Warren Buffett says GOP health reform bills are relief for the rich


JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the second part of my
conversation with billionaire Warren Buffett. I spoke with him last week in Omaha last week
at the Nebraska Furniture Mart, the largest furniture store in America. It is just one
small piece of a huge portfolio of investments owned by his company, Berkshire Hathaway,
but one that Buffett takes particular pride in as part of his legacy. Both the Senate and House Republican health
care reform bills would roll back taxes that are part of Obamacare. Buffett has taken issue
with that. And that’s where my conversation picks up. One of the things the Republicans are looking
at, as you know very well, is doing away with the so-called Obamacare surcharge on people
earning a higher income. WARREN BUFFETT, Chairman and CEO, Berkshire
Hathaway: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Republicans are looking
at taking that away, or doing away with that, which would mean a tax cut, you have said… WARREN BUFFETT: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: … for people like you. WARREN BUFFETT: Yes. Well, I brought my tax return along for the
last year. I filed this on April 15. And if the Republican — well, if the bill that passed
the House with 217 votes had been in effect this year, I would have saved — I can give
you the exact figure. I would have saved $679,999, or over 17 percent of my tax bill. There’s nothing ambiguous about that. I will
be given a 17 percent tax cut. And the people it’s directed at are couples with $250,000
or more of income. You could entitle this, you know, Relief for the Rich Act or something,
because it — I have got friends where it would have saved them as much as — it gets
into the $10-million-and-up figure. But I might point out — it might be an interesting
question. I think members of the Senate and the House get $174,000 a year. But most of
them have — if you look at the disclosures, they have substantial other income. If they
get to higher than $250,000, as a married couple, or $200,000 as a single person, they
have given themselves a big, big tax cut, if they — if they voted for this. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of taxes, let’s
just use that as an entry point to talk about it. You shared some of your tax return with us
for 2016. Thank you very much. WARREN BUFFETT: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: But before I ask you about
that, how wealthy are you? I mean, I’m reading that you’re $77 billion? WARREN BUFFETT: Ninety-nine percent of my
net worth is in Berkshire Hathaway stock. Every share of that stock has been pledged
to philanthropy. So, I’m a trustee for that stock. So, it will
go to society. And then the rest will as well. But if you add up what’s in my name, if we
go down to my safe deposit box, we will find some stock certificates that are worth that
much. But as I — you know, I have written, they
have no utility to me. They can’t do anything to make me happier. I’m already happy. I would
be happy with, you know — certainly with $100,000 a year, I could be very happy. And
they can’t buy anything for me that I want. If they did, I would buy it. And they do have utility to others, so I have
got this system to essentially try and translate that into vaccines and education and all of
that sort of thing. JUDY WOODRUFF: The reason I bring that up,
Warren Buffett, is that that’s your wealth, your worth. And yet, on your tax return, you
earned $19 million-something. WARREN BUFFETT: Right. JUDY WOODRUFF: Nineteen-and-a-half million
last year. Your effective tax rate was 16.3 percent,
which — we looked it up. This is what an average couple, a married couple, no children,
taking the standard deduction would pay on an income of $136,000. In other words, a couple
who earned — you earn 143 times more than they do, but your tax rate is the same as
theirs. WARREN BUFFETT: Yes, I have pointed that out
in past, in the past. And it’s even worse than you say, Judy, because
you’re looking at what that couple would pay in federal income tax. But they are also paying
payroll taxes, in overwhelming cases. And my cleaning lady has a 15 percent tax, you
know, just from Social — just from the Social Security that she and her employer pay, but
it’s kind of incredible. And now they want to cut it. No, they want
to cut it for me. I mean, you know, they — I don’t look like somebody that deserves a cut. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, they — the Republicans
