Reflections on Post-Capitalism, Political Entrepreneurialism, and the Bernanke Contrarian Index

­Welcome to Capital Account. We've heard billionaire investor Warren Buffett saying the rich should be taxed more. That he should be taxed more. He's made the case very publicly and with much fanfare, saying he pays 17.7% in taxes, a lower tax rate than his secretary…and not just his secretary…all of his office staff. Sounds impressive, but our guest today asks if we should slap a warning label on each one of Buffett's public pronouncements as well. Before we get into the matter at hand, let's look back at a little history. Back in 2003, for example, Buffett was warning everyone about the value of the dollar, the nation's debt, and his belief that the US was exporting its net worth abroad. He wrote an article warning about this exact issue back in 2003…the famous "squanderville vs. thriftville." The article was titled "America's Growing Trade Deficit is Selling the Nation out from Under Us." The US, of course, was Squanderville. Warren Buffett wrote, among other things, that sooner or later the Squanderville government, facing ever greater payments to service debt, would decide to embrace highly inflationary policies – that is, to issue more squander bucks to dilute the value of each. But fast forward to the 2008 financial crisis and Buffett was not worrying about the debt-increasing-bailouts of the financial system; he was advocating for them. Remember how he pushed for TARP? This was the treasury's action plan which Hank Paulson was pushing. This was before it was passed by congress and signed into law by Bush, but after it had failed in the House the first time around. Warren seemed a little flustered during those "free market" hours…

While speaking to Charlie Rose during an interview on October 1st, 2008, Warren Buffet said: I don’t know who the next Treasury secretary will be. I would say this – I would – they hate this term in Washington, obviously, but I would hand something pretty close to a blank check to a fellow like Hank Paulson…[taken from a statement made later in the same interview] he’s got the interest of the country at heart. That pretty much sums up the crony capitalism that we are talking about. Warren Buffett wanted to give his boy at the treasury and former Goldman alumni Hank Paulson a blank check so he could bailout his company and everything that Warren had invested his money in. Nice. Before TARP was passed, Buffett had invested 5 billion dollars to save Goldman Sachs, it was announced in September of 2008. And then he's out there advocating a bailout for the banks after it failed the first time. A bailout of banks he now has a stake in. What happened to squanderville and the devaluing US dollar? Oh well…

But what is Warren Buffett really trying to achieve with his "tax the rich" pronouncements? Our guest, contributing editor of the daily reckoning, Eric Fry, recently wrote: Warren Buffett has not become a latter-day tax crusader so that he can pay his “fair share”; he has become a crusader so that he can continue plundering his unfair share of tax receipts and crony favoritism. By lending his reputation to the “tax fairness” crusade, Buffett legitimizes the progressive/socialist agendas that tickle the fancy of so many political leaders. As a result, Buffett endears himself to those with the power to advance his financial interests.

We have Eric Fry on the show to expand on his thoughts, and to tell us where, in this post-capitalism America, pockets of free-market forces may still be at work. One is the housing market.

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