Warren Buffett has never been out so much on television as he has been in the last two years. Usually, we see him once a year during his annual quirky shareholders' meeting in Omaha. The interesting thing is that Berkshire has never been in such a dubious position as it has been over the same period. Yes, I'm aware that Berkshire has been profitable lately. Do you remember how much Buffett was insisting on the need for bank bailouts? He had vested interests, real skin in the game.
There seems to be a correlation with the once reclusive billionaire investor and the now very talkative one. Buffett talks health care today as an typical politician in a back and forth wiggle room position, rejecting the current bill while saying that other countries--mostly socialized countries I might add--do it better. The world pays about 9 percent of their GDP on health care he noted. We pay 17 percent.
Buffett says that we should "attack cost cost cost" as "jobs jobs jobs." But he doesn't suggest how these things might be done. Real lawmakers, not obstructionists, are in the real position of dealing with how things are done. Often times, comprises are necessary. I did not like the tone Buffett took on President Obama's effort of bipartisanship and how beginning anew with that infamous "white sheet of paper" is out of the question.
Regarding the health care bill, Buffett says that he would prefer a Plan C as opposed to the current A or B but he doesn't say how this Plan C would look or why his ideas -- whatever they are -- could be added to the current bill. His uncertainty or inability to actually express what he means did not instill confidence.
The Oracle of Omaha seemed to be a bit of red meat for the giddy often ill-informed CNBC analysts who tried to force him to say what he was actually saying as opposed to dancing like an inept dancer. Perhaps Buffett felt as if he needed to make a television appearance as George Soros did brilliantly yesterday on Fareed Zakaria GPS. It did not work well for him.
An article in the Huffington Post reports that "Berkshire owns clothing, furniture, jewelry and corporate jet firms, but its insurance and utility businesses accounted for one-third of the company's profit last year. It's net income jumped 61 percent in 2009 to $8.1 billion largely because the value of its investments and derivatives rose sharply."
As I read this I couldn't help but to wonder if Berkshire is so very profitable as Goldman Sachs now is through government bailouts of Wall Street firms. (Yes, I understood the necessity of the bailouts, although not the lack of accountability.) Goldman Sachs is now also reporting record profits. After all, Berkshire was heavily invested in Goldman Sachs and Goldman Sachs heavily insured by AIG. As indicated above "insurance and utility accounted for one-third of the company's profits last year." A question: Are banks essentially utilities?
What a web we are all in. But some of us get caught therein while others win big, lecturing us on what we need to do without offering any real solutions on how to do it. There is cost control containment in the current health care bill, although perhaps there could be more. Some would say that the public option would insure greater cost containment.
While being for the public option, it is not a deal breaker for me in this first stage of health care reform. Changes to Medicare have also occurred over time. But if Warren Buffett has an opinion on what needs to be further included in the current health care bill he should say so or otherwise not comment at all. After all, he is known to be the Oracle of Omaha and some might just listen to him. But what has he really said in this CNBC interview?