Years ago Tom Kirkendall had an insight that no one had before - or since, it seems - about Warren Buffett. Called "The Buffett Rule," Kirkendall explained the media's reporting of Buffett thusly: "A folksy and media savvy businessman involved in complicated structured finance transactions is given a pass [when others go to jail and receive negative press for the same conduct]."
The Buffett Rule is in full effect today. A story getting major attention reads: "Goldman Sachs, Buffett to help small businesses." Nowhere does the story report that Buffett is a substantial shareholder in Goldman Sachs. Instead, we're told that Goldman Sachs (which by now everyone who has been paying attention recognizes is evil) is getting advice from Aw, Shucks Buffett:
NEW YORK (AP) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said Tuesday it is teaming with billionaire investor Warren Buffett to invest $500 million to provide thousands of small business owners across America with college scholarships and boost their access to capital.
How thoughtful! Or is it?
Some might wonder whether Buffett, who has a several-billion-dollar stake in Goldman Sachs, is attempting to reform Goldman Sachs's evil (and well-deserved) reputation. Yet anyone who read the media's coverage of the tag-team wouldn't even realize that Buffett is a major shareholder in Goldman Sachs. No one would even recognize Buffett's true motives.
It's not evil for Buffett to seek to profit from his Goldman Sachs investment. In fact, Buffett has a legal and moral duty to maximize profits for his Berkshire Hathaway shareholders. It is evil for the media to pretend as if Buffett is being selfless. He's not.
Buffett wants to exploit his Goldman Sachs investment. Goldman Sachs profits due to government action and rent-seeking. Do you have an idea how many billions Goldman Sachs would make from cap-and-trade? Of course you don't. Goldman Sachs would like to keep you ignorant.
Buffett needs Goldman Sachs to continue its parasitic relationship with the federal government. Populist outrage and media attention is bad for Goldman Sachs; and thus bad for Buffett.
Speaking of the bailouts and Buffett, did you know that Warren Buffett received a $100 billion bailout from the federal government. The media hasn't been reporting on this, either:
I had lunch last week with Rolfe Winkler, who is an up and comer in the blog world, a thinking man’s Felix Salmon.
He is similarly annoyed with St. Warren — but rather than engage in my sophmoric venom spew, he went to the spreadsheet to discover that Buffet owns major stakes in 8 companies that have received more than $100 billion in government bailouts.
If you think we've moved beyond folk heroes and myths, look no farther than the media's treatment of Warren Buffett.