Wednesday, January 23, 2013

American optimism pays off

Following America’s 57th formal presidential inauguration, it seems like a good time to look forward.

There’s no one better to suggest the attitudes we should adopt in doing that than Warren Buffett, now the third richest man in the world.

It’s hard to suggest that his attitudes are naive or anti-American given that $1,000 invested in 1966 in Berkshire Hathaway—a company owned by a man known for making rational investments and then sticking with them—would now be worth $6.5 million. 

Warren Buffett believes:

- Circumstances over which an individual has no control determine a lot about what the future holds. Buffett knows his life would have been very different in ways he could not change had he not been born white, male and American.

- No one should go hungry or lack a good education or be without health care or worry about their old age in a country with $50,000 of gross domestic product per person.

- We want an inequality of results that includes a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, but we should never have an inequality that means people go hungry or without medical care.

- While those whose circumstances weren’t so lucky struggle to make ends meet, the rich are not paying enough taxes.

- The federal debt is not a problem. As a percent of GDP, the debt is currently lower than at the end of World War II, though it could become problematic if that percentage rises.

- What is right about America totally dwarfs what is wrong in Washington, D.C. The 535 elected federal officials are not going to mess up 315 million other Americans over time.

- The American system succeeds because it releases the potential of human beings. Despite two world wars and a worldwide depression, the Dow Jones Average grew in the 20th century from 66 to 11,497.

We would do well to render Buffet’s simple ideas into needlepoint and hang them on walls next to TV screens filled with the chattering classes spewing self-interest, pessimism, hate, fear and doomsday scenarios of an America that has no future.

We would do well to remember Buffett’s optimistic view that America has, and will, just keep chugging forward. As for stock tips, Buffett’s suggestion: Invest in a good index fund that just tracks all of America and do it over time. 

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