are talking about lowering taxes… WARREN BUFFETT: Absolutely. JUDY WOODRUFF: … on the… WARREN BUFFETT: They want to cut my tax 17
percent. They saw those figures and were shocked that I was paying that much, apparently. (LAUGHTER) JUDY WOODRUFF: But, among other things, they’re
talking about doing away with some of the — some of the deductions, charitable deductions,
maybe, mortgage deductions, maybe, state and local tax — taxes paid as deductions. Do you have a thought about all those? WARREN BUFFETT: Well, you can’t really talk
about specifics without looking at the whole thing. But if they’re talking about making it revenue-neutral,
you know, I think if they’re going to make it revenue-neutral, it ought to be — it ought
to be something other than revenue-neutral to the guys like me. Our rates should go up,
allowing others to go down somewhat. I think there ought to be minimum taxes for
people that make $10 million a year, and a different one at a million a year, but certainly
at $10 million a year. JUDY WOODRUFF: They also, as you know, want
to tackle business corporate tax rates. They’re talking about the current corporate rate,
lowering it from 35 percent to 15 percent? The president has talked about — I guess
Speaker Paul Ryan this week said 20 percent. What would that mean for you if… WARREN BUFFETT: Well, it would mean, for Berkshire,
in all probability, that we would pay less in U.S. federal income taxes. But until you see the final thing, you can’t
tell. Berkshire Hathaway is the second largest corporation on the Fortune 500 this year.
I don’t know any case where our competitiveness is being hurt by the federal income tax rate
on corporations. JUDY WOODRUFF: Estate taxes, a thought about
that? WARREN BUFFETT: Oh, estate taxes, I mean,
I — you hear people call it the death tax. There are going to be two-and-a-half million
people die in the United States this year. How many estate tax returns are there going
to be? Probably about 5,000. And the interesting thing is, if I talked to somebody about welfare
mothers or something like that, they say how debilitating it is to have these food stamps,
and it takes away their incentive to do anything. If a kid comes out of the right womb in this
country, they have got food stamps for their rest of their life. They just call them stocks
and bonds. And their welfare officer is their trust officer. I mean, I think I — I think having a significant
estate tax that starts at a fair-sized level is — if you’re going to have to raise $3.5
trillion, I think that’s a good source of revenue, and that I — it shouldn’t apply
to, you know, 99 percent of the people. JUDY WOODRUFF: You have been very — I mean,
very open about your own taxes, and people have taken a look at that, and they have also
looked at Berkshire Hathaway. It has been pointed out that Berkshire Hathaway does take
advantage of the legal ability to defer taxes, and… WARREN BUFFETT: Sure. Well, that’s because… JUDY WOODRUFF: And I saw a number, something
like $75 billion in deferred taxes? WARREN BUFFETT: Well, that’s we haven’t cashed
things that we — just like you, if you have got a stock that’s gone up a whole lot, until
you sell it. But that’s just the law. And we’re going to
— we don’t have any of the Cayman Islands or anything like that stuff. But we follow
the law, and we got a million shareholders. And I think they probably expect us to do
that. That doesn’t mean I don’t think the law shouldn’t be changed in some way. But I follow the law in terms of my personal
return. I do not send an extra $5 million to the Treasury. JUDY WOODRUFF: Your philanthropy, we have
talked about it a little bit. It’s legendary. You and Bill Gates, Melinda Gates have come
together and, I guess, broken all records imaginable for giving. At the same time, it’s being pointed out that
you’re also making — you first made that pledge, what, 10, 11 years ago. WARREN BUFFETT: 2006, yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: 2006. You’re now making so much more even than you
did then. People are saying, well, wait a minute, you know, is he going to be giving
more away? How do you think about that? WARREN BUFFETT: Well, I have got it set up
so that, if I make more, I do give more, because I’m giving on a schedule, and that schedule
ends 10 years after I die. So, it’s all — so I’m not setting up — and,
actually, they can’t use it for endowments or anything. It has to be spent within 10
