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It’s not often that I can’t figure out, or even admit that I can’t figure out a person. And fortunately, that hasn’t happened in this particular instance when it comes to deciphering Warren Buffett’s true stripes. The problem is, like a Discovery cable show or the old Mutual of Omaha television serial that showed animals in the African Serengeti measuring each other’s strengths, weakness, proclivities, speed of foot, and other external factors that are determinant in the acquisition of that mammal as ones next meal, humans in a non-cannibalistic way exact a similar process in determining each others’ motivations, intentions, and purpose.
In the wild, animals sniff, taste and view other animals in primordial contempt. And even in areas marked by urination – a wild animal’s primal instincts self-clarifies to whom it may have a concern about. In a way, we do this in the workplace to determine professional compatibility. We also perform this ritual, consciously or unconsciously with public figures.
For those very reasons, the Man of the Hour and finance ‘enigma de jour’ would be none other than Mr. Warren Buffett. The quandary for Democrats (even with the re-selection of Mr. Obama), and the Republicans with their redheaded twin stepchild’s – the Tea Partiers and Wall Street Occupiers, respectively, is what to make of Mr. Warren?
The problem with attacking Warren Buffett (via pen, not the sword), is that he instantly reminds you of your favorite uncle, or depending upon your age, your grandfather. And unless you’re really depraved, most people don’t react in a blood thirsty way to those particular family types. And even if you were depraved, how do you in clear conscious dislike someone who is actually cool. Most likely you don’t. But if you do and/or you’re not really sure – which is the purpose of this article, you find when looking at a unique individual such as Warren Buffett, it’s best to break out a yellow legal pad, draw a line in the middle, and write out Pros and Cons at the top of the sheet.
Why is this important? It’s important because in society we pick our hero’s and villains with a sense of justification that when viewed in a laboratory environment can sometimes be alarming. In 1963, Milgram’s famous laboratory study showed that one group of subjects would freely electrocute other human subjects relentlessly if instructed by an authority figure, even if the punishment conflicted with their conscience. Along similar lines, behavioral scientists would call this cognitive dissonance.
What does this has to do with the ‘price of rice’ in China. Everything actually. Since if some of us are picking Gordon Gekko types as our hero’s, then you might as well say, “Houston, we have a problem”. If on the other hand, Gordon Gekko were a wolf in sheep’s clothing, then things start to get complicated. Real complicated.
For the record, Warren Buffett is no wolf in sheep’s clothing, nor a Gordon Gekko type. People that are bad: Bernie Madoff, R. Allen Sanford, and Samuel Israel III. Mr. Israel was the hedge fund manager dumbass who faked his own death when he parked his SUV near a river bridge and wrote on the car hood, “Suicide is Painless.” Collectively, these three guys got about 300 years of jail time. People that are good: Sheila Bair, Paul Volker and Elizabeth Warren. No jail time for the latter and each guaranteed a place in heaven.
And putting aside all the ‘Oracle of Omaha’ bullshit, in the lowest common denominator Mr. Buffett is a real nice guy whose timing is goddamn incredible! I’m confident his bowel movements operate on Greenwich Time (GMT). If not that, he likely has a Seiko watch stick up his rectum. Which makes prefect sense if it’s a Seiki Blue Pearl watch. (I digress).
To get a better understanding of the Oracle of Omaha, let’s look at the yellow legal pad below.
Buffett’s Rap Sheet (aka Yellow Legal Pad)
Is a registered Democrat.
In 2008, injected $5 billion into Goldman Sachs, which give him a 10% ownership stake.
In 2009, invests more than $44 billion in BNSF Railway as a show of confidence in America – since railroad operators can’t grow if America isn’t doing well.
In 2010, created the “Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge”, which encourages the ultra wealthy to donate at least half their estate to charity.
In 2011, purchased $5 billion in Bank of America stock as a show of faith in US government support in rectifying the mortgage meltdown.
In 2012, stated that he would match tax contributions from Republican members of Congress – and triple the match from the US Senate Republican leader.
Is willing to pay higher taxes that are progressive and equitable.
Favors the Inheritance Tax.
Chameleon or Transparent Idealist
The actual real beauty of Warren Buffett is that he doesn’t operate on Greenwich Time, but operates on his own time. In fact, if Mr. Buffett were racially mixed, and depending on how well you knew him, you might slap him on the back and say he operates on CPT (aka Colored People Time). But sense he’s not, and appears to be of Irish stock, it would be best not to get that cozy, given how un-kosher a public display of affection that would be.
Bottom line, Mr. Buffett marches to the beat of a different drummer (his own I hope), and that autonomy is what makes him probably not a chameleon per say, as some less broad minded financial and pop culture writers might conclude, but a compendium of different interests that are synchronized to satisfy his own moral code, philosophical outlook and financial vantage point.
Perhaps Mr. Buffett’s innocuous disposition with calculated measure might best be better understood when viewed in the following historical context – from those that have carried out tasks that they might otherwise have had a distaste for. As Franklin Roosevelt once said before he met Stalin to negotiate territories sized during World War II, “Sometimes you have to cross the bridge with the devil in order to get to the other side.”
D. Sidney Potter has worked in the real estate and mortgage industry since 1992 and is a licensed member of the National Association of Home Builders, and the National Association of Realtors. Mr. Potter has a BA in Political Science, 2 MBA’s and part of a doctorate degree from Pepperdine. He has extensive experience in both commercial and residential real estate in California, Nevada, and Arizona and has consulted investors and the media throughout the United States. Most recently he served on the Board of Directors for two major HOA’s in Las Vegas. In addition, Mr. Potter is a contributing writer to iReport (CNN), DigitalJournal and Newsvine.com (a part of MSNBC).