I have not felt very well this week, so writing has taken a back seat to rest. But I did start reading a new book: How to Lead, Wisdom from the World’s Greatest CEOs, Founders, and Game Changers by David M. Rubenstein. The book is a composite of interviews with a variety of international leaders.
In it, Rubenstein has a conversation with Warren Buffett from Berkshire Hathaway. Below is a passage I found insightful:
David Rubenstein (DR): In recent years, presidents of the United States have called upon you for advice. Whoever the next president is will likely call upon you for advice. What would you tell the next president about how we might jump-start or get our growth to be slightly better than it is now? Is there something you would recommend?
Warrant Buffett (WB): It would depend on circumstances at the time I’m called, and I probably wouldn’t get the call. But I would tell them two things.
I would tell them that we’ve got the greatest golden goose the world’s ever seen. We have a system that unleashes human potential in a way that allows people in my neighborhood to live better than John D. Rockefeller Sr., the richest man in the world when I was born. Something is working. And we don’t want to mess that up, to start with.
The second part of it is that, in a country this rich, anybody willing to work forty hours a week should have a decent life. I would say that doesn’t mean they have to equalize everything. We want to keep the golden goose producing more and more eggs, and we want to make sure that they get distributed in such a manner than anybody willing to work forty hours a week has a decent life for themselves and their family.
DR: Your secretary has become one of the most famous secretaries in the world. I suspect, because you have said your secretary pays a higher tax rate than you do.
WB: Counting payroll taxes, yes. Still does.
DR: So you’re in favor of changing that.
WB: Yes. Some years ago, somebody from the White House – not the President – called and said they’d read my views on taxation. They said, “Would you mind having a tax named after you?” I said, “Well, if all the diseases have been taken, I’ll take a tax.”
But I really do feel that anybody that’s making millions of dollars a year should have a combined payroll-and-income tax that is at least 30 percent. In my office, everybody in the office does have that except me. (page 79-80).
In my view, there is a lot of wisdom in what Mr. Buffett shares in this passage. And from one of the most wealthy men in the world.