Tiring of “Uncle Warren”

As we settle into the holiday malaise one thing keeps coming across the airwaves, and print with more intrusive annoyance than a new colored or shaded shopping day advertisement: Warren Buffett.

Over the years he has a great track record and has delivered share holder value worthy of praise. So let me be clear that I respect, and applaud it. However the sycophantic drooling over what he says; or the unquestioning must follow cult like reactions to every word mouthed is getting not only old – it’s down right pathetic. Not only from investors of all stripes, but the media as well.

When it comes to investing one term that gets repeated over, and over, and over again is “I worship at the altar of Mr. Buffett.” I understand using hyperbole to make a point. Yet what you hear next 9 out of 10 times is that person carrying on as if there really is some alter within a building where this person or others receives edicts from one of Warren’s many investing guide books. (Sorry I meant gospels)  As to instruct and follow his written word as he has written.

The only problem for the devoted is this: Mr. Buffett has never written a book on investing. Ever! Sure you can find a collection of his essays. However that’s not the step by step 1-2-3 manuals many allude to. Those are all written by a cottage industry of the devoted – to the devoted. As to push or sell the Buffett mystique. All that real information within “Uncle Warren’s” head is still there, kept closely guarded – just like his money.

As far as the people worshiping are concerned they say,  “Who cares. It’s Uncle Warren!” Whether you call it a religion or a cult one thing is evident. This is the kind of thinking and reasoning that more often than not gets the “followers” into trouble in the end.

I’ve pretty much followed the philosophy of another wealthy American: Andrew Carnegie. I could go on at length, but I’ll just share one of his many poignant statements which I personally follow with a zeal that would make a Buffet devote blush. (and that’s saying something) It goes like this:

“I don’t listen to what men say – I watch what they do.”
– Andrew Carnegie

Which is why I’m not only tiring, but I’ve now become annoyed.

Currently Mr. Buffett is being paraded across the financial media touting his thought on how the wealthy should pay higher taxes. Whether you agree with the premise or not is irrelevant. What I would like to point out is this: “Be wary of someone telling everyone else to do something that they don’t do on their own.”

I would have a lot more respect for Mr. Buffett’s stance or the faithful proclaiming his benevolent tone if I saw evidence that he practiced what he’s telling everyone else should be done. Yet I have heard only a handful of people call him on it. In other words, “How much extra do you send in with your filed returns?” However to the devoted words like that are considered blasphemy.

If paying higher taxes was paramount to the survival of the country, then why is it Mr. Buffet has all his BILLIONS going to a charity when he passes on? Why is he not leaving all that money to the government to help out as he so advocates to everyone else? Another glaring fact that all this dribble from the likes of Mr. Buffett and others is just that – its dribble.

Recently the government announced the report for the total extra, or voluntarily donated money received. The line is on every federal tax return which allows anyone and everyone to give or pay extra if they wish. You can call it a donation box for “Uncle Sam.”

Total amount given last report? $7 million dollars.Yes, total! Not per billionaire like the sage of Omaha. No $7 million dollars as in total that’s it. Looks like it’s more of a “Do as I say – Not as I do” moment for the likes of our financial pseudo relatives is it not?

Which brings me round to my tiring statement. I have no issue with the likes of Warren Buffett or others touting this tax policy or that tax policy. I’ve listened to cases made by others of similar investing prowess. Many make good cases for and against certain types. They’re understandable, well articulated, and they base their arguments on what they see as flaws in policy or codes.

Jim Chanos (someone who’s business acumen I admire) one of the great short side players of the markets often speaks on the issue of where certain tax loopholes should be adjusted or closed, etc. You can agree with his reasoning or not. But what I don’t hear from someone like him are blanket statements of “The rich need to pay more.” That’s far different from what the congregation following “Uncle Warren” espouse.

Just to be clear I have nothing but respect for Mr. Buffet as an investor and the demonstrated return of capital he has provided for his companies, employees, and investors alike. What I am growing tired of is the obvious “Do as I say – Not as I do” undertone that barks incessantly through my screen when I see him giving interview after interview on everyone paying their fair share.

Just once I would like to see someone follow-up with the question: “If you believe people like yourself should pay more, then why are you still disputing by not paying the near $1 BILLION dollars in back taxes it’s been reported you owe? Wouldn’t it be a nice gesture to just cut a check and show others you put your money where your mouth is, rather than continuing to fight it in court?”

Hey it’s the holidays, I can dream can’t I? But I’m not holding my breath.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr