Warren Buffett slams the sequester -- and more

'It's a terrible way' to cut expenses, the legendary investor says. He also has some tough words for 'hand-wringing' CEOs.

By Aimee Picchi Mar 4, 2013 2:10PM

Warren Buffett is known for his personal frugality, but he has a harsh view of the U.S. government's automatic spending cuts. 

The sequester is "a terrible way in terms of cutting expenses," the legendary investor told CNBC Monday. He went on to compare the sequester to creating the idea of a monster to scare people, and "then you let the monster loose."

The $85 billion in federal spending cuts -- which could lead to a meat shortage and major airline delays, among other problems -- are the result of a political system that's "out of control," he said. "The real goal on each side -- or on one side, in my view -- is to block what the other guy wants to do," he said.

Buffett, considered one of the country's most successful investors ever, made his comments on the heels of the release of his annual Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) chairman's letter, where he also had some harsh words for wishy-washy chief executives.File photo of Warren Buffett on the NBC News' 'Today' show on November 27, 2012 ( Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)

He condemned what he called the "hand-wringing" from some chief executives who held off on investing in their businesses while citing "uncertainty." 

"At Berkshire, we didn’t share their fears," Buffett wrote. Berkshire vice chairman "Charlie [Munger] and I love investing large sums in worthwhile projects, whatever the pundits are saying."

At a time when some investors and taxpayers may be feeling somewhat battered as the sequester cuts take effect following higher payroll taxes, which took a bite out of many Americans' paychecks, Buffett offered an optimistic view. "Opportunities abound in America," he wrote. He added, "We will keep our foot to the floor," and pointed to the country music singer Gary Allan's hit "Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)" for inspiration.

And as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDU) approached an all-time high last week, Buffett's message may inspire hope among ordinary investors over the direction of the equity market. 

"American business will do fine over time. And stocks will do well just as certainly, since their fate is tied to business performance," he wrote. "Periodic setbacks will occur, yes, but investors and managers are in a game that is heavily stacked in their favor."

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Mar 4, 2013 3:24PM
The only way to get true cuts in spending would be to do away with mandatory spending programs. Managers of government departments and programs are forced to spend tax payer money on things they know are ineffective and not needed, while other areas that are desperately in need of effective funding are ignored. Case in point, an airport repaved it's runways 3 times in one year to spend the money they received from the FAA so they wouldn't lose funding going forward. FAA spent millions on holiday parties and say sequestration will cause chaos in the airports. We need to do away with mandatory spending and empower government officials to allocate funds and be held accountable like the managers they are supposed to be!
Mar 4, 2013 3:16PM

Umm, this 'monster' was signed by Obama. Obama blames the Rubs for not avoiding it  but he & his fellow Dems wrote it. So you must ask yourself why are these bureaucratic idiots 'playing chicken' when both sides know they'll lose?


Remember this: No politician will cut anything unless forced to. It's a shame that the only way to get people to do anything anymore is to 'reach into their pockets' !

Mar 4, 2013 3:42PM

Sure, Just let Obummer keep sending money to all the new voters he is getting from Mexico. Give them our social security, our so called free health care, give them the free phones and pay them to have more fatherless babies and then when it all comes crashing down blame a conservative or blame an independent who wants to CUT SPENDING.

And you can just keep giving billions to the  arabs and muslims who hate us and fund a war that has and is failing with no peace in sight.  And you can keep paying for life the idiots in Congress.

If you can't manage your checking account you do not deserve to be in office.  ya, I'm pissed off!


Mar 4, 2013 3:54PM
Mr. Buffett has the best grasp on money and how to make it work for you and not get in over one's head!!!  Too bad none of the Presidents listen to him!!!!!!!    Too bad that the congress is allowed to add pork barrell spending to bills......too bad that they HAVEN'T A CLUE of what they are doing up there!!!!  HOW DO WE GET RID OF THEM AND GET SOMEONE THAT KNOWS A LITTLE BIT IN THEIR SEATS????  Their childish antics is enough to make one scream!!!!!!!!!!!
Mar 4, 2013 3:41PM
These are the only cuts we'll see,if you can really call them cuts since they are simply reductions in spending increases.
Mar 4, 2013 3:27PM
Like him or not...what a businessman! You can't be one of the richest people in the world by being stupid.
Mar 4, 2013 3:21PM

In the video Joe Kernen told  Mr. Buffett he is charging too much at GEICO (GEICO had claims 3x higher than Katrina with Sandy but GEICO was still profitable), Ha!- Go get’em Joe! How much did Federal Disaster Relief Funds save GEICO from having to spend on risk they (GEICO) underwrote?


What is most interesting is that even Warren Buffett hates this 85 billion in cuts while acknowledging that we (USA) will still over spend this year by around another trillion dollars. If we can’t cut 85 billion out of a trillion of over spending, not core spending, but deficit, redline, over spending, we’re doomed. Absolutely everyone, including Warren Buffett, is hooked on massive Federal over spending.


