Buffett Watch

Warren Buffett Defends His Secretary From 'Ridiculous' Attacks

Warren Buffett's assistant Debbie Bosanek speaks with NBC's Tom Brokaw in this frame grab from a 2007 report on Buffett's call for higher taxes on the super-rich.

Warren Buffett says criticism of his secretary, Debbie Bosanek, over her supposed high salary and purchase of a second home, is 'ridiculous' and misses the point he's trying to make on tax rates for the very rich.

During his State of the Union address this week, President Obama said it isn't fair that Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary does, arguing for a "Buffett Rule" that would impose a minimum 30 percent tax rate on those making a million dollars or more per year.  Bosanek had been invited to sit in Michelle Obama's box to watch the speech.

Buffett tells the Omaha World-Herald, "They can't attack the facts, so they attack the person. It's ridiculous."

His point: "I'm saying she is being treated unfairly in the tax code, as are tens of millions of others, compared to me.  They shouldn't change the rates on all the other people.  They should change mine."

As for a by contributor Paul Roderick Gregory estimating Bosanek earns between $200,000 and $500,000 a year, "making her scarcely the symbol of injustice that Obama wishes her to project," Buffett replies that Gregory "doesn't have any idea, just zero.  If I were to estimate his salary, I'd probably be closer than he is."

Buffett says all the online guesses about Bosanek's salary aren't correct, but neither he nor she will reveal her actual salary because they say it's a private matter.  She does, however, feel that she is "treated fairly at Berkshire"  Some critics have argued that since Bosanek allowed herself to be injected into the public debate, she should release her tax returns.

As for her newfound fame as a symbol for President Obama's push for a "Buffett" tax rule, Bosanek says, "They needed to pick one person, and I was the lucky person they picked, or unlucky."

She adds that Buffett never implied she is poor or underpaid.  "It's not like I look forward to paying taxes, but I don't mind paying taxes as long as everybody's treated fairly. . I'm not saying anyone should feel sorry for me or lower my taxes."

She's also not apologizing for the second home she and her husband purchased in Arizona last summer for $144,000:

"I share Warren's view about the future of America, and we believe that our country will do just fine. I'm happy to make this investment.  Hopefully in 10 years, when I turn 65 and Warren turns 92, I will be able to convince him to finally retire so I can retire, after working 47 years, and spend some time where the sun shines in the winter." 

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