Economics

Economic Policy by Metaphor

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When it comes to mixed metaphors, I am the bull in the china shop who doesn't feel the water. But even my barely functioning metaphordar hit Code Red when reading this PBS interview with the left's favorite rich-guy economics commentator, Warren Buffett. A sampling:

[Y]ou don't want to get into Superman-type expectations. On the other hand, I don't think there's anybody better than you could have had; have in the presidency than Barack Obama at this time. He understands economics. He's a very smart guy. He's a cool rational-type thinker. He will work with the right kind of people. So you've got the right person in the operating room, but it doesn't mean the patient is going to leave the hospital tomorrow. […]

But there's no magic bullet on this. They're going to throw everything from the government they can in. As I said, the Treasury is going all in, the Fed and they have to and that isn't necessarily going to produce anything dramatic in the short term at all. […]

SG: There is considerable debate as you know about whether President Obama is taking the right steps so we don't get in this kind of economic mess again, where do you stand on that debate?

WB: Well I don't think the worry right now should be about the next one, the worry should be about the present one. Let's get this fire out and then we'll figure out fire prevention for the future. […]

All you know is you throw everything at it and whether it's more effective if you're fighting a fire to be concentrating the water flow on this part or that part. You're going to use every weapon you have in fighting it. And people, they do not know exactly what the effects are. Economists like to talk about it, but in the end they've been very, very wrong and most of them in recent years on this. We don't know the perfect answers on it. What we do know is to stand by and do nothing is a terrible mistake or to follow Hoover-like policies would be a mistake and we don't know how effective in the short run we don't know how effective this will be and how quickly things will right themselves. We do know over time the American machine works wonderfully and it will work wonderfully again. […]

And there is no free lunch so if you pour money at this problem you do have after effects. You create certain problems. I mean you are giving a medicine dosage to the patient on a scale that we haven't seen in this country. And there will be after effects and they can't be predicted exactly.

Shorter Warren Buffett: We've got the right doctor, but there's no magic bullet for Pearl Harbor, which is why you have to bet all your chips on putting out the fire with every weapon at your disposal, so that the machine again works wonderfully. But since there's no free lunch, watch out for dosage levels!

J.P. Freire on "The billionaire apparatchik" here

NEXT: "The police should leave us alone and let us sell our weed!"

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  1. did buffet miss any metaphores, i think he got them all. LOL

  2. Hmmm

    Maybe Charlie Munger really is the brains of Berkshire Hathaway.

  3. We’ve got the right doctor, but there’s no magic bullet for Pearl Harbor, which is why you have to bet all your chips on putting out the fire with every weapon at your disposal, so that the machine again works wonderfully. But since there’s no free lunch, watch out for dosage levels!

    Rinse, repeat.

    Your mileage may vary.

  4. I always thought it was only the office idiot that threw out metaphors to avoid having people find out that he has no idea what he is talking about. Turns out, it’s also for the local billionaire idiot, too.

    By the way, he is way off base in his statements. Out in left field somewhere.

  5. If they replace Kristol with Buffet, Matt Taibbi will be confined to a mental institution for the rest of his natural life.

  6. What we do know is to stand by and do nothing is a terrible mistake

    Primum non nocere

    as lon as we are using medical metaphors……

  7. If I was on that PBS production staff I’d make metaphor BINGO cards for every Buffet interview.

  8. Primum non nocere

    No kidding. This line of ‘argument’ ignores the very possibility that something the govt throws at the problem might make the problem worse, as if that simply CANNOT happen.

    If the man who said this is so damn rich, maybe the stock market is a random walk after all.

  9. What we do know is to stand by and do nothing is a terrible mistake

    Why is this the one thing he didn’t use a metaphor to communicate? At least throw in a “with our thumbs up our asses” or “like a bump on a log”.

  10. But who among us will be laughing when Buffet “buys” Citibank from the government for $.04/share?

  11. So you’ve got the right person in the operating room, but it doesn’t mean the patient is going to leave the hospital tomorrow. […] But there’s no magic bullet on this. They’re going to throw everything from the government they can in

    Ugh…

    Dr. Obama, I don’t feel so good…

    [vomits up some pork-ridden stimulus and half a dozen corrupt politicians]

  12. He’s redlining!

    Nurse Pelosi! Get me 2 trillion ccs of government spending, stat!

  13. This really isn’t my specialty.

  14. Here you go doctor! And don’t forget to apply the extra gov’t regulations and emissions standards!

  15. Ugh… I feel even worse…

    …and am I supposed to be turning green?

