Warren Buffett and his traveling companions started their visit to China earlier today in Shenzhen with a show of support for electric-car maker BYD.
Forbes just published their annual list of the “Richest People in America.” What some may not know is that on that roster are 28 American billionaires, including Warren Buffet, Bill and Melinda Gates and Michael Bloomberg, who have added their name to The Giving Pledge . As founders and fundraisers for two leading international organizations, we were thrilled to hear that these billionaires were committing to give away a majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes.
But, as business leaders, we had an important follow up question for them: what’s your timeline?
So many of us in the nonprofit space recognize and personally know many of those who’ve made the pledge, and if we didn’t know them, we now want to. One of those names, Jeff Skoll and the Skoll Foundation , was an early investor in both Kiva and Room to Read, and due in large part to their support, our respective organizations have managed to scale faster than we could have ever predicted.
This is a transcript of Warren Buffett's complete interview with CNBC's Becky Quick on Wednesday, September 22, 2010. Portions of their conversation aired today (Thursday) on Squawk Box.
DOWNLOADABLE PDF TRANSCRIPT
BECKY QUICK: Warren, thank you for joining us today.
WARREN BUFFETT: My pleasure.
Warren Buffett tells CNBC he doesn't buy theargument that raising taxes for the rich would derail thenation's economic recovery.
In a taped interview with Becky Quick, Buffett says thatwhile $250,000 in annual income is not necessarily hisdefinition of "rich", he does think it is a "little obscene"that the tax system has gotten "tilted toward guys like me"over the last 20 years.
"When a country needs more income, and we do -- we're onlytaking in 15 percent of GDP ... they should get it from thepeople that have it."
WARRENBUFFETT TO CNBC: "WE'RE STILL IN ARECESSION" U.S.CAPITALISM'S 'REGENERATIVE CAPACITY' MORE IMPORTANT THANGOVERNMENT STIMULUS COMPLETEINTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
While Buffett acknowledges that a compromise may becomenecessary, he thinks President Obama should be "pretty tough"on insisting that the expiring Bush-era tax cuts are extendedonly for the middle class and not the rich.
Warren Buffett tells CNBC that the "normal regenerative capacity of American capitalism" will play a much bigger role in the country's emergence from recession than the government's stimulus of the economy.
While he acknowledges that while it is "important" to have the "right" fiscal and monetary policies, "We have had many recessions in the history of this country when nobody even heard of fiscal policy or monetary policy. The country always comes back."
In a taped interview with CNBC's Becky Quick airing this morning on Squawk Box , he did offer one suggestion to Washington, noting that banks have over a trillion dollars on deposit with the Federal Reserve: "I think the Fed is paying those banks a quarter of a percent now. I thought maybe-- maybe they ought to charge them a quarter of a percent to leave their money on deposit and that would really push it out" by encouraging banks to make loans.
Buffett says whether its called a Stimulus Bill or not, the government's deficit spending "is more stimulative than any policy we've followed since World War II." But, he says, "It isn't kick starting things as much as the American public would like."
Warren Buffett tells CNBC that by his own "common sense" definition, the United States is "still in a recession."
While Buffett continues to believe the U.S. will eventually emerge from its economic downturn, "We're not gonna be out of it for awhile."
Buffett was responding to a question from question about the National Bureau of Economic Research's determination earlier this weekthat the recession 'officially' ended in June, 2009.
Here's the entire clip as it aired on the 6a ET hour of Squawk Box. Becky started by asking Buffett if small businesses are having trouble getting loans:
Warren Buffett keeps his #2 slot on the new Forbes 400 list of the Richest Americans, released tonight \(Wednesday\).
The magazine estimates Buffett's fortune at $45 billion.
That's $5 billion more than last year's $40 billion .
Despite the gain, however, Buffett remains behind his friend, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who keeps his top spot on the list with $54 billion. That's an increase of $4 billion from last year's estimated $50 billion for Gates.
Oracle's Lawrence Ellison is in third place with an estimated $27 billion, unchanged from last year.
Buffett is featured in a Forbes cover story and video clip that accompanies the new list. "The Summit" features a recent conversation among Buffett, musician and businessman Jay-Z , and Steve Forbes on "wealth, success, and giving back."
Overall, it was a good year for Buffett's fellow billionaires. Forbes calculates the total combined wealth of its 400 Richest Americans increased 8 percent to $1.37 trillion from $1.27 trillion last year. That's still below 2007 and 2008 when the Forbes 400 total wealth topped $1.5 trillion.
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has resumed sales of Moody's shares as the credit rating agency's stock price tops $25.
That's a rebound from June lows that took the stock under $19.
Berkshire has been unloading slices of its Moody's position since last summer, but hasn't revealed any sales since March, when the stock was above $30.
According to an SEC filing , a total of 1,350,550 shares were sold for $33.98 million over three trading days ending yesterday (Tuesday). Average selling price: $25.16.
Warren Buffett doesn't appear to be concerned that slowing U.S. economic growth will worsen to become a "double-dip" recession, saying there's no evidence of "sour" sentiment in the latest results from Berkshire Hathaway's numerous operating businesses.
Speaking today by video to the Montana Economic Development Summit, AP quotes him as telling those attending: "I am a huge bull on this country. We are not going to have a double-dip recession at all. I see our businesses coming back across the board."
Bloomberg has almost the same quote, adding the word 'almost' to make it read, "I see our businesses coming back almost across the board."
It also adds this quote from Buffett:
"I’ve seen sentiment turn sour in the last three months or so, generally in the media. I don’t see that in our businesses. I see we’re employing more people than a month ago, two months ago."
Buffett said U.S. banks are now prepared to increase their lending: "It’s night and day from a year, year and a half ago. I know Wells Fargo, they would love to have $50 billion more of loans now. Go in and talk to the banker."
Buffett's Berkshire is Well Fargo's biggest shareholder, with over 320 million shares as of June 30. Today's market value: $8.5 billion.
It's not the first time Buffett has rejected suggestions the U.S. economy could again fall into recession in the near future, but today's comments do appear to reflect a more optimistic outlook with no reported mentions of an anemic recovery.
In March of this year, CNBC's Becky Quick asked him if he was worried about a "double-dip." At that time, he said:
"It's a slow recovery. The only thing--I mean, if you had some big exogenous event, I mean if you had something go wrong in the European Union or--I mean, there--if something--a huge terrorist attack, I mean, you can--you can think of things that would cause another jolt to the economy like that jolt we had in September of 2008. But absent something really big from an exogenous nature to the United States, no, I think we will continue moving upward but not at a very fast rate."
As early as September of 2009, Buffett was saying the worst was over for the economy:
BECKY: But is there a risk of a second downturn? Will unemployment levels climb to a point where it becomes a leading indicator rather than a lagging indicator?
BUFFETT: I-- I think the odds are very much against getting significantly worse. It's sort of plateaued at the-- at the bottom right now, but if you got some horrible exogenous event, some-- some, you know, 9/11-- type event or worse-- you know, you could have something that would be dis-- really disruptive and start things all over again. But in terms of problems that we've identified and are working with, we've got more to come. But we're-- we're-- we're past the-- we're past the critical point.
Current Berkshire stock prices: