Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fuck You, Warren Buffett

Dear Mr. Warren Buffett,

Thank you for your recent editorial, "Stop Coddling the Super Rich." I never thought you would write to me, part of a working class of people rarely recognized for their great contribution, a letter dictating to politicians what they should do with regard to The Super Rich. Some might say that your article should have been sent to the people it presumes to lecture, but that would not allow those who don't have so great a share in power to know the steel morals with which you handle the billionaire's reins.

Your sharing this simple human statement, so identifiable to the average Joe, reminds one of Henry V demonstrating that, although he descended from a divine line of kings with complete autocracy, based solely on domination and exploitation of labor via violent force, he wasn't above walking among the common dead, showing his radiant face as a final grace for those who suffered so much.

Your lightning bolt of righteousness descended as if thrown from Olympus, a modern Prometheus risking his immortality out of pity for mankind. It is as a blessing that I receive your vision, so highly esteemed in the press because you've spent your life as a scholar of the humanities, and can offer your accumulated wisdom, you’re a life long teacher, dedicated to the dispensation of wisdom to future generations, well-studied and with a real stake in humanity’s future, and you have a lot of money.

Stop Coddling the Super Rich. It's about time someone said it. And for it to be said by one of The Super Rich, well that proves its truth right there. Perhaps if some non-megabillionaire had suggested a similar idea, his voice would immediately be silenced as simply a jealous Joey, an envious Eric or even a covetous Carl. But your opinions are beyond reproach.

More touching still was the admission that many of The Super Rich are actually nice people. Whew! So many of us simply assumed, given every observable action ever, that these people were soulless liches, cackling at mankind’s misfortune in their Montgomery Burns Dracula castles. We thought they were sociopaths who owe as much of their success to cruelty and aggression as to insight and performance. We thought they — non-national, untouchable, controlling more wealth than many countries of the world — enjoyed and expected only the absolute best things that mankind has found for itself in its history. I admit, it is possible that, because of this mistaken impression, some of us may have harbored a shred of resentment at the mere existence of The Super Rich, believing them an affront to humanity, a stomping boot in the face of every starving, bleeding third-worlder, to every wage slave first-worlder, to every noble and brave idea of which we have ever conceived.

But I think we can breathe a collective sigh of relief, knowing that instead of these assimilative furnaces of indifferent power, they (you) are just decent folks, trying to get by in this world the same as the rest. And to know that of all the many Super Rich you know, you think most of them would be happy to take one for the team to help get this sometimes ridiculous country back on its feet? Well, sir, that brought an exclamation of delight from me and everyone else in this country, apart from the Donnie Downer types of Appalachia, who sit in healthcare-free funks — all breath a whisper, save for when it ejects bloodied sputum from their blackened lungs, from decades of employment in the sorts of coal mines owned by nice people.

You're unlikely, too, to hear from those who have lost their jobs to offshoring, outsourcing and cost-saving, profit-maximizing tactics that move manufacturing to China and other countries where one can take advantage of civil rights violations, inhuman wages and corrupt, complicit governments. Pessimists would see this as your friends annihilating an entire stratum of American jobs, turning cities like Detroit to burned-out ruins, but no one really listens to them anyway. An optimist knows this is corporatist beneficence designed to honor the late 19th century's engine of safe, American industry, "The China-Man."

Your letter made it clear that politicians were in the wrong, that the elected officials cannot help but coddle The Super Rich, given how much they rely on them to fund their campaigns, offer them seven figure post-public office positions, and keep the economy running smoothly. Their cowardice prevents their stepping up to The Super Rich, as one would to a pet tiger, and demanding that the portion of wealth they contribute to the overall good of humanity be a marginally larger insignificant sliver than it is now. You guys are ready and waiting, willing to have expert teams of CPAs find slightly fewer tax loopholes, because hell, the difference probably won't even attain significant digits once the financial statements are rounded up for you. Assuming you even live in the United States and base your company within reach of its tax laws.

So again, thank you, sir, for being the one Super Rich who really cares about our country. A Super Wealthy Elite for the people, if you will. I hope those fatcats in Washington take your article as seriously as the American people have. Then perhaps we can finally see some "change." Until then, we will wait patiently for the next dispatch to lead us inexorably toward prosperity and enlightenment.

Then again, perhaps you've done enough. Negative Nancies might argue that philanthropy is simply the right hand of capitalism, its moral pressure valve, divesting The Super Rich of their guilt over the means by which they hoard wealth, offering the public carefully staged signs of humanity in an otherwise mechanistic and amoral system, but I like to think of it as good folks pitching in.

Perhaps then it's time to return to divesting yourself of your billion-dollar fortune before you die. Funding the charities of your choice affords you a philanthropic immortality, keeping your hand on the levers of power and advancement long after death, while keeping that fortune away from the predatory and anonymizing hands of the American Estate Tax.

Sincerely,

Mark Brendle
Grateful Commoner


13 comments:

  1. General Ze'evi reminded me of something I forgot: that Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway invested in Goldman Sachs pretty much right as the economy was cratering. In his words: "10% dividend yield for doing little more than parking 10 billion dollars of money in goldman sachs to gain investor trust, stamping the Berkshire Hathaway brand on Lloyd Blankfein's criminal ass for a 10 percent vig."

    Next time you labor to create anything that the market doesn't value instantly redeemable for boats and whores, remember that this dude made about half a billion dollars for parking his money in an investment that carried with it the tremendous risk of being the former employer of the outgoing Secretary of the Treasury and a company that was paid an astonishing 100 cents on the dollar from its bankrupt debtors (via TARP), at the behest of the (then likely) incoming Secretary of the Treasury.

