TRANSCRIPT/VIDEO PART THREE: Three Hours With Warren Buffett - Live From Omaha
QUICK: Warren, you're not convinced that things are quite as dire.
BUFFETT: No, I--the short-term outlook is not. But we've had a number of recessions in this country; in fact, we had a Great Depression, we had--we've got world wars. And throughout, the genius of the American economy, our emphasis on a meritocracy and a market system and a rule of law has enabled generation after generation to live better than their parents did. And, I mean, most of the people in this room, practically all of them last night, lived better than John D. Rockefeller lived. I mean, all kinds of things have happened. And in the 20th century alone, the standard of living of the average American went up seven for one. There's never been a period like it in history. And that's not an accident. It's because we unleash human potential and will continue to do that in the future. And we'll always have challenges and we'll always have disputes between different demographic groups and income groups. The rich don't want to pay their share of the taxes. The poor probably, you know, they--in the last 20 years, the net worth of the Forbes 400 has gone from 220 billion to a trillion five hundred and forty billion. So you'll always have fights within the family about who gets what of the pie, but the pie will grow.
QUICK: But there are points that all four of you agree on. What's the closest point where, I mean, you say, `Yes, this is something the American people need to hear?'
BUFFETT: Well, I think you should always be thinking about the future. I mean, I think you're crazy if you're not--if you're not planning out where you'll be in 10 and 20 or 30 years. You'll get surprises in those plans.
BUFFETT: And frankly, American ingenuity will tend to surprise on the upside much of the time. I also think that it's dangerous politically over time. It doesn't endanger the economy in a huge way, but it's dangerous politically over time to run very large current account deficits whereby there's a massive transfer of assets or IOUs to the rest of the world from America. I think that will cause a lot of demagoguery and potentially some real problems 20 years down the road. We'd still have a more prosperous society.
BUFFETT: But it wouldn't be--wouldn't be as good as if we didn't do it.
WALKER: I think we agree on two things. I believe all four of us do, based on listening last night and talking this morning. Number one, we need to focus on the future.
WALKER: We're a great country, we need to do a number of things to make sure we stay great. And secondly, we support a capable, credible and bipartisan commission to be able to make recommendations to the next president and the next Congress to deal with some of these challenges so we can start making a down payment on our big hole and try to increase the likelihood that our future will be better than our past.
QUICK: You've had conversations with both campaigns, with the McCain and the Obama campaigns. What's been your takeaway from those conversations?
WALKER: Well, the takeaway is there's a difference between getting elected and governing, and there's a tendency for people not to want to talk with too much specificity with regard to some of these challenges in order to get elected.
QUICK: Mm-hmm. Right.
WALKER: The challenge is this: If they don't at least acknowledge the problem and figure a--figure a path for it, like a commission, then you don't have a mandate to be able to do something after you're elected. And so that's why I think acknowledging the problem, endorsing a capable, credible and bipartisan commission is the right thing to do for them and the right thing for the country.
QUICK: Mr. Peterson, you put some financing into this film. Would you consider doing a debate with the two political candidates that focuses specifically on the economic issues out there?
PETERSON: I'm just the aging founder of this. We have the CEO sitting here. We're exploring all kinds of possibilities.
BUFFETT: The one thing you won't find, Becky, you won't--you won't find either candidate telling you that if we're going to spend $3.1 trillion next year, the federal government will tell you how they're going to raise 3.1 trillion. They just aren't going to come up with it. They...
QUICK: Long on promises, short on ways on how to do it right now.
WALKER: Maybe if you invited them, they'd come. But they would have some trepidation, I think. And I think we'd find some ways to come up with some funding for it if it was necessary.
PETERSON: The other big audience that we're going to focus on are the young people. And I'm one of these old fogies that doesn't even do e-mail, so I'm hardly the person to plan it. But we've got a bunch of young people who are experts looking at Facebook and MySpace and MTV and so forth, because it's going to be very important to get these young people aware of their future, incidentally, not mine. Buffett and I'll do pretty well, if we don't live...
BUFFETT: I hope so.
PETERSON: If we don't live too long.
QUICK: David, if you had, again, to take a look and go out to Congress, do you think this is a message that plays back? You're in an election season, it's a tricky time. But what's been the push back? What's been the...
WALKER: Well, I agree with what Bill Novelli said.
WALKER: I mean, the American people are ahead of the politicians.
WALKER: They're not accustomed to hearing the truth from the politicians and they're looking for two things. They want truth and they want leadership.
WALKER: And they need--we need more of both right now. So I think that if we can get the American people engaged, involved, if we can get the presidential candidates to acknowledge the problem, to be able to endorse the type of commission we're talking about as a way forward, there's hope.
NOVELLI: Becky, you got a question last night from a woman who said, `I'm a boomer and I'm worried about my adult daughter.'
QUICK: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
NOVELLI: This is true all over the country. You know, the majority of adults in this country think that their children are going to be worse off than they were. This would be the American dream going backwards. We can't let this happen.
QUICK: All right, gentlemen, I want to thank you all for joining us this morning. It's a topic we'll be discussing through this morning as well. But also coming up, this is something you've never heard Warren Buffett talk about ever before. We're going to be back in two minutes. I'm as intrigued as you are.
QUICK: So is he, you should see his face. We're going to be spending the morning with the world's most famous investor and we have much more SQUAWK right after this.
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