Warren and Me

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If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time you’ve no doubt noticed that there are some themes that repeat themselves over and over again.

There’s the one about the central importance of saving a good portion of your income.

There’s the one about the incredible power of small efforts repeated over long stretches of time.

There is the one about the importance of keeping your costs down when it comes to investing.

And it goes on.

In this way I’m not so different from my mother who I always make fun of for her tendency to repeat things. As an example if we are to eat a soup or a stew, it is almost impossible for her not to utter “you know, this is the type of dish that tastes even better the next day. ” She has imparted this very same wisdom to me at least 100 times, and yet each time she says it, her eyes sparkle with delight as she savors the privilege of being able to share this gem of hard earned wisdom with her only son for the very first time.


This is the sort of thing that tastes even better the next day.

The reason why I mention this is that you’ve no doubt noticed that one of the paradoxes that I love to address over and over again in this blog is the one about me being a full throated liberal/progressive, who loves figuring out new ways to legally avoid taxes.

My justification, of course, is that when you’re thinking about public policy it makes sense to support the approaches which are the most fair and beneficial to the greatest proportion of people in society (like progressive taxation.)

In our private lives, however, a more hard-nosed approach makes sense. Our job as individuals is to pursue rational economic decisions which are most beneficial to ourselves and our families individually. (And It is the job of the government to design policies that lead to the greatest good based on the assumption of this rationally self interested economic behavior of individuals.)

So you can imagine my delight to see this article from conservative columnist Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal.

In it he excoriates warren Buffett for the supposed hypocrisy of this statement.

“I will not pay a dime more in individual taxes than I owe, and I won’t pay a dime more in corporate taxes than we owe. And that’s very simple.”

Which is of course “hypocritical,” because Warren Buffett has had the temerity to suggest that it is not fair that his secretary pays a higher effective tax rate than he does as a investment billionaire.

Sound familiar?

Yes, it appears that yours truly, and the famous investor from Omaha are very much the same.

Unfortunately our similarity lies not in my ability to pick stocks or value companies.

Or in my impressive net worth.

Or  in my ability to keep it real, by drinking Diet Cokes, and eating McDonald’s cheeseburgers despite a net worth of multiple billions.

Or in my folksy charm that seduces both cheapskates like me, as well as Wall Street high-rollers and reporters.

No, The oracle of Omaha and I are just the same, in our ability to reconcile the distinction between intelligent decision-making as an individual, or corporation, and basic fairness when it comes to public tax policy.

And if that’s not impressive here’s a list of other ways that I am exactly like important historical figures.

  • Willie Mays and I are both Giants fans.
  • Elvis Presley and I both enjoy(ed) bananas and peanut butter.
  • Jesus Christ and I were both born Jewish sons of carpenters.
  • Barack Obama and I both lived in Hyde Park in Chicago and were affiliated with the University of Chicago.
  • Ghandi and I both enjoy(ed) vegetables.
  • George W Bush and I both like golf , drawing, and painting, and are/were completely unfit to be president.
  • Both Mozart and I had family members from Vienna.
  • Thomas Keller and I both cook.
  • Michael Jordan and I both lacked the talent to become regular major-league baseball players.
  • Albert Einstein and I were both mediocre at best in our fourth-grade math classes.
  • Charlie Parker and I both have/had experience playing wind instruments.
  • And Tiger Woods and I have both chipped in from off the green.

And if that list doesn’t convince you to keep on reading this blog, I don’t know what will.

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