Warren is a very, very savvy financial hunter and his biggest elephant to date may be the United States of America.

Mar 4, 2013 3:36PM
Picchi, I can't believe you have a job writing this trash.  Buffett is Obama's lap dog.  He just bought Heinz from Kerry's wife.  Your remember Kerry don't you; avoiding 500K in taxes operating his yacht in Rhode Island rather than Mass. It seems the information is jaded and skewed.
Mar 4, 2013 3:40PM
So, Warren, what is going to happen when the Federal Reserve quits pumping $85 billion a month in to the market for free?

Fire all the TSA perverts who just like to feel up young girls or worse young children and hire people who will check out the Arabs who are bringin guns and knives onto the planes.


That should save $20 billion a year.


Fire the Congressman and their offices that should save $200 billion a year


Reduce the President to two state dinners a year and only one vacation that should save $1 trillion dollars the Obama and his group are always going on vacation.


The best put a 10 percent finders reward on all checks written for over charging for things like $10,000 toliet seats -- make the people involved pay back the money and reward the guy who found the overpayment ith 10 percent or $1,000 -- government ahead by $9,000 :)


Have all checks in public view with what the checks were paying for. When someone way over spends bying something for the tenth time fire that person.


Pretty much once this is in place corruption and $2 trillion a year in government over spending will be history and the government will take in about $2.7 trillion and spend about $1 trillion and thus reduce the deficit at a rate of $1.7 trillion a year so about 10 years to pay off the national debt.


....................... Debt Problem solved......................................

Mar 4, 2013 4:02PM
Your right Buffett sequester is a bad way of reducing government. We should start by removing all government subsides, special regulation, etc. that support business. Put business on the world wide free market. No government programs at all.
Mar 4, 2013 3:41PM
Also, if the US in great shape, why doesn't Warren put all of his fortune in US T-bills. It is because it is not a good investment.
Mar 4, 2013 3:42PM
The lazy Obama never did submit his plan for cutting 85 billion...   Never mind he should have submitted a plan to slash 850 billion.

MUCH larger across the board cuts are needed!   I hope the Speaker of the house insists on at least 170 billion more in cuts in return for approving the continuing resolution.   We would be far better off if we shut down all the government!

NO one dime in NEW TAXES!    We need massive cuts.  Not this puny 85 billion....
Mar 4, 2013 3:43PM

Careful, careful or you'll take the bait - just like how Obama serves it up.   He is trying to stimulate the economy by being over optimistic and thereby getting us to follow.  Every investor needs to weigh the risks. Those with tons of excess cash can take bigger risks in more uncertain times than those that don't have the cash.

Buffett wants us to jump on board his ship, but make no mistake - Berkshire has tons of excess cash that he has not invested - wonder what he is waiting for??

His comments don't contribute anything new to the conversation than we already knew.  Nat gas - great - we all know its the cleanest cheapest energy around, but try to get Obama on board - no way Obama wants any of it.  Let's get started on some nat gas infrastructure - How about reward the energy companies with some tax incentives.  Oh, I forgot we are in the process of closing loopholes that those nasty energy companies use.  And don't forget about all those low paying jobs the energy industry provides, too.  DUH.  4 more years of unnecessary pain - self inflicted I should say.  Wise up America. 

Mar 4, 2013 4:13PM
warren bought bank america and they laid off 11,000 what a hipocrite.
Mar 4, 2013 4:18PM
As long as the government supplies Warren Buffet with virtually free money to buy Heinz, and to make a couple billion dollars a year, he will sell his soul to Obama.
Mar 4, 2013 4:33PM

No taxation without MIDDLE CLASS representation!


There is a revolution coming soon and the above is the slogan.

I am tired of Washington, D.C. politics.

Like our Revolutionary War forefathers insisted, this just isn't right!


REMEMBER THE DATE:  August 28, 2013

The March on Washington


Buffet has become the premier crony-capitalist. That is why he is pretending to be upset.


Buffet is a significant shareholder in:


GE, Wells Fargo, US Bancorp, M&T Bank, American Express, among others.


84 billion is nothing, especially since it is a reduction in future speding.


Unless the 85 billion is something Bufft can get his hands on....

Mar 4, 2013 3:28PM
Every buffet decision may not be a great one however decisions from the top are a must or stagnation will follow. BNSF twenty seven billion and Heinz twenty two billion. Shareholders made a lot of money. When a lot of CEO's are being fired for non decisions and holding onto cash and not expanding we know that result. Our financial advisor told us there is about one and a half trillion dollars on the sidelines making as little as point zero five interest because companies are waiting for the economy to turn around. Remember the story of there is no investment cash and companies can't borrow to expand?  Food for thought, Berkshire is expanding with a cash on hand of forty seven billion expendable dollars.
Mar 4, 2013 3:32PM
He slams the sequester because if the U.S. doesn't beg, borrow, steal, lie or play 50 different shell games (to send interest rates to 0), in order to create growth, then they're idiots and fools.  When does this B.S. end?
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