Ever the economic optimist, Warren Buffett predicted Tuesday that America will continue to prosper and its leaders will resolve the nation’s “fiscal cliff” without serious harm to the economy.
Speaking on MSNBC and NBC and with public television interviewer Charlie Rose, Buffett also weighed in on who should be the next Treasury secretary and again urged Congress to set minimum tax rates for high-income people, some of whom he called “moochers” because they avoid paying taxes altogether.
Buffett, chairman and CEO of Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said ensuring that wealthy people like him pay fair taxes would not discourage them from creating jobs and would improve middle-class morale. He favors a 30 percent minimum tax on annual incomes between $1 million and $10 million and a 35 percent minimum above that.
He also called for federal spending cuts, but was not specific.
“I’m confident,” Buffett said when asked his feelings about the economy. “I can’t speak for others, but at Berkshire Hathaway, we buy and sell stocks every day. America’s a winner.”
He added that Berkshire Hathaway companies are investing $9 billion in plant equipment, breaking last year’s record spending.
Buffett suggested that Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., would be the best U.S. Treasury secretary in a financial crisis. Timothy Geithner plans to leave that post soon.
In an opinion article for Monday’s New York Times, Buffett said he supported Obama’s call for Congress to eliminate Bush-era tax cuts for high-income people but suggested a threshold of about $500,000 a year rather than the $250,000 Obama favors.
Buffett said wealthy investors don’t spurn job-creating business proposals because of tax rates: “Only in Grover Norquist’s imagination does such a response exist.”
That drew a response from Norquist, an anti-tax activist, who said on Fox News:
“When the government takes a dollar away from the American people, or a trillion dollars, that’s a trillion dollars not available to be saved and invested. And I’m sorry if Buffett can’t see that, but that’s kind of silly on his part.”
Buffett wrote in the Times two years ago that he and other wealthy Americans should pay tax rates at least as high as those paid by middle-income Americans, even if much of their income comes from investments now taxed at lower rates.
The Omaha World-Herald Co. is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
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