Thursday, March 14, 2013

Political Diary: What Does Buffett Really Think of Obama? -

Political Diary: What Does Buffett Really Think of Obama? -

What Does Buffett Really Think of Obama?

Warren Buffett is President Obama's most important ally in the business community. A signature Obama proposal to raise taxes, the Buffett Rule, even bears the name of the billionaire investor. And the president has frequently appealed to the authority of Mr. Buffett to defend his own policies. But statements this week from Mr. Buffett suggest that he's not entirely sold on those Obama policies.

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Assistant editorial page editor James Freeman on Warren Buffett's op-ed in the New York Times supporting raising rates on individuals earning more than $500,000. Photos: Associated Press
In a New York Times op-ed published Sunday, Mr. Buffett opposed tax increases on those making less than $500,000. This undercutting of the Obama agenda occurs just as Mr. Obama is negotiating a tax deal and trying to force Republicans to accept rate hikes beginning on households making $250,000.
Then Mr. Buffett appeared Monday in a TV interview with Charlie Rose and sang the praises of J.P. Morgan Chase JPM +1.67% CEO Jamie Dimon as a potential Treasury Secretary. Mr. Dimon has been conspicuous among bank CEOs for criticizing the president's economic policies, and in particular financial regulations flowing from the 2010 Dodd-Frank law.
But Mr. Buffett called Mr. Dimon "terrific" and told Mr. Rose, "If we did run into problems in markets, I think he'd actually be the best person you could have in the job."
Warren Buffett may be Mr. Obama's top cheerleader in the business community, but he appears to disagree with tax and regulatory policies at the center of the Obama agenda. Does this make Mr. Buffett hypocritical? No more so than does his advocacy of the Buffett Rule, given how little of his own fortune he exposes to taxation.