Speaking to CNBC at Berkshire Hathaway's special shareholder meeting, billionaire Warren Buffett blasted President Obama's proposed tax on the nation's largest banks, and had some oddly optimistic words on the souring housing market.
Buffett's argument against tax, which is laid out in the below video, is that the levy unfairly punishes banks for the losses forced upon taxpayers during the bailout of the auto industry. The largest banks, Buffett said, have already paid back the government with interest. Separately, Buffett told Bloomberg that he "didn't see any reasons why the banks should have to pay a special tax," and questioned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had not been asked to pay similar fees.
(Keep in mind, however, that Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway owns an enormous stake in Wells Fargo, and large investments in Bank Of America and Goldman Sachs, all of which would fall under Obama's proposed tax.)
"If it's some kind of guilt tax or something of that sort because banks were among the [firms] that were saved back in 2008, everybody was taken care of then. And the banks, basically, somebody like Wells [Fargo], it's cost them a lot of money to be in the TARP and it was basically forced upon them. They didn't want to take the money, but really had no choice...The government's made a lot of money off Wells. They've made a lot of money off Goldman. They've made a lot of money off JPMorgan. And where they're at going to lose money, at least where it's possible they'll lose money, is in the auto companies."
Responding to the news that new housing starts in 2009 were the worst since WWII, Buffett said, "You want to have a bad number for a while."
He added, "We had more supply than demand for three of four years in housing. Buffett's not alone in his contention that the housing market is badly weighed down by an inventory overhang, which basically means far too many houses were built during the boom years.
Buffett's solution? Let the housing market continue to languish and build fewer houses. Or, he joked: "You could get 13-year-olds to start cohabitating and create more households that way -- and I think we'd get a lot of volunteers among 13-year-olds."
Here's more from Buffett:
"We could have a cash for clunkers program on housing. If we would blow up 3 or 4 million houses today, the housing shortage would be over... if you have an inventory overhang. You have to have demand be greater than supply for a significant period of time. And we're well on our way to that."
WATCH Buffet's take on the housing market:
WATCH the full interview: