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Warren Buffett and Debbie Bosanek: Full Interview

Bianna Golodryga speaks with Warren Buffett and Debbie Bosanek about taxes.
34:09 | 01/25/12

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Transcript for Warren Buffett and Debbie Bosanek: Full Interview
And yet Warren thanked. Them I have to ask you this -- -- hours. -- I kept. It about an. Outlet -- First Lady that he and out. She was very warm very gracious to a very well I mean let's go I was there -- -- and my legs were shaking my hands were sweating and I think of anything this Illinois senate that I was honored to be there was. Thanks for having me and you and me right they had -- prep -- for the man and I was really nervous about that but there again -- nine -- And asked about -- aren't and and I thanked him again it's an honor to even. And that you felt you representing secretary. -- That a lot of friends are secretaries have them -- and -- that's something everybody should experience an American and it happens I knew how lucky. How fortunate that lines tonight. But it was like -- for -- mountain just. And enjoying it taking in every moment it just for secretaries. Poster woman. The president's. Policy. That. I just feel like an average citizens so maybe I just -- -- presenting just the average citizen. You know needs a voice. And months be treated fairly in the area of Texas. This can end here. I think and it never seen before they don't know the -- -- your relationship with more work from over twenty years. You have an open relationship if he -- last year. And it was write this up and secretary and it. I -- he never tells me anything. He doesn't want to do I have to deal with the after a and I may have at some point. Oppenheim typing up things for him that I did get a -- Had I don't mean obvious you know help local warrant had been about the issue and what he believes it's unfair tax policy in this country. Did you ever think about your issue here your own personal not I had no idea. That was going. Everybody in our office is paying higher tax rate more so it it just -- -- on me that I would singled and then. And I didn't realize it would warrant writes things in and -- -- craftsmen and their interest but I do know that anything would. Be reflected in in my direction it. -- its typical huge huge right in the middle and and -- actually done the survey. Two times earlier back in 2000 section five and -- -- And similar results but. -- she's represented but -- the entire office this time was between 33 and 41% and payroll and income taxes paid the federal government. And somewhere in the middle there average he's average totally aftertaste that's the only thing he's average at analyses -- -- you know. Apathy or more in the years that he -- such. -- now I -- and fox. -- -- -- -- yes. It was right there. -- -- -- house majority leader Eric Cantor patent this morning he's you and it. We'll be one of the defining moments of the 2012. Election. President -- here. Petrified. Well but she is typical -- -- -- in our office. I -- know -- these figures with the and -- have done it three times and and each time has come up at about the same way in this this year they ranged between 33 and 41%. Payroll and income taxes everybody likes. When people talk about the rich pay more all that they they say they forgot entirely about payroll taxes than payroll taxes are regular aggressive the truth is that. That a number of people in our office. Husband and wife work. And they pay payroll taxes on 200000. -- slightly over. I'd pay payroll taxes on 100000. So I actually pay less in actual dollars forgot about percentages payroll taxes are inconsequential -- They're overwhelming -- for many people and that's changed over the years. And deputy assistant issue that you -- your husband talked about as well not now not. So it do you think that people went across the country -- having the same discussion for the first time now. I believe they don't believe -- has really gotten the interest. Many people. And -- you agree whip Eric -- Davis will be a defining issue I think your election. I think it should be a defining issue -- I think that -- world in which. And -- I end up paying its 17% of the federal government on an income of sixty million or -- and that it works just as hard as I do. You know she's superb at her job she -- a family at the same time. And she -- at twice the rate I -- I think that's outrageous and I think that the American public Clinton who both think so. And the Buffett rule was named actually last summer and it became more defined last night we actually -- the first time on number attached to it. 30% do you agree with. Well and and you also saw that that would be a minimum tax I think before they talked a little bit more about just raising the rates on the Oprah rich but. But I'd always thought that that that well I really thought since the article appeared in and I talked with other people. About the idea of having a minimum tax for the -- rich white people make very big money athletes and entertainers all -- -- and they pay normal rates they pay. -- significant -- but then there's other people will make money with money. -- that there's nothing wrong with governor Romney doing that is on the wrong -- -- doing -- but -- something very very wrong with -- policy. -- the congress is responsible for that that. That let's us pay taxes at a rate that's about half what that -- -- House speaker Boehner was asked about the that ruling and Mitt Romney is tax return as well showing that he paid roughly 15% -- capital gains -- what he said he's -- -- -- that there's a reason we have low rates on capital gains. That's because -- -- new investment in our economy and -- capital to move more quickly and this election's going to be a referendum on the president's economic policies. His policies have failed. -- -- Aren't we disagree with morality and visual I mean tax capital gain rates have been much higher in the past. They were the same rate as and reconcile the bill where he made of the same right of ordinary income was 28%. Capital formation. In this country in the fifties and sixties -- seventies -- much higher rate was just fly and so applied today incidentally I mean that. People like to make money went back -- the best thing. And they make it -- the tax rates 15% this year and that maybe the negative but experts 30% that your they'd rather have the tax rate is 50% -- that would be zero. But the question is what is fair when you have to raise. Multi trillions of dollars to fund the United States government and everybody agrees that we're not getting enough revenue. Privately I've not -- a Republican that thinks that the United States government should should operate on 15% of GDP in revenue. So you have to get some more revenue have to cut expenditures -- -- to -- I don't know question about. And what about the timing yeah a lot of Republicans -- -- -- the business community that say this is a debate to be have a later the economy is just starting to recover. And -- even oppose raising taxes on capital gains for those in the business world right now. Would be crashing for an economy. It's still so perhaps it won't change it it will change our behavior. I -- I've got my tax returns since nineteen. A 44 when I was thirteen years of age I paid all the different kinds of capital gains rates -- paid all kinds of your order your coverage I've always been an interest in taking money. I have never talked to an investor I started selling stocks when I was twenty years old. -- 81 now. I have talked to lots of investors over the years -- -- a very rich investors medium size investors I've never -- one say I'm not interest -- investing because -- have to pay X in the capital gains tax rates. -- -- And -- -- some of the other policies the president -- last night targeting companies. That we're sending employees overseas what have been trying to take advantage of lower taxes there do you think that's appropriate measure to be -- well. I think that it's a very complicated issue on that I'm. I think that that. -- differential in rates at. I think having incentives for people to seek out tax statements whether they're individuals or corporations abroad is now -- a mistake but. Exactly how you attack that I have -- -- a single proposal. That the speech last night we were -- this was going to be a populous. Argument the president is going to be making news in -- populist issue you can take on for 2012. And and I want to ask you the tax issue itself has been one that you been talking -- very vocal that for many years however spoke. Debbie entering the fray and the picture. Show that -- Resonate with Americans and the president is that's me -- state in the country right now where people are. Well it speaks it speaks to how well they were informed about what's been going on they read in the papers all of time about -- 50% or so don't pay any income tax at all but usually it's -- just as any tax at all but -- -- -- payroll taxes and if you look at the history the US history. Since World War II. Payroll taxes climbed like that as a percentage of government receipts so what has happened is. And and that and that's what the lower middle class and upper middle class pay me I don't pay hardly any payroll tax. Governor -- doesn't pay hardly -- payroll tax. Newt Gingrich doesn't -- and -- -- hardly any petrol tax. -- -- -- a petrol tax and the American public does. But they they they haven't really understood that oppose -- federal government is a combination of the two payroll taxes and income taxes and their figures that show. The people in the ten to 20000 bracket. Are paying as much in a combination of payroll and income taxes as the old -- rich. Do you agree with the president when he has those earning 250000. Dollars or less should not seen an increase in -- -- -- I certainly don't think. Generally agree I was certainly don't think. That they should. Be penalized in any way until -- -- -- -- have seen something happen I -- bear in mind. But the 400 largest taxpayers -- look at them on the Internet. Had average average income of 220. Million dollars in the most recent year and they pay tax. Overall to the federal government counting payroll tax at a rate that's about two thirds of what -- That if we're gonna talk about shared sacrifice. And we we need more money Maghreb and incidentally most of agribusiness is more than willing to pay that they've had these surveys recently most of the -- Richfield put there. They're -- should go up and it's a lot easier to go around the -- the country and say we need a little sacrifice from you may be in terms of changing. Benefits -- have been promised or whatever may be. It effect you get the Oprah rich who have seen their rates. Drop. Eight or nine point since since 1992. While their incomes of Quinn toppled -- -- -- To be -- injured in the -- and and and say with a straight face to people like -- that maybe we made little help from you with what if they get substantial help from ultra rich. And yet there's a lot of criticism pessimism throughout the country do nothing congress -- the president even addressed this last night and what are the odds that you think. That the tax issue in this country will actually wouldn't be addressed and changed within the next year -- And what the American public -- -- I -- lead the interest of most of the people. But that's State of the Union Address Republicans and Democrats alike is to get reelected next -- -- party win. And if they think it's useful to having a party when you will see activity in that field and that they think they can get by doing nothing like they did last year. And you -- -- -- I hope that they I hope they do some I don't think it's at all impossible but they do do something. I want to ask you about the elections and even following the debates -- -- important. Larger office. And -- -- -- surprised at where things stand right now that Mitt Romney Newt Gingrich are virtually neck and neck. -- -- -- -- and I'm not the great. Drug prosecutor what's gonna happen and -- and in the elections but -- I just find it fascinating to watch but I -- not put any money I didn't come from. And Ann are you surprised at how much heat Mitt Romney for not releasing initially -- -- no I think give Europe an ultra rich. Diet and there's a strong suspicion that you're paying taxes at a rate that what -- -- I think that. That you're -- -- expects of me and incidently. I -- -- very clear I don't blame governor Romney. Preparing the tax rate I blame the US congress. For the fact that Mitt Romney -- -- -- that he -- -- that governor -- -- it. It in the -- that tax code the US congress enacted the tax -- Which left him paying fourteen or so percent what she -- now 35 point 8%. And yet while his name wasn't mentioned once last night you is basically -- elephant never specifically when it comes issues related to taxes. At -- being described as that the -- and the release of its taxes helping make the case. For the Buffett rule do you think that he's surprised at how much this is -- how much he he's taken. Personally. Only certain certain if you can surprises of the questions that got -- in terms of his answered but I. He may be somewhat surprised only -- -- -- and he's an intelligent man. He has spindle the putting out a tax return -- in the 15% range -- I was this is going to. It's going to cause a lot of comment and he knows he's in a tough primary race that there's a -- abuses against him should be released more than two years or I think so. -- -- after eventually. I. I think he probably depleted it dressed and even earlier just laid out the returns as -- -- put about for twelve years and I -- -- the problem what his situation is once you release that. You wonder whether even played a lower rate or what the situation was a few years earlier wanted to play at all but. But I emphasize. He is not to blame for his -- tax rate. The US congress to lifers -- tax rate. And does that look tax rate in your opinion disqualify him -- -- coming in at -- the US now. -- it he followed he followed the law. And it's that the law -- I don't think the majority of Americans. Of understood in the past. But what has happened in recent years. Is that the tax playing field has been tilted more and more to the -- rich. We were told that are rising tide will lift all boats were rising tide -- -- all yachts. But it has left the rest of the country and. And what what is your challenge him what is your question to him if he did nothing illegal is it about whether he thinks that's. A moral obligation to pay more. I would just well. Is it a moral obligation -- he has the power to do it to change to try to change the tax law I would ask him whether he believes that a countries like the United States. Should have campaign that kind of -- I wouldn't argue with them -- all about you know whether it was proper to fly out. Filed return the way he did but I would you say if you become president of United States. You know do you really think that you want to have a tax code that results in your tax rate -- the -- tax code results and everything 35 point 8%. And -- it without getting into your politics specifically when you heard about Mitt Romney paying 15%. Slightly less spending your -- here. Did that resonate with -- that hit a nerve with the U. -- but in I think of all the other alternatives that are doing this thing after I wrote the article and and it it -- it to your attention they need to start thinking about it something I really thought about before. And you think that it's just not right it's not there. I have a lot of friends among old -- usually used up first market approached the media. -- Debbie knows about them some of those people have tax rates lower than -- A number of doctor. But someone will interpret -- -- and why do you think that becomes such divisive issue among -- in the country. Having come out of the moral I don't think it's a divisive among the -- I think if the wealthy have attacked very the most important -- -- -- and you know. It that they are taking advantage of where the lots standards they're filling out their tax return just like I mean that's all I do I don't have -- your. I just the end of the year. The -- that he the congress has told me when I'm forced to pay. I think it's wrong in terms of the general policy I don't think is wrong that I follow the law. And yet -- candidates John Kerry comes to mind paying a lower tax rate. Then -- Romney paid in this issue didn't seem to come up with him what why do you think that -- so much attention focused on Mitt Romney specifically. Well it has got a lot worse in recent years I mean -- that if you go back and look at 400 highest. Tax. His tax returns. That they go back -- 1992 you'll see that. The incomes above like this tax rates -- that so it is it's become more and more. Apparent just how -- parts -- -- the and then you have a situation where in the last. For your started -- in the fall 2008 -- you know we had day. An economic crisis here and I think that makes people record. Focus on economic issues and Republicans -- class warfare. On the other -- -- wealthy people they're well there artworks were well the understanding is of course. Is the tax code does would call warfare but the -- -- it was a struggle. People try to keep terror groups try to keep their own taxes on people lobby for lower estate taxes by -- lobby for lower capital gains taxes. Salt if this is a war. I wouldn't call Oracle struggle that this is a war. In my side has had a nuclear -- I mean we've got K street lobbyists and with that money on our side in terms of contributions with money on our side in terms of obvious. Deb does not have a -- you don't have anybody remotely that represented her. But believe me plenty of rich families about lobbyists working like crazy did get rid of -- state taxes to lower capital gains taxes whatever may be. So if there's been a war going the war has been waged. By the people that are. Well but very well but whose super rich in many cases who are trying to shift more of the burden or the people like that but -- -- from themselves and like -- say. -- -- And -- do you find a lot of the wealthy here Romney happy you are out of touch with -- Amy Dickinson and people like yourself. -- -- And Warren obviously a lot of -- made about Romney's well at somebody who's much wealthier than Mitt Romney. Do you and it's personal wealth should be a major issue election. I don't think I don't think that's -- to the election I'd -- I'd like I say I think I think he has tax returns. Should be an issue as they illuminate the basic problem and and he should be asked -- he really think that's right is that what he would perpetuate. If -- were present the United States or does he think this is something that needs changing. -- -- -- -- -- And do you think how much longer is this the end of this issue for him does he -- to release more. Tax returns from previous years I mean how does he move past us now here. The nature politics if you if you. Hell is that you know as -- them and the total whether it makes about the -- -- -- until November her. He mentioned lobbyists as well. Gingrich and you Gingrich has been accused -- Romney and being an influence peddler. But -- a lobbyist does it bother you that Gingrich took money from Bernie -- Well I think I think the -- explained that sort of bothers me -- the idea. That he wasn't there to influence. Our congressional people on behalf -- for Mac I think. You know he had an advisor who was -- lobbyists -- expert but tiptoe around the rules so you wouldn't you wouldn't be called lobbyist but. He would he started out as in the story and you know 25000 dollars month which. You know compare -- -- -- -- triple double -- -- because she pays a higher tax rate he does count as as well but. He clearly. When he went there he did not want to be callable obvious. Tom Daschle doesn't want -- -- -- I'm democratic -- Tom -- I'm just telling you. The way Washington works. That those people -- getting paid lots of money. If the people paid them that money if -- so that -- eleven a monastery on Californians that and we're gonna have any contact with people in Washington that would -- that you want. -- what resonates works with you somebody who's paying 15%. Tired. Capital gains or somebody who's taking money from Freddie Mac something like Freddie Mac. -- And I am now. That's that's a good question. -- -- of war yeah. Absent those that your Democrat. Republican support for Republicans incidentally and -- -- Republican were to win the election even better suited for these plans. I think. Gingrich -- whoever cares about two things you know. One is making me well getting I'm -- -- foreign policy but in terms of domestic policy one who cares a lot about having a a goose that continues to that deliver more more golden eggs and one who. Feels that the person that owns the goose is entitled -- would you be comfortable. Around president. Well become I've been -- for what basically -- this country. Is very hard to mess up. And so if it works overtime. I was born in 1930 and in my lifetime. GDP per capita real GDP is on -- six for one we have a system works. Added it worked under Republicans that -- under Democrats -- -- we get discouraged them from time to time. What they're your children gradual about a that you saw at -- Republican or Democrat gets elected this year. -- an army person I don't remember him. And doesn't Bob and -- company -- -- capital a private equity company if there's an an argument that it's either job creator or it's a corporate raider. Which one is. It's neither one is you want it's it's it's a company that looks around for businesses to buy sometimes are already good businesses sometimes -- may have some troubles. That probably prefer by good that he actually they do -- -- -- and leverage them up a lot of our tax law favors the death. And you make more money if -- right if you leverage something way out and sometimes they push that too far but. Their idea is to buy -- company and later sell -- for more money. I like a vitamin -- them but there's no. There's nothing wrong with buying and and and and selling companies and and they've done that I -- I'm sure -- got a -- they're proud -- and I'm sure -- got a few there that. There was problem. That does it surprise -- that within the Republican Party itself the issue over capitalism. And and Mitt Romney's time in Spain has been addressed over and over and again by his rivals. Well I think the public apple -- -- -- -- I don't see any of proverb you couldn't you couldn't do things that are wrong in in and then in connection with any type of buying and selling activity but I. But but. That -- they operate with leverage and they make more money because they operate at leverage and -- -- favored by a tax code they -- -- but somebody wrote. And they're the ones that they should be looked -- but I don't. There's nothing that taints him in my mind because. He's bought and sold business. Fairness there when it was a big theme in last night's State of the Union Address as well. Given me the number of years we use that in this country as a businessman. Elections you've been through. -- do you think that we're in -- place -- fairness is a major issue right today. -- furnace -- -- result there's always an issue but some as people become. More aware of unfairness. Because of specific examples or whatever it may -- but. But the American people want a -- side -- That's not limited Republicans or Democrats. People want a fair society how they define fairness you know it's. Depends on their own situation most people -- and don't they look at their own situation I think editing entries -- Wallace -- and historically how would you assess. It. Well this country's. Best days lie ahead so I mean I I am I by the huge -- on the United States I mean that -- incidentally. Our businesses are doing except for the ones -- -- housing related which -- really in the dobbs. But everything else and we've got seventy some businesses that are doing better and better and we're -- people -- -- that this. This -- a wonder this country works -- unleashes human potential. And this country is based on the American dream as well as that dreams still alive and he talked about fairness to talk met Debbie pay higher tax rate. It. Did today's faces the same opportunities they have this opportunity. Some -- have a legitimate. Yet there's a market system produces struck the huge over time more and more goods and services people want. But some people -- much better adapted to a market system and others I mean if you go back -- her 150 years when most people -- on the form. Somebody that had an idea IQ. Could. Had a great variety of jobs available to them that proportion has changed over the years that the -- the the the the job. The scope of jobs -- -- just move constantly toward people with certain kinds of skills so. The market system is not going to treat you wonderfully. If you're somebody that can be a wonderful parent. Wonderful citizen. Go off to Afghanistan. But you don't have talent but the market system pays off and you can talk about education and immigration all -- those are important. But they don't do. That there are certain people that are not going to really cash in a market system and there are other people learn English language -- and I don't wanna mess up that market system because it produces more and more but I do want a government that is responsible. And responsive to the people -- get short straws and. And what as an Obama supporter what some of the challenges he faces. Election. -- -- I don't they're better analyze the political situation. I pity the -- economy still -- the number one how how people feel about the economy in late October. We'll probably have more. To do -- in determining who the next president will be them and any other single factor now who knows what comes out of the boat but that. If people field that alone on the economy. In the fall. The president will have a tough time if they feel things are getting better I think he will he will be -- Warner. And like an act. Quickly captured. -- -- returner Eric Adams dating back many years to tell you. For him. Well -- well. I'm challenging governor -- -- but -- -- -- that -- fable goes back to. When I was thirteen I kept every tax return -- lost -- I can't find it. But it is interesting that when I was 21. Out of school are 171638. Dollars. I -- 23 point 8% that year in payroll plus income taxes. But I -- I was 25 earned 46627. Dollars I paid 34 point two I think twice the rate that. Obvious thing on count twenty million aura or twice the rate and I'm -- sixty million now I have never had it so good. And yet all that time -- now they they treat me you know -- last year being sixty million they treat me. The federal government says. We don't want account you you know we have to protect your war -- public. The condor the get a spot or something like that so we're gonna give you the very -- tax rate and much lower than fifty years ago when you're making fifteen or 20000 dollars a year. Much lower than that -- Because you know. You just are here are -- And your question can Romney today it might admire what one of my questions that they would be not. About your tax return last year but you you'd think that. He's just the tax system that produced -- rate of 14% or so should be perpetuated or shouldn't be changed in some manner and do you think this country can get along. With less than 18% of GDB coming -- and revenue. And if it can't Holland world or even reached out if you say nobody's taxes -- Anything. -- Message from him navigate into. -- personal. Accurately. Describe. It can't let it her. -- -- -- too -- the error which goes for a couple. What happened yesterday. I didn't reported. And. I'm not getting I think it that's an instance. Of what I'm talking about in terms of how the market system. Recognize is different I'm very good at figuring out. Misperceptions and capital markets -- sort of been I have learned how to allocate capital well. Maybe I was born that way -- government from somebody who knows now. Daddy -- -- -- -- have probably would beat me now and she works just as hard as I do she just doesn't happen to be in the sector of the economy the pays off like crazy. Now if she was you know if she was them. The best you know whatever might be. Different sex but and -- football player whatever it should make it a key issue in -- great television -- she might be making millions as an anchor person. That -- that person better than -- is in terms of what they contribute to decide you know what. The market system will pay certain people -- enormously other people it doesn't -- remotely as well and they're doing things that are just as important for society. I don't I don't think we should get and any comparable -- failure of laws about what people should make. But I do think the tax system should recognize. That -- all in this together whenever I hear somebody say. They did it -- myself. I want to buy a ticket to fly over to Normandy and deliver that speech among those -- of crosses you know. There's just -- adjustment credit that just from trying to get those words out of -- -- live your life be like without -- -- -- -- -- And -- smiled and laughed when you've been. It changes your outlook that this is at this point about -- accidentally. -- What. That interview everything. -- I'm not sure I'm I'm just so. So happy to be an Americana and live in this country at eight united wanted to be treated fairly. And I think that the taxation issue should be contrast. He wants to switch places -- -- actually that is also true. How many years have you been working together. Well she's been. My assistant. Former one left in what year was 9393. It's been. Going on fine tune your opinions and you've been working for Berkshire thirty Saturday that you went -- -- of seventeen for Berkshire. That was our lucky day. That's average Americans and that's -- young woman who's now been lifted the World -- Well actually it it added that if it'd been born male. -- -- changed over the years. She would be earning far more money. That's the case. That an issue yeah I think as a -- -- heart is addressed. Quite well -- -- -- -- -- all men are created -- back and 1776. That we got -- of the nineteenth but that he what are we like. But we move in the right direction and -- and we've moved in the right direction in terms of gender equality. And we've moved in terms of racial equality but. That it takes time and and we were floated what my sisters were smarter I thought for sure now and but they didn't have the same. Opportunities I had -- different expectation. There energy might else my parents never let it. You know and saying. More and you -- you know abuse of something different than your sister's but it it was implicit in what they were at school that was implicit -- what they -- the whole war friends or anything else. They did not have the same opportunity. -- -- ask you what the president. That he hated Saddam happy you to come and I said you know what an honor and a privilege it was it was the first to my head netcams. -- The first president ever. And I just it's just. Wonderful privilege to me here and and he had I think yes well you know he. -- -- -- -- He talked shop know that you did your pictures I didn't execute him right. But -- were here is pictured here. Okay we'll thank you so much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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