  16. All you know is you throw everything at it and whether it’s more effective if you’re fighting a fire to be concentrating the water flow on this part or that part.

    Even a bucket of gasoline? Becuase that’s what’s going on right now.

    What an asshole…

  17. Yes, those are just the millions of environmentally friendly “green jobs” we’ve been pumping into you. You should start feeling better any time now, sir.

    Uh, sir?

    [pokes him]

    Patient is nonresponsive. Dammit, we didn’t stimulate him enough!

  18. Well, the problem is that this metaphor sucks. Whoever came up with this metaphor obviously needs a brain MRI.

  19. “Doctor, doctor- It hurts when I do *this*.”

    “Stop doing that. That will be $7200.-, pay at the desk, on your way out.”

  20. Taktix,

    That works too in the context of Buffet’s metaphors.One of the basic tactics of firefighting is to deprive the fire of fuel.
    We’re fighting a debt problem with more debt.

  21. Treasury is going all in

    Doubling down on a losing hand?

  22. Shaka, when the walls fell.

  23. One thing that bothered me about Buffett was that he supports higher capital gains taxes but he made his fortune buying and holding and thus avoiding the capital gains tax.

    Still he has an important perspective on the current crisis. He was a big player in the 1998 LTCM crisis. This is not to say he’s right about anything in particular but you can read a lot into what he says.

  24. A genius! A god of industry! If Ayn Rand were alive today she’d shower us with rape fiction about this visionary man!

    Wait, what? He supports democratic economic policies now? What the fuck? When did this happen. Fuck. Well, disregard my last.

    A heretic! A fool! A hypocrite! If Ayn Rand were alive today, she’d shower us with rape fiction about how this fool’s secretary eventually bought his business, once he stops with the two hundred page monologue.

  25. Doctor: I am afraid that you are going to have to stop masturbating.

    Patient: Why Doctor? Why?

    Doctor: Because I am trying to do an exam here.

  26. Well, Matt-

    I don’t know where to begin here. The enemy is at the gates, and not only are you crying wolf when one may or may not exist, but you are surely barking up the wrong tree here.

    If I had a nickel for every time economists have been wrong about the past and present depression, I still wouldn’t buy the cow when I’m getting the milk for free. Is that having my cake and eating it too? Who knows, but the important thing is that we are all in this together, there is no I in team, and if we do not stand as one we will definitely fall as many.

    Why don’t you make like a tree, and shut the hell up?

    Sincerely,

    Warren

  27. Whatever investing genius Warren Buffett once possessed went up in smoke when he sold huge amounts of 2019 puts on the S&P, right at the peak.

    He’s never dealt with a depression-style bear market and, if he lives all the way through this one, he will see his net worth cut significantly. Just look at that stupid “Buy American” article he wrote.

    He’s also made several semi-corrupt deals with the government to buy various assets, and owned huge shares of a *Big 3 rating agency*, so yeah, his business acumen is kind of in question here.

  28. The only way to stop Mr. Buffett from raking in off the Treasury Department’s poker game is to close down the casino.

  29. Maybe Charlie Munger really is the brains of Berkshire Hathaway.

    He is. Munger is brilliant. I met him in a business meeting once and had no clue who he was. I spent most of the meeting asking him questions because he was the only person there who seemed to understand the issues that we were dealing with. My boss asked me after if I knew who he was. I said “No, but he clearly is a very bright guy. He should be running our company.” Then he told me that he was Buffet’s partner, the smart one of the duo.

  30. F@U.com! I love it! Awesome email address.

  31. Buffet can’t be this stupid. Throw ‘everything at it’? Get the fire out? I’ve got a better analogy. We’re going to be shooting water at random buildings on the street, whether they’re on fire or not. And we’re using limited supply of potable water from a source that people use for drinking.

    If Mr. Buffet can’t stand the heat, he shouldn’t be throwing stones.

  32. I love how Rand still dominates the thinking of guys like Max Hats, pissing him off to a fare-thee-well even 20 years after her death.

    It must be that our economy looks a lot like the one she described in Atlas Shrugged.

  33. I never read Atlas Shrugged because I am not insane. Also: do not have a rape fetish.

    I drop Rand references when it calls for it, i.e., the exalting of Captains of Industry, or the castigating of Industries Fallen Angels. The transparency of the newfound libertarian hostility to Warren Buffet is too obvious to not comment on.

  34. The transparency of the newfound libertarian hostility to Warren Buffet is too obvious to not comment on.

    Warren Buffet has a hostility to libertarianism. He’s rich, afterall…

  35. The transparency of the newfound libertarian hostility to Warren Buffet is too obvious to not comment on.

    You might have a point if libertarians gave a shit about him before he became a poster boy for socialist dumbasses. But we didn’t. So you don’t. As usual. Feel free to keep raging on strawmen though.

