his biggest bets and the profitability of some of his largest investments rely on government largesse and ‘coddling’ with taxpayer money.”
Buffett could, it seems, also be referred to as the Orifice of Obama based on what looks like his quid pro quo support of the President. Why support the Administration? To paraphrase John Dillinger, that’s where the money is.