Perhaps the "Oracle of Omaha" should be rechristened as the Optimist of Omaha instead.
Tucked into Berkshire Hathaway's 2015 annual report was a pointed dismissal by Warren Buffett of the growing refrain that the U.S. economy would fail to provide a better lifestyle for future generations than it has in the past.
As the 2016 presidential campaign kicks into high gear, high levels of debt, stagnant earnings and income inequality are frequently mentioned by candidates—including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a candidate Buffett has publicly supported.
"It's an election year, and candidates can't stop speaking about our country's problems (which, of course, only they can solve). As a result of this negative drumbeat, many Americans now believe that their children will not live as well as they themselves do," Buffett wrote in Berkshire's annual letter.
"That view is dead wrong: The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history," declared Buffett, one of the world's wealthiest men with an estimated net worth in excess of $60 billion.
Buffett highlighted data that showed U.S. per capita growth is six times higher currently than it was in 1930, the year of his birth. Those gains are the byproduct of productivity and efficient work, he said.
"U.S. citizens are not intrinsically more intelligent today, nor do they work harder than did Americans in 1930. Rather, they work far more efficiently and thereby produce far more," Buffett added. "This all-powerful trend is certain to continue: America's economic magic remains alive and well."
The U.S.'s surging entitlement spending and its seemingly intractable debt have stoked widespread concerns about insolvency, and the inability of the federal government to meet its future obligations. Buffett, however, was hearing none of it.
"For 240 years it's been a terrible mistake to bet against America, and now is no time to start," the billionaire wrote.
"America's golden goose of commerce and innovation will continue to lay more and larger eggs. America's social security promises will be honored and perhaps made more generous," he said. "And, yes, America's kids will live far better than their parents did."
According to research by University of California-Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, the gap between the rich and poor is now the highest than it's ever been since at least 1928. The state of affairs has led to a broad critique of free market capitalism, and triggered calls for the government to intervene.
Still, Buffett insisted that the figurative pie shared by future generations "will be far larger than today's, how it will be divided will remain fiercely contentious." He alluded to a Darwinian struggle for goods, services and talent that will determine how resources will be allocated in the future.
"Clashes of that sort have forever been with us – and will forever continue," he said, adding that earlier generations were unable to foretell how society would evolve and adapt—and raise the standard of living for everyone.
"My parents, when young, could not envision a television set, nor did I, in my 50s, think I needed a personal computer. Both products, once people saw what they could do, quickly revolutionized their lives," Buffett wrote.
"I now spend ten hours a week playing bridge online," he added. "And, as I write this letter, 'search' is invaluable to me. (I'm not ready for Tinder, however.)"