During Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE: BRK-A) (NYSE: BRK-B) annual shareholder meeting in Omaha, Neb., Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger take questions for nearly six hours from journalists, financial analysts, and shareholders.
This year, the first question from a shareholder was about President Barack Obama and the U.S. economy. The shareholder was a bit pessimistic, and he wanted Warren's take. Warren called for a "truce" on arguing politics, but he did express optimism about the present state and future of U.S. corporations.
Below are my notes on the shareholder's question, along with responses from Warren and Charlie.
Shareholder: The president's approval rating is at 40%. Steve Wynn says President Obama is the biggest wet blanket on the economy. The train is going in the wrong direction. Can you conduct Obama to change the train's direction?
Warren: I think I'll let you communicate with him [Obama] directly (laughs). I disagree with many things you've said here. I think American business is doing extraordinarily well. I think Obama cares more than others would. But that's politics, and we're not going to convince each other.
But if you're worried about corporations, you should look at the history of corporate taxes and earnings since World War II. If you look at returns on net tangible assets, we're the envy of the world. Corporate taxes rates are lower now than throughout much of Charlie and my career. At one point, we paid something like 52%. But I'll call a truce with you on that point.
Charlie: I don't like this one.
Warren: And people complain about me abstaining! [referring to abstaining from voting on Coca-Cola's (NYSE: KO) compensation plan]
Obviously, we all have our political opinions, and it's hard not to be biased in a conversation about politics. Warren acknowledges being a Democratic. Charlie classifies himself as a Republican. So you can weigh these comments based on that context.
Warren Buffett just bought nearly 9 million shares of this company
Imagine a company that rents a very specific and valuable piece of machinery for $41,000... per hour (that's almost as much as the average American makes in a year!). And Warren Buffett is so confident in this company's can't-live-without-it business model, he just loaded up on 8.8 million shares. An exclusive, brand-new Motley Fool report details this company that already has over 50% market share. Just click HERE to discover more about this industry-leading stock... and join Buffett in his quest for a veritable landslide of profits!
Brendan Mathews owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway and Coca-Cola. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and has the following options: long January 2016 $37 calls on Coca-Cola and short January 2016 $37 puts on Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.