  36. Hey Fuck Ass, we need to get you a proverb book of something. This mix-n-match shit ain’t workin…

  37. Let’s bring the free market to Reason!

    A simple comment rating system would eliminate most of the trolls (or at consign them to posting below the radar of most of us) and make this a great place for libertarians to hang out again.

    These kinds of rating systems are used at Slashdot, Urban Dictionary, DKos, etc and aren’t hard to implement.

    Bring reasoned discourse back to Reason!

  38. Slashdot, Urban Dictionary, DKos

    Do you think the discussion in these places is good, or substantially elevated?

  39. I agree with MAX on this one. Slashdot, Urban Dictionary and DKos are on par with Yahoo Answers.

  40. The transparency of the newfound libertarian hostility to Warren Buffet is too obvious to not comment on.

    Buffett’s an OK guy. He has superhuman ability in capital allocation, but other than that, he’s a normal human being.

    He’s made so much money he’ll have to give most of it away, either to his relatives, friends and heirs, to the government, or to charities. He certainly can’t spend it all without either a) effectively giving it to the people he’d buy stuff from, by grossly overpaying, or b) committing further acts of investment (which would yield him even more money to get rid of).

    The fact that he likes to be interviewed on national TV, even though he often says stupid things, just means he enjoys his fame. As would Max Hats, if given the chance.

  41. What exactly makes being rich a qualification for people trusting you when you give the government advice? That’s never worked for corporations – why does it work for individuals?

  42. He’s made so much money he’ll have to give most of it away, either to his relatives, friends and heirs, to the government, or to charities.

    He knows this, and wants to make sure the choice isn’t his. He prefers the government to allocate his capital after he dies.

    Buffett said inheritance taxes preserve a measure of meritocracy, and with it opportunity, by recycling portions of great wealth through public coffers.

    “The resources of society I don’t think should pass along in terms of an aristocratic dynasty of wealth,” Buffett told the panel. “I believe in keeping equality of opportunity as much as you can in this country.”

    No word exactly how giving all of my money to the government instead of my daughter preserves equal opportunity for someone else I’ve never met or had contact with. To Mr. Buffet, one simply equals the other– no explanation necessary.

  43. I got fumed by Buffet’s invocation of an “economic Pearl Harbor!” on Charlie Rose one night.

    I was like, “Who the fuck are the japanese? “Greed”? The mismanagement of Freddy and Fannie? The american consumer? What are the Pacific fleet? An asset bubble? Home prices? default swaps? Who were the soldiers? Is Hawaii New York? FUCK YOU YOU OLD BILLIONAIRE, SAY WHAT YOU MEAN!!”

    The main stupid thing is that the ‘pearl harbor’ implies a premeditated sneak attack event by an enemy. Economic meltdown? More like someone stopped the music at a lame party and everyone decided leave at the same time. The music being, ‘cheap money, liquidity, easy returns’.

  44. That’s a joke right? Ha Ha Ha?
    Please tell me Warren was joking. Dude, like, I’m no economist, but he was joking…right?

  45. Doctor: I am afraid that you are going to have to stop masturbating.

    Patient: Why Doctor? Why?

    Doctor: Because I am trying to do an exam here.

    Patient: Well, if you get your finger out of my ass, maybe I will.

  46. I used to admire this guy. He’s dead to me.

  47. The sad part is, there are precious few metaphors in his ramblings. He’s not even trying to back his phrasing up enough to create even fleeting allegories. It’s mostly a staccato of cliches strung together. It’s almost like he found the most commonly used phrases at a hundred management seminars and did a Burroughs style cut-up.

    What I can’t believe is that he didn’t throw in “we’ve got to give 110%.”

  48. Warren B., your suggestions for the economy are like kicking a gift horse when he’s down in the mouth.

  49. He understands economics.

    AFAIK, he has no education in economics, has never had a job that required him to acquire or demonstrate any knowledge of economics, and doesn’t even own any stocks. What possible basis is there for saying Obama understands economics?

  50. “If we hit that bull’s eye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards. Checkmate.” — Zapp Brannigan

  51. Warren Buffet just needs to take Econ 101.

  52. Warren Buffet has discussed economics with Barack Obama.

    RC Dean has not.

    Warren Buffet has stated that Obama has a good understanding of economics.

    RC Dean has stated that he has not.

    Man. This is a tough one. Oh, who knows what’s right anymore. The problems of two little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world!

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