Warren Buffett, the world’s second-richest man, announced this week that he plans to give away 85 percent of his $44 billion fortune to charity. Buffett explained his motivation in today’s New York Times:
“I love it when I’m around the country club, and I hear people talking about the debilitating effects of a welfare society,” he said. “At the same time, they leave their kids a lifetime and beyond of food stamps. Instead of having a welfare officer, they have a trust officer. And instead of food stamps, they have stocks and bonds.”
Mr. Buffett said repealing the estate tax “would be a terrible mistake,” the equivalent of “choosing the 2020 Olympic team by picking the eldest sons of the gold-medal winners in the 2000 Olympics.” …
“We have come closer to a true meritocracy than anywhere else around the world,” he said. “You have mobility so people with talents can be put to the best use. Without the estate tax, you in effect will have an aristocracy of wealth, which means you pass down the ability to command the resources of the nation based on heredity rather than merit.” [NYT, 2/14/01]
Buffett was also opposed to President Bush’s dividend and income tax cuts for the wealthy. “If class warfare is being waged in America,” he wrote, “my class is clearly winning.” Congress ought to listen.