This week, the liberal news networks said absolutely nothing about billionaire Warren Buffett’s barely-veiled slam of President Biden and other liberals for their newest class warfare gambit: demonizing corporations that buy back their stock. That’s a far cry from 2011 and 2012, when those same networks helped juice then-President Obama’s re-election campaign by trumpeting Buffett’s call for higher taxes on the rich (see below).
At this year’s State of the Union on February 7, President Biden demanded a 400% increase in the new tax on stock buybacks his party rammed through last summer. “Corporations ought to do the right thing. That’s why I propose we quadruple the tax on corporate stock buybacks and encourage long-term investments,” he proposed as Democrats jumped to their feet in applause. “They’ll still make considerable profit.”
Less than three weeks later, Buffett put out his annual letter to shareholders of the Berkshire Hathaway corporation, of which he is CEO. While he didn’t mention Biden or other liberals by name, he was perfectly clear: “When you are told that all repurchases are harmful to shareholders or to the country, or particularly beneficial to CEOs, you are listening to either an economic illiterate or a silver-tongued demagogue (characters that are not mutually exclusive).”
Business channels CNBC and the Fox Business Network discerned the inescapable connection to Biden in their coverage this week. “I like Buffett,” FBN host Stuart Varney complimented Monday morning. “His turn of phrase there is perfect.”
Yet a search of closed-captioning shows nothing about Buffett this week on ABC, NBC, CNN or MSNBC. The CBS Weekend News on February 25 included a brief mention of the shareholder letter, but said nothing about Buffett’s newsworthy comment about buybacks.
Correspondent Michael George gave it ten seconds at the end of a story about the economy: “And today Warren Buffett, one of the world’s most successful investors, wrote in his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway that despite inflation he remains confident about the state of the U.S. economy.”
Compare that to what happened nearly 12 years ago, when President Obama was looking for ammunition for his 2012 re-election campaign. Buffett penned a White House-friendly op-ed for the New York Times on August 15, 2011 calling for higher taxes on the rich; an enthralled media spent the next six months promoting Obama’s pitch for a “Buffett Rule” that would supposedly make the tax code more fair, culminating in Buffett’s secretary attending the State of the Union:
■ “Two of America’s top corporate executives today demanded that Washington put the economy back on track. In an opinion piece in the New York Times, billionaire investor Warren Buffett told Congress it must increase taxes on people earning more than a million dollars. ‘My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.’”
— Anchor Scott Pelley on the August 15, 2011 CBS Evening News.
■ Anchor Diane Sawyer: “Is it time for the mega-rich to pay at least the same tax rate as their secretaries? And if they did pay their fair share, would it fix America’s schools or roads?…”
Correspondent Bianna Golodryga: “An additional one percent tax on the richest Americans is estimated to raise $100 billion in extra revenue during the next decade….It’s enough to build almost 7,000 new elementary schools or more than 2,000 new high schools, Diane.”
— ABC’s World News, August 15, 2011.
■ “Warren Buffett made another splash, saying it’s not right [that] he, a billionaire, pays 17 percent in taxes when his secretaries and receptionists pay more. Isn’t he right about that?”
— Co-host George Stephanopoulos to Donald Trump on ABC’s Good Morning America, August 17, 2011.
■ “The billionaire and his secretary who have ignited a giant battle about taxing the rich in America. President Obama has declared it is time to take action on taxes because people in the middle class are paying a larger percentage of income tax than the super-rich and he said he wants Congress to close the loopholes and create a minimum tax the rich must pay.”
— ABC’s Diane Sawyer on the September 19, 2011 World News.
■ “Maybe only a really, really rich guy can credibly make the case for why the wealthy should be asked to pay more in taxes. You can’t accuse a big capitalist of ‘class warfare.’ That’s why the right wing despises Warren Buffett and is trying so hard to shut him up.”
— Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne in a September 28, 2011 op-ed, “Why Conservatives Hate Warren Buffett.”
■ “The issue was famously raised by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who complains he pays taxes at a lower rate than his own secretary. Mr. Obama suggested last fall the tax code be modified, so wealthy investors would pay rates at least as high as ordinary workers….Mr. Obama’s proposed ‘Buffett principle’ has, so far, gone nowhere. But it’s likely to get another airing from the White House, now that [GOP presidential candidate Mitt] Romney has disclosed he’s in the same low tax bracket as the billionaire Buffett.”
— NPR’s Scott Horsley on Morning Edition, January 18, 2012.
■ “Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader, says no tax increases under any circumstances. Warren Buffett says, ‘Hey, the wealthier in this country can pay more and they should pay more.’…Who knows more about the American economy, Grover Norquist or Warren Buffett?”
— Moderator David Gregory to Mitt Romney at an NBC News/Facebook GOP candidates debate shown on Meet the Press, January 8, 2012.
■ “The Republicans have been completely intransigent. They do not believe, almost to a man and woman, in any tax increases at all, despite the fact that you have people like Warren Buffett, one of America’s richest men, almost pleading, ‘tax me more.’”
— Host Piers Morgan to Obama strategist David Axelrod on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, December 5, 2011.
■ “[Buffett’s secretary] Debbie Bosanek says she still feels like Cinderella at the ball, given the 24 hours that she’s had….A whirlwind ride to stardom, that began when her famous boss, Warren Buffett, says she pays a lower tax rate than he does….It comes just 24 hours after Republican candidate Mitt Romney revealed he made almost $43 million over two years, paying a tax rate of 13.9 percent in 2010. Not Debbie’s 35.8 percent.”
— ABC’s Bianna Golodryga profiling Buffett’s secretary on World News, January 25, 2012, the day after Bosanek was seated with First Lady Michelle Obama during the State of the Union to illustrate the President’s pitch for higher taxes.
Actually, an analysis at the time by the Tax Foundation showed virtually all tax filers (97%) paid less than Romney’s 14 percent rate, and thus also less than Buffett’s self-declared rate of 17 percent. In other words, the media had no idea what they were talking about as they eagerly parroted the Democrats’ talking points.
Wrong or not, Buffett’s foray into politics was seen as helping Obama and the Democrats, and the media endlessly cited him as an expert on tax fairness. This week, Buffett chimed in once again, this time to critique a Democratic plan with which he disagreed. There’s been only silence from the liberal networks.
That’s what’s called a double standard.
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