Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Good Read from Buffett: Pretty Good for Government Work - NYTimes.com


(I apologize for the late posting of today's note. I have been doing battle with my employer's security software, which suddenly seems to find that Random Glenings - a must-read part of the financial scene for more than a year - has suddenly become a security risk. C'est la guerre).

It is very fashionable in my business to trash the government. Most analyst meetings I attend, and internal investment committee meetings, often diverge into complaints about the government, and government policy. And while I agree that sometimes government policies can be frustrating and irritating, I think sometimes we all benefit from decisions made in Washington, even though we don't like to admit it.

This morning's New York Times carries an op-ed piece from Warren Buffett which I thought was worth reading. He points out that the brave and decisive actions taken by our government a couple of years ago staved off what would have been a financial disaster brought on largely by Wall Street (the Street now, of course, has conveniently forgotten this).

Here's an excerpt:

In the darkest of days, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, Tim Geithner and Sheila Bair grasped the gravity of the situation and acted with courage and dispatch. And though I never voted for George W. Bush, I give him great credit for leading, even as Congress postured and squabbled.

You have been criticized, Uncle Sam, for some of the earlier decisions that got us in this mess — most prominently, for not battling the rot building up in the housing market. But then few of your critics saw matters clearly either. In truth, almost all of the country became possessed by the idea that home prices could never fall significantly.

That was a mass delusion, reinforced by rapidly rising prices that discredited the few skeptics who warned of trouble. Delusions, whether about tulips or Internet stocks, produce bubbles. And when bubbles pop, they can generate waves of trouble that hit shores far from their origin. This bubble was a doozy and its pop was felt around the world.

So, again, Uncle Sam, thanks to you and your aides. Often you are wasteful, and sometimes you are bullying. On occasion, you are downright maddening. But in this extraordinary emergency, you came through — and the world would look far different now if you had not.



Pretty Good for Government Work - NYTimes.com

One irony of today: Buffett was criticized for not mentioning the Obama administration in this editorial, and so had to go on television to point out that such criticism was missing the point of his article (although he said it in more polite language).

Others have pointed out that Buffett - and Berkshire Hathaway - benefited from some of the loans and investments they made in 2008, and so today's editorial is a little hypocritical. To this I say: Buffett was very public that you should be buying stocks, but most were too fearful to do so. Buffett put his money where his mouth was, so to speak, and to me at least he has every right to make the points he did today.