Wednesday, March 02, 2011

More Warren Buffett Cornpone on CNBC This Morning

This morning was a good one to skip watching CNBC. I don't know how often they do this each year, but it's one of those marathon Buffett chuckle-manias from Omaha. Becky Quick sits there with him and he pontificates on lots of subjects about which he knows little more than anyone else. Given the setting and someone's recent reference to Buffett's annual shareholders' letter, I assume Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting is the occasion.

Much of the time is wasted by Buffett saying things which are patently obvious, e.g., Steve Jobs is a uniquely-talented and successsful entrepreneur with a gift for "knowing what we want before we know we wanted it."

That's when he's not contradicting actual experts in a field, such as mortgage banking. Last week, on David Faber's noontime program, industry veteran and CMO pioneer, one-time Salomon Brother's Vice-Chairman Lew Ranieri cited a market overhang of unsold homes which, I believe, was far larger than the one year cited by Buffett as the date by which said inventory will be gone.

And, of course, it's all done with that annoying aw shucks guffaw. I don't know which would drive me insane faster, constantly being subjected to Buffett's trademark country guffaw or Maria Bartiromo's lisp.

But on one subject, Buffett is positively misleading.

Only about 15 minutes ago, he railed against perceived income inequality in the US. His evidence?

Buffett pulled out some apparently IRS-sourced document, and had Becky Quick read off some numbers. Buffett alleged that in the past few years, the 400th largest AGI on a tax return soared from about $43MM to $340MM or so. Buffett then contended that the associated tax rate on that 400th return fell over time, too.

Unfortunately, as you may read here, the subject is much more complex than Buffett either understands or acknowledges. Add to Reynolds' arguments the fact that many private enterprises show up for tax purposes as schedules on an individual 1040 return, and you blow Buffett's contention out of the water.

But this is CNBC, so Buffett's every aside or chuckle must be fawned over. No matter how misinformed or misguided it may be.

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