years, really, after my estate’s closed, but call it after I die. JUDY WOODRUFF: How much influence do you think
you had on other, others with wealth, with means to give, to be as generous as you have
been? WARREN BUFFETT: Well, a lot of people come
back to me on that. And basically, I said, you know, if you’re
extremely rich, and you have got children, my theory was, you give them enough so they
can do anything, but not enough so they can do nothing. And I have had more people come
back to it, so, apparently I was smarter in 1980, whatever it was, than I am now. But
that seemed to have some influence. JUDY WOODRUFF: Are you comfortable today with
what you’re giving? I mean, does it feel… WARREN BUFFETT: It’s exactly what I wanted
to do. JUDY WOODRUFF: Does it feel like the right
thing to be doing right now? WARREN BUFFETT: It’s the right thing. It’s
the right thing, because it’s going — it’s going to people who believe, as the Gates,
for example, that every life is of equal value. I mean, the truth is, I have got a lot of
wealth, little pieces of paper, says Berkshire Hathaway on it. They are claim checks on all
kinds of goods and services in the world. They can buy anything. I can buy 400-foot
yachts and have 20 homes and all that. I wouldn’t be happier. But they can buy anything. And once they move into the hands of people
who are working like hell on getting something accomplished in areas I want them to — you
know, I love the idea of getting them used, and that’s what they’re doing. JUDY WOODRUFF: You said it wouldn’t make you
happy to have a hundred, 200 homes and yachts and so forth. What does make Warren Buffett
happy? WARREN BUFFETT: I just have a lot of fun doing
my job. I mean, I can do anything I want, basically,
as long as it doesn’t involve athletic ability, or something like that. (LAUGHTER) WARREN BUFFETT: But if it’s something I can
buy, I can buy anything, basically. I have been on 400-foot yachts, and I have
— I have lived the life a little bit with people that have 10 homes and everything.
And I live in the same house I bought in 1958. And if I could spend $100 million on a house
that would make me a lot happier, I would do it. But, for me, that’s the happiest House In
the world. And it’s because it’s got memories, and people come back, and all that sort of
thing. So, I am doing what I love to do with people I love. And it doesn’t get any better
than that, Judy. And — but I should be. I mean, why in the
hell — why should I be working at 86 at something that I don’t like or with people I don’t like? JUDY WOODRUFF: And I see you’re drinking a
Cherry Coke. WARREN BUFFETT: Right. JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you stay healthy? WARREN BUFFETT: Well, I think I stay healthy
partly by being happy, actually. I think that — I think it really helps if
your stomach isn’t grinding all the time, and you’re doing things you don’t want to
do, or you’re working with people that — you know? So I have gone very light on the diet
advice. I eat like a normal 6-year-old, but if you
look at the mortality statistics, I mean, 6-year-olds don’t die very often. (LAUGHTER) WARREN BUFFETT: I mean, the diet’s doing something
for them. JUDY WOODRUFF: How much sleep do you get? WARREN BUFFETT: I get quite a bit of sleep.
I like to sleep. So I will usually sleep eight hours a night,
and that — no, I have no desire to get to work at 4:00 in the morning. JUDY WOODRUFF: So many people look at you
and they think, oh, my goodness, this man, he’s accomplished so much. He’s been so successful.
He’s 86 years old, and he’s still going strong. WARREN BUFFETT: I love it. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what do they — so, what’s
the secret? WARREN BUFFETT: The secret is to find what
you love to do. I mean, I tell the students look for the job
that you would take if you didn’t need a job. I mean, it’s that simple. And I was lucky
enough to find it very early in life. And then the second thing is to have people around
you that make feel good every day, and make you a better person than you otherwise would
be. I have more fun doing this than anything else
I can think of in the world, and I have seen a lot of other things you could do in the
world. JUDY WOODRUFF: Warren Buffett, thank you very
much. WARREN BUFFETT: Thank you, Judy. JUDY WOODRUFF: And he does come across as
a happy man. And, for the record, Warren Buffett is CEO
of Berkshire Hathaway, which owns BNSF Railway. It is one of the funders of the “NewsHour.”

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