America is already great
Warren Buffett, an investment strategist worth $76,5 billion, is known as one of the wealthiest people in the world. But, it turns out, he has a hidden talent as an Olympic thrower of shade. The Berkshire Hathaway CEO recently sent out his annual letter for 2017 featuring more zingers aimed at Donald Trump than a Comedy Central roast, it was coded in the discrete language of a billionaire gentleman. In a few hundred words, he took down Trump’s flawed, protectionist economic plan, instead focusing on the sticking point Buffett has been making since Trump’s nomination: America is already great.
“One word sums up our country’s achievements: miraculous. From a standing start 240 years ago—a span of time less than triple my days on earth—Americans have combined human ingenuity, a market system, a tide of talented and ambitious immigrants, and the rule of law to deliver abundance beyond any dreams of our forefathers.”
Buffett’s investors have come to enjoy his yearly takes that combine a generally optimistic worldview with barbed wit. In a 2009 post-recession letter, he made sure to show his distaste at the market undervaluing Berkshire stock, saying, “Charlie and I enjoy issuing Berkshire stock about as much as we relish prepping for a colonoscopy.” This year, he appropriately focused his eye on immigration and the future of the global economy. (Note: He uses the word “foreigners” here in that old-timey grampa way that we’re going to decide to be ok with.)
“Foreigners, of course, own or have claims on a modest portion of our wealth,” writes Buffett. “Those holdings, however, are of little importance to our national balance sheet: Our citizens own assets abroad that are roughly comparable in value.”
Buffett has gone after Trump before. During the election, he called out the presidential candidate for refusing to reveal his tax returns. Now, Buffett slyly rejects Trump’s foremost financial strategy as president: economic nationalism. Trump’s take is if our country limits trade deals to exclusive, bilateral agreements with particular nations that work most to the United State’s advantage (such as China), our nation’s economy will grow exponentially. The only problem is, according to basic economics, that doesn’t work. Free trade, which Buffett is a proponent of, is seen by economists as a boon for all parties almost across the board.
“You need not be an economist to understand how well our system has worked,” he writes. “Just look around you. See the 75 million owner-occupied homes, the bountiful farmland, the 260 million vehicles, the hyperproductive factories, the great medical centers, the talent-filled universities, you name it—they all represent a net gain for Americans from the barren lands, primitive structures, and meager output of 1776.”
In other words, we’re better off than we have been for generations. What’s more, the subtext from one of the most powerful men in the world is at odds with the commander in chief where it matters most: on just how much immigrants mean to our country and on economic policy.
Our money is on the guy who endorses a forward-thinking economic landscape and who understands just how much free trade and immigration mean to the American economy.