Everybody loves billionaire Warren Buffett.
Heck, even I love Warren Buffett.
All that cute aww-shucks Midwest yokelism.
All those adorable grandfatherly folksy words of wisdom.
All those video clips of him slurping Coke, chomping McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches, and spooning Dairy Queen sundaes like a six-year-old.
Just your everyday pulled-himself-up-by-his-bootstraps country boy (whose dad happened to be a stockbroker-turned-four-term libertarian Republican Congressman at a time when insider trading was legal for legislators and who got his buddies to bankroll his son’s investment business.)
Living humbly in his “modest” itty-bitty tiny little 6,570 square foot mansion.
Jet-setting around on his multi-million-dollar private plane which he named “The Indefensible” (isn’t that clever?)
Amassing a personal fortune of more than $100,000,000,000.
With polls regularly saying he’s one of the most trusted men in America.
Because he’s a “good billionaire,” remember?
Why do we fall for such cockamamie PR campaigns?
For more than fifty years, Warren Buffett has grown rich from his stakes in:
Chevron, a company that has destroyed habitat and lives for more than a century and just last week became the first corporation to send a man to prison.
Coca-Cola, a brutal monopoly that has subsumed more than 400 competitor brands, stolen water rights from millions, lobbied against ending Xinjiang forced labor, and is contributing greatly to the global diabetes crisis.
Wells-Fargo, possibly the most rotten bank in American history, which is embroiled in unending criminal activities including racketeering, creating millions of fake accounts without customer consent, and practicing straight-up organizational racism.
Visa, Mastercard, and Amex, predatory companies that have debt-trapped hundreds of millions of people and are leading contributors to the unsustainable economy that is bankrupting families and destroying society.
Apple, a company that knowingly used child labor for years (and probably still does), engages in massive amounts of illegal anti-competitive activity, and has offshored more than $250 billion, withholding taxation from the communities they profit from.
Johnson & Johnson, nicknamed a “kingpin” company for selling billions of dollars worth of opioids.
Moody’s Corporation, one of the crooked ratings agencies that gave AAA ratings to highly-toxic CDOs, setting off the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and causing the bankruptcy and eviction of millions of families.
You get the point.
The list goes on and on and on.
Literally hundreds of subsidiaries and thousands of crimes.
We used to have a term for people who made their money by destroying the planet, abusing women and minorities, and benefiting from thousands of global-scale crimes against humanity:
And then there are his taxes — or lack thereof
Considering how much wealth Warren Buffett has extracted from society, he doesn’t come anywhere close to contributing his fair share to the nation.
Over a five year period, Buffett grew his wealth by $24.3 billion but paid just 0.10% tax on it:
Even by “standard” tax accounting ($23.7M / $125M income), he’s paying just 18.9% income tax… far less than the average working family.
Sure, Buffett admits that the tax system needs fixing.
But pushing words out of your mouth isn’t nearly enough to create actual equality in society — not when billionaires and their corporations control the very Congress that’s supposed to tax and regulate them.
Warren Buffett has, in fact, popularized a new tax evasion model by which most billionaires now avoid paying the costs of civilization:
“Buffett has famously held onto his stock in the company he founded, Berkshire Hathaway. That has allowed Buffett to largely avoid transforming his wealth into income. Berkshire does not pay a dividend, [which has enabled him to avoid] hundreds of millions in taxes each year.
Many Silicon Valley and infotech companies have emulated Buffett’s model, eschewing stock dividends… companies like Microsoft and Oracle offered shareholders rocketing growth and profits but did not pay dividends. Google, Facebook, Amazon and Tesla do not pay dividends.”
The end result?
More than half of all American billionaire wealth is now permanently held as unrealized gains — totally untaxable by the public, yet billionaires can borrow cheaply against their wealth to fund their absurdly lavish lifestyles and weaponize their wealth to amass ever more power and control of the global economy.
Whether billionaire sycophants like it or not, we clearly need a billionaire wealth tax because elites no longer trigger income tax, dividends tax, and capital gains tax.
But he’s giving all his money to charity!
No, friends, he’s not.
True charity directly helps the poorest people in society.
Philanthrocapitalism isn’t charity.
It’s an expression of power that leads to a transfer of power to the elites.
Philanthrocapitalism is a means by which billionaire elites evade taxation, retain their family wealth perpetually, and control the fates of millions of others by shaping public policy. (Buffett’s business partner, in fact, is currently building a dystopian college dorm that doesn’t have windows.)
The vast majority of Buffett’s wealth will end up in the hands of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This is the same institution that’s lobbying hard for Orwellian digital surveillance Covid passports (paper ones will do, Bill), gives billions in grants to private companies, wants us all to eat lab-grown synthetic meat, and plans to geoengineer the planet by blotting out the stars.
Let’s face it, billionaire charity is just another rich-person swindle — a desperate attempt to salve the masses and keep them from demanding a real social safety net. We don’t need their peanuts in charity; we need them to pay their taxes.
And remember: for every “decent” philanthropic billionaire, there are ten Saudi dictators, libertarian surveillance-loving anarcho-capitalists like Peter Thiel, and oil magnates like Charles Koch, whose foundations rammed through Citizens United — the horrendous democracy-destroying Supreme Court ruling that make corporations human beings in the eyes of the law.
So much for “charity.”
We need a new global economic system
“Mr. Buffett is actually the most dangerous kind of billionaire we have. The worst billionaires are the Good Billionaires. The sort who make it seem like the problem is the distortion of the system when, in fact, the problem is the system. The [current] system is a set of social arrangements that make it possible for anyone to gain and guard and keep so much wealth, even as millions of others lack for food, work, housing, health, connectivity, education, dignity…” — Anand Giridharadas, The New York Times
This raises an interesting question:
What, exactly, has Warren Buffett contributed to society that warrants his $100+ billion net worth?
The answer: Rich people gave him their money, he used it to purchase extraction machines (called corporations), and then used the profits to buy more extraction machines.
By comparison, the average worker in one of the companies Buffett controls (you know, the active contributors who create 100% of the value of the stock) making $20 per hour, would have to work full-time for 2.5 million years to actually earn the wealth Buffett possesses.
(Conversely, if Berkshire Hathaway was equally owned by its 360,000 employees, every single one would be a millionaire.)
Clearly, our system isn’t working for achieving any sense of fairness, care for the planet, dignity for the productive contributor workers, or widest-spread wellbeing.
And that’s the real goal, isn’t it?
Forget this dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest, winner-take-all-loser-dies-in-poverty nonsense.
We’re a literal family, and we need to start acting like it.
Despite the actual facts surrounding Warren Buffett’s life work, I still can’t find a way to dislike him.
He’s just too cute.
His hagiographers have created an aura that seems almost impenetrable.
It’s the most dangerous kind of marketing in the world.
The kind that makes us believe billionaires are somehow moral and good, even when the literal math shows they are extractive, exploitative, anti-human criminals.
And the whole world seems to have fallen for it.