"I grew up in a household where, when I was 8 or 9 years old, my sisters and I did not get dessert until we'd say something bad about Roosevelt," says Warren Buffett. Born in 1930, the world's 3rd richest human being certainly has a lot of perspective on U.S. presidents. His net worth of $63 billion dollars also has a larger GDP than some small countries. So what did he think about the recent U.S. presidential election?
America is stronger
"Thoughout my life, people that say they come out on the short end of an election say it's the end of the world," he says. Buffett recalls several election cycles with that kind of thinking. His experience lends him confidence that, "America is stronger than that."
"This is a fantastic country," he says, "In my life time, the real GDP per person has gone up six for one."
Judging a U.S. presidency, Buffett style
There are two things Buffett focuses on when it comes to judging a U.S. president.
One is his temperament and ability to keep the country safe. That's one of the main reasons he cast his vote for Secretary Clinton in the last election--his take was that she was the steadier judgment regarding nuclear weapons, he shared. "By far the most important thing in my mind is, what person is likely as president to minimize the chances of weapons of mass destruction being used." However, no one yet knows the depth of Trump's commitment to self-preservation. Chances are, it's not shallow.
The second area Buffett focuses on is how the president will distribute wealth to hardworking Americans with full time jobs. "The Forbes 400 had $93 billion dollars in 1982. They got $2.4 trillion now--that's 25 times as much." Buffett has personally pledged to give away 99% of his fortune, primarily through the Gates foundation.
For the last several years, his perspective is that Obama has done well by working Americans. "Obama came in in January of 2009 . . . he inherited a terrible hand," Buffett reflects. "He had to do things fast and he had to get Congress to along with it...I think considering the hand he had, and later the problems that divided Congress, I think he's done a good job."
With Trump, the campaign promise was 4% annual growth in GDP. "I don't think anyone can grow our economy by 4% per year year after year," he says. He's not quibbling over 2, 3 or 4% annual economic growth, though. Even half the promised 4% would be great--and is much more likely. "If you could grow our economy by 2% a year, you'd have $19,000 more of real GDP per capital in one generation," he says.
Regarding helping the hardworking American, he says it's not really about the precise percentage of growth, anyway. It's about how economic growth gets distributed. Is it more to the very wealthy, or does some of it flow back to the people who worked to earn it?
"They [working Americans] don't have to depend on 4% growth--they have to depend on better distribution of 2% growth," he says.
What's important after yet another divided presidential election, he urges, is supporting the president. "We need a country unified by a president," he says. "I have never called a president in my life, but if any president asked me for help, I mean anybody, that's part of being a citizen." Watch the full interview below.