Donate to Reason: Because We Don't Luxuriate in Warren Buffett's Oracular Musk!

If there is any publication that makes the journalism profession swoon, it's The New Yorker. Stable of cajillion-selling author Malcolm Gladwell and several score other staff writers, serial winner of National Magazine Awards, and provoker of Hit & Run commenter anti-beard/turtleneck wrath, this august publication in many ways reflects the aspirations of what many mainstream journalists want to become. I am a happy subscriber, but I'm also happy to edit a magazine that, for a rounding error of David Remnick's budget, manages to avoid some of journalism's most annoying cliches.

Such as gobbling down whatever tax-hiking corporatist Warren Buffett says about public policy.

Take a gander at this wholly credulous mini-profile of Buffett by New Yorker financial columnist James Surowiecki. Excerpt:

No longer just America's favorite investor, in recent years he's become a kind of public sage, a role exemplified by his crusade to get the government to raise taxes on the wealthy—a crusade enthusiastically invoked by President Obama both in last January's State of the Union address and in the recent Presidential campaign. Somehow, at a time when public hostility toward the super-rich has never been greater, he's become not only the second-richest man in America but also one of the most revered. [...]

Another crucial aspect of Buffett's public appeal is his unnervingly even persona. He's not placid—at eighty-two, he's a garrulous bundle of energy, his conversation punctuated by little bursts of laughter—but he projects an aura of profound cool. During the financial crisis, he was the human equivalent of one of those "Keep Calm and Carry On" signs. 

Reading the financial columnist of the nation's leading journalistic magazine (or the financial columnist of the nation's leading newspaper!), you'd think that sagely ol' Warren was just dispensing homespun morality out of the goodness of his heart in an age when such notions are out of fashion. Reason readers know better.

In our March 2012 issue, Peter Schweizer burst the Buffett bubble with a remarkable piece titled "Warren Buffett: Baptist and Bootlegger." In it, we learn that there were quite a few words on that "Keep Calm and Carry On" signs that Surowiecki left out:

[In fall 2008], Wall Street was on fire, and Buffett was running toward the flames. But he was doing so with the expectation that the fire department (that is, the federal government) was right behind him with buckets of bailout money. As he admitted on CNBC at the time, "If I didn't think the government was going to act, I wouldn't be doing anything this week." [...]

Buffett needed the TARP bailout more than most. In all, Berkshire Hathaway firms received $95 billion in TARP money. Berkshire held stock in Wells Fargo, Bank of America, American Express, and Goldman Sachs, which received not only TARP money but also Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) backing for their debt, worth a total of $130 billion. All told, TARP-assisted companies constituted a whopping 30 percent of Buffett's publicly disclosed stock portfolio. The folksy outsider with his home-spun investment wisdom, the Houston Chronicle concluded in an April 2009 investigative piece, was "one of the top beneficiaries of the banking bailout."

Buffett received better terms for his Goldman investment than the government got for its bailout. His dividend was set at 10 percent, while the government's was 5 percent. Had the bailout not gone through, and had Goldman not been given such generous terms under TARP, things would have been very different for Buffett. As it stood, the arrangement with Goldman Sachs earned Berkshire about $500 million a year in dividends. "We love the investment!" he exclaimed to Berkshire investors. The General Electric deal also was profitable. As Reuters business columnist Rolfe Winkler noted on his blog in August 2009: "Were it not for government bailouts, for which Buffett lobbied hard, many of his company's stock holdings would have been wiped out."

By April 2009, Goldman share prices had more than doubled. By July 2009, Buffett had already received a return of $2.5 billion from his investment.

In fact, as I wrote at CNN Opinion this February, the left's (and the media's) favorite billionaire might just be "the single most successful crony capitalist in the country." It's the kind of journalistic context that gets lost in the shiny awesomeness of having a rich guy agree with you for once.

As we hurtle through Day 3 of Reason's annual Webathon, here's a reason to consider giving a tax-deductible donation to the 501(c)3 nonprofit that makes our journalism possible: Because we are the fly in the media's ointment, the simple Hobbit striding defiantly into the MSM's Mordor, the [TERRIBLE MIXED METAPHOR REDACTED TO AVOID THE WRATH OF KATHERINE MANGU-WARD].

We disrupt and disprove popular narratives, whether about drugs, fiscal policy, or science, not for the sake of contrarianness itself, but because we have a natural instinct against alleged consensus, and a built-in skepticism of the state.

Do those value square with yours? Are you able to take the fruits of our labors and use them in pointed arguments with loved ones and frenemies? Then donate to Reason today!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • cw||

    I see you thought throwing in cartoony lobster girl would make me send you money, if nothing else worked.

    Well, reason, your sexy gimmicks won't work on ME!!!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...but because we have a natural instinct against alleged consensus...

    Ha! Way to link to a file on your hard drive, Welch. That's an invitation to be hacked.

  • Matt Welch||

    Wow! Thanks for the warning. Jeez.

  • cw||

    We Don't Luxuriate in Warren Buffett's Oracular Musk!

    Sounds Friedman-y.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    I debunked the Schweizer article at the time.

    Yes - it is written for posterity.

  • Brandon||

    No you didn't. You said some stupid, easily-disproven shit, blamed Bush and ran away to masturbate to Obama's picture.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    You're an idiot.

    Consider this bit of whack-doodle nonsense:

    Berkshire held stock in Wells Fargo, Bank of America, American Express, and Goldman Sachs, which received not only TARP money but also Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) backing for their debt, worth a total of $130 billion.

    The FDIC does not back corporate debt - they insure deposits.

    That article was total bullshit (see shrike's comments then).

  • MJGreen||

    Wells Fargo and B of A are banks, with insured deposits, are they not?

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Yes they are. So what?

  • Gilbert Martin||

    So what section of those bank's balance sheet are those customer deposits shown?

    Why that would be the LIABILTY section.

    That makes those customer deposits a DEBT of the banks.

    That's so what you moron.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Bullshit. All bank liabilities are not insured. All deposits are not insured (there was a $100,000 limit at the time).

    And liability is not the same as debt.

    Washington Mutual debt was wiped out by the Bush Administration. Depositors were not.

    Morgan reaped the benefit by gift.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "And liability is not the same as debt."

    So the bank doesn't owe that money back to the depositors if they submit withdrawls?

    Of course they do you moron.

    That makes it a debt of the banks.

    "All bank liabilities are not insured. All deposits are not insured (there was a $100,000 limit at the time)."

    Nobody said they were. Quit trying to change the subject.

  • ||

    So that makes you a colossal fucking retard. Jesus Christ dude, stop being such a Demfag and learn how to read.

    For fuck's sake it's pretty damn obvious that the part you quoted was saying that the banks received both TARP money AND FDIC backing. Not Berkshire you fucking halfwit.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Yeah, tell Wachovia stockholders their deposits were backed while the bank was seized.

  • Cytotoxic||

    PB ges uppity, commentariat kicks his ass. News at 6.

  • fish||

    Wow! You thought he would have had enough this morning! Shreeky Butt Plug nothing if not stubborn!

  • Restoras||

    I doubt that all Wachovia's stockholders had bank accounts at Wachovia.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Palin's Buttwipe,

    The FDIC does not back corporate debt - they insure deposits.


    You should dust-off your "My First Grammar Book" book:

    "Berkshire held stock in Wells Fargo, Bank of America, American Express, and Goldman Sachs, which [meaning, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, American Express and Goldman Sachs] received not only TARP money but also Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) backing for their [meaning, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, American Express and Goldman Sachs] debt, worth a total of $130 billion."

    Schweizer is talking about the debt towards those banks' depositors, not corporate debt and certainly not Berkshire's. Remember that banks are only required to hold 10% of reserves, and the FDIC guarantees up to $250,000 per account on top of that.

  • Brutus||

    Where's Shriek? Has his empty widdle head asploded at the blaspheming of his earthly saint?

  • Brutus||

    Oops...spoke too soon.

    Did you say "redneck," "christfag," "AM radio" and "bushpig" lots in that debunking, Shrieky?

  • Trespassers W||

    SOUND THE SHRIEK ALER--- oh, he's already here.

  • ||

    It too subscribe to the New Yorker. I enjoy the restaurant reviews and most of the non-political articles.

    Reading the letters and editorials, however, is completely rage-boner-inducing, laughing-while-crying at how fucking delusional these liberal twats are.

  • Libertarian||

    Ditto. Is there a way we can put libertarians in charge of the political commentary, and let the liberals continue with the cultural stuff?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    in recent years he's become a kind of public sage, a role exemplified by his crusade to get the government to raise taxes on the wealthy

    And yet, surprisingly, he has never made the ultimate (and obvious) gesture which would prove his sincerity and dedication to tax fairness.

    He has yet to appear in the pulpit waving a canceled check written voluntarily to "Gifts to the Treasury".

  • Jordan||

    Warren Buffett in 2007:

    I think that on balance the Gates Foundation, my daughter's foundation, my two sons' foundations, will do a better job with lower adminsitrative costs and better selection of beneficiaries than the government.

    Apparently, only his family know best on how to manage their own money. Everyone else's should go to the government. Fuck this piece of shit.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    It is his self-earned money. Why should you get to help decide what he should do with it?

  • ||

    Wrong question.

    The proper one is why should Warren Buffet get to help decide what I do with my self-earned money?

  • Restoras||

    It can't read through its ash-heap colored glasses.

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    If I were Warren, I would invest in Goldman Sachs and then get Barry plunder tax-paying saps to pay off my investment with "rescue funds".

    A few billion in return for a few million in campaign contributions.

    Warren has figured out the game. After smart investing stopped working, payoffs started.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Why should Buffet get to help decide that the government should get to decide what the rest of us can do with our self earned money?

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    The First Amendment.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Bicycle.

    See I can do non-sequitors too.

  • RBS||

    Holy shit that's retarded.

  • Restoras||

    It's not even retarded. Sometimes retards make sense - but this is something else entirely.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Palin's Buttwipe,

    It is his self-earned money. Why should you get to help decide what he should do with it?


    Why should Obama get to decide what he should do with mine?

  • MJGreen||

    Because he was elected by a healthy majority. Were you elected to manage Warren Buffet's money? WERE YOU!?

  • The Original Jason||

    With his daughter and sons on the foundation boards receiving generous salaries and benefits out the foundations' endowments, I'm sure…

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Just in case you lost the address the last time I gave it to you, Warren:

    Gifts to the United States
    U.S. Department of the Treasury
    Credit Accounting Branch
    3700 East-West Highway, Room 622D
    Hyattsville, MD 20782

  • ||

    I'm not donating a cent until I see Lobster Girl. It's been far too long.

  • Jerryskids||

    That picture of Buffett receiving his OBE from His Imperial Majesty just made my day. Look at the shit-eating grin on his face, like a dog being praised for not humping the vicars leg at the dinner table.

    It never ceases to amaze me what hoops toadies and boot-lickers and assorted sycophants will jump through just for an approving pat on their heads from their lords and masters.

  • Ryan60657||

    Welcome to Reason Pledge Drive week!

    Don't worry, I already donated...

  • Hugh Akston||

    Warty's Lobstergirl experiments have gone...monstrously awry.

  • waaminn||

    Sounds like a pretty solid plan to me dude. wow.
    www.IP-Hidden.tk

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Take a gander at this wholly credulous mini-profile of Buffett by New Yorker financial columnist James Surowiecki.

    Shriek will be in his bunk.

  • SIV||

    Vintage Lobster Girl is the best Lobster Girl.

  • ||

    Pssh. You call that vintage? THIS is vintage.

  • RBS||

    I find it hilarious that shriek thinks posting a bunch of bullshit on a blog that everyone knows is bullshit, and called him out on it, somehow means he "debunked" something.

  • Graphite||

    Mike Winters' "Wonderdick" series of comments captures the typical writer for The New Yorker pretty well.

    http://cartoon-machine.com/category/wonderdick/

  • Graphite||

    *series of comics

  • db||

    Holy crap, that character's a dick.

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    Alt-text. "You feeling it yet, Warren. No, that's not why I'm smiling."

  • XM||

    I like Reason, but I can't give it my money. It will corrupt them.... I think.

    You must earn a profit by selling your magazines in the free market, not asking for a handout. Semper Fi

  • Tulpa Doom||

    Donations are part of the free market...

  • DWC||

    This, is, kinda, a joke, right?

  • Generic Stranger||

    The alt text for this article was weak. Perhaps Welch should ask Suderman how it's done.

  • Ghetto Slovak Goatherder||

    What does the t-shirt look like?

  • Libertarian||

    I just donated to Reason. Why? Well, in general, because I believe libertarian ideas need to be broadcast. Specifically, though, it's because Bill Maher once called Gillespie a "republican." Argh!

  • Tulpa Doom||

    I'm losing faith in Reason after the lazy third-partisan hackjobs they were doing on MR all summer, while only calling out BO when he did something incredibly statist. I'm all for holding every candidate's feet to the fire (not done with GJ, btw), but when you're digging up stuff that his advisor's sister's roommate's parakeet's veterinarian's uncle said about raising taxes and JustAskingQuestions® like there's no tomorrow, I have to blow the whistle.

  • ||

    Then leave, you whiny loser. You won't be missed.

  • juris imprudent||

    Just cancel your subscription so we can all have a drink. Good lord man, have you no concept of form?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I'm losing faith in Reason after the lazy third-partisan hackjobs they were doing on MR all summer, while only calling out BO when he did something incredibly statist.

    BOYCOTT!

    That'll show 'em.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    I already stopped buying the Koch Foods frozen chicken cordon blue dinners.

  • ||

    Why? They're gold-plated with diamonds in the middle!

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