    Such an uncertain future. But, you know, that's gambling for you.

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  2. anonymous dos not forgive

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  3. Oof, man. I generally like your blog because you're quite a bit farther left than me, but you're funny, make good points, and don't get intellectually lazy. Your guest bloggers are almost always really bad at all three of those. This reads like uninformed teen angst and straw men. Would have loved to read Mobute's take on Buffet, but not this.

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  4. I don't know what to tell you about the other writers. I copy edit everybody; I sometimes add my own bits to the "Briefs Rodeo"; General Ze'evi and I were influenced by the same writers (and he knows more about the Middle East than any of my college professors did), and I've essentially been doing a Mr. Awesome impression for a couple years now. I really respect Brendle's grasp of film. So maybe give the guest writers more of a chance, because I have a lot of input, share interests with them or may even have contributed something, depending.

    As for the comments on Buffett, I share Brendle's and unfortunately don't see the flaws you're spotting. I deeply resent the imperial breadcrumbs from the table of the powerful, as if it delights Buffett to be so expansive at this moment. He has, over his career, flirted with these quasi-populist gestures in between long murky periods of investment predation on the life of the American polity. By investing in Goldman when he did, he only gave lifeblood to the same parasite that helped to continue draining value from the American people. Now he's so gracious as to offer to pay a pretty little nothing of a tax increase? Fuck him. It's not for him to say. It's not his power or privilege to dispense the approval of an extreme minority to endorse the will of the vast majority. Buffett can sit back and accept what happens to him.

    That he's willing to concede what is sure to be a proposed 3% tax increase is fucking squalid. If he wanted to sound reasonable, he'd have proposed a return to the Nixon-era tax levels. If he wanted to sound progressive, he'd have proposed Eisenhower. All he's really interested in is the sound of his own voice. There is nothing of substance there.

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  5. First off, I'm sorry for being "an anonymous douchebag on the internet" by writing anything at all, and I'm especially annoyed with myself for doing that on a website that I generally like and want to support. So I'll take my comments off the air after this:

    There was far more content in your two comments than there was in Brendle's entire piece. You could have deleted about half of his paragraphs wholesale without losing anything of value. More importantly: I genuinely had no idea what criticism of Buffet's NYT piece was being offered. "Rich people are assholes" seemed like the extent of it, which is hardly enlightening or even really a response. "He should have encouraged genuinely progressive taxation" is a worthwhile argument...which isn't in the piece.

    I'm curious as to what writers influenced you--Brendle linked Taibbi, who always seemed to me like the kind of awful hack that you'd go off on here.

    Like I said, I like your blog because it's informative, well-written, funny and smart even when we're not politically eye-to-eye. This post was not.

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  6. Mark gets mad: the article.

    (It was good)

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  7. This shit is gold....and I know you think it's impossible for shit to be gold but I've been taking Alchemy classes at DeVry so there you have it.

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  8. I think it was well written, even if I don't agree with it. Sure he spit in our face and told us it was rain, but I honestly think we should take what we can get and hope for more. Progessivism is a long road through a freshly fertilized field, looking for spots not covered in horse shit wastes too much valuable time.

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  9. How about instead of condescendingly dismissing this as 'covered in horse shit' you actually spell out what you don't like about it

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  10. I agree with you, Mobutu, but from a political perspective its helpful to the progressive agenda right now, if only to assuage the millions of Americans who continually buy the notion that these 'job-creators' will leave with their 'jobs' for overseas if we raise their taxes. Whenever someone not super-rich says these things, he's shouted down as a class-warrior.

    I don't think Buffett should have said, "raise my taxes from 36 to 39," but just simply "raise my taxes," as even 39 is too low in my opinion but I think the left prefers to be right even at the cost of efficacy, whereas conservatives clearly see this all as one big game...

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  11. The spots in the road are covered in horseshit. In this case, Buffet advocating a good position in writing but in reality offering only the slightest of actual help. Articles like this one rightfully attack Buffet for being disingenuous, but from a practical standpoint simply championing Buffet's words is more effective for raising taxes on the rich.

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  12. I think it was well written, even if I don't agree with it. Sure he spit in our face and told us it was rain, but I honestly think we should take what we can get and hope for more.
    And...

    I agree with you, Mobutu, but from a political perspective its helpful to the progressive agenda right now
    I agree with both of you guys/girls/non-gender-binary/whatever.

    My attitude, and I think this is Mark's as well, is not that this is not helpful and that progressives shouldn't capitalize on it and use it as rhetorical leverage. I think that both of our attitudes is that the Democratic party and its flacks' response of "THANK YOU! WE AGREE!" is entirely the wrong tactic to adopt. The approach that should be taken is, "We're right; every western nation other than the United States knows we're right; objective, recorded history knows we're right, and for good measure, this billionaire success story agrees."

    Too many articles and too many pundits took this as an opportunity not to point up that it was Buffett's job as a reasonable person who understands economic and political reality to agree with what is already manifestly necessary and true, but rather to say that he gave poor people and progressives the green light to agree with him. The point isn't that the mighty have given us permission. The point is that it's irrelevant whether one of a class of 500 agrees with the imperatives of 299,999,500 others. The point is that it's nice of him to get on board, but we outnumber and should outclass him regardless.

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Et tu, Mr. Destructo? is a politics, sports and media blog whose purpose is to tell jokes or be really right about things. All of us have real jobs and don't need the hassle that telling jokes here might occasion, which is why some contributors find it more tasteful to pretend to be dead